NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 28 – Three Kenya Red Cross Society volunteers were detained and badly beaten by armed bandits in Tana River District late Saturday.
They were nabbed by the bandits as they tried to assess the humanitarian needs of persons displaced in the area following an ongoing conflict between two rival communities there, according to the acting Red Cross Public Relations and Communications Manager, Titus Mung’ou.
He said the bandits from one of the warring groups abducted the three volunteers, took them to the bushes and asked them why they were there.
“They beat them using sticks and injured them badly until when they learnt that the volunteers were just there to assist any group that was in need of food or shelter,” Mr Mung’ou said.
He added: “So they were released after about two hours and since they had sustained injuries were taken to Madogo Health Centre, treated, and discharged late in the evening yesterday (Saturday).”
Mung’ou said the situation was still tense in the area because the two groups were still fighting over pasture, but that there was tight security. He however said the Kenya Red Cross Society would continue to assist the displaced persons who were in need of aid.
“In December alone at least five people have been killed, others displaced and injured,” he said.
“So what we are going to do is to be cautious in movement and this may place those people who are deep inside the fighting zone in danger of missing out on the humanitarian assistance, because they are within areas where we cannot be sure whether bandits are there or not.”
He said that the incident was a setback to the Red Cross mission to alleviate human suffering in the area, and called on the government to intervene and restore peace in the Tana Delta.
The Red Cross official said that this would enable humanitarian response to reach hundreds of people affected by the conflict.
Tana River District is a district of Coast Province and is named after the Tana River. The district is usually dry and prone to drought and rainfall is mainly inconsistent. There are recurring conflicts between farmers and nomads in the area over access to water. Flooding is also a regular problem, caused by heavy rainfall in upstream areas of the Tana River.