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Kenya sends army to Ethiopia border

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 18 – Army personnel have been dispatched to the Kenya-Ethiopia border following recent raids by Merille tribesmen who killed more than 40 people.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga told Parliament on Wednesday afternoon that the army is under firm instructions to relocate more than 900 Merille tribesmen who have settled on the Kenyan territory.

"For a start, the Government has directed the Ministry of State for Provincial Administration and Internal Security, in conjunction with the Ministry of State for Defense to ensure the 2,500 Merilles residing in the River Omo Delta are relocated to Ethiopia," he said.

The PM further added; "The Government has beefed up security along the Kenya-Ethiopia border at Todonyang. We have relocated the GSU and AP camps at Todonyang to the actual border point 14 kilometres away to counter any planned attacks between the two communities.”

The move follows the killings of 40 people who were shot dead when the Merille militiamen raided a remote village near Lake Turkana and shot indiscriminately at fishermen and a group of men and women who had gone shopping at a border town in the neighbouring country.

But even as the Premier announced the measures taken by the government to deter external aggression at the border points, MPs reprimanded him, saying the government had neglected communities living at the border.

"When you get to our waters, one single pirate can chase away our navy, when you go to the North Eastern Province the Al Shabab are there, when you go to Migingo we are not sure who is in charge, despite the money we spend on the Department of Defence our borders are still not secure from any front what is the problem?" posed Rangwe MP Martin Oginde.

“Can the PM tell this House why the government is not prepared to face this problem head on?” Kandara MP James Maina wondered.

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The PM found himself in more trouble when he revealed that the security agencies had failed to act on intelligence reports warning of retaliatory attacks by Merille tribesmen in Turkana.

“It would have been suicidal for Kenyan forces to retaliate against the heavily armed militia given that they were outnumbered. He said the area is served by a police post manned by eight regular police officers with the support of a company of 60 GSU personnel,” he said.
Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi termed the admission as sad. “I am confused by this matter, why was there no directional command given to the army to protect our boders yet they had this information?”

"These revelations are very serious, that the Merilles are in Kenya illegally and they can afford to attack the Kenyans and move back to their place of stay which is within Kenya and the PM can afford to tell this House that the Government was helpless," added Mosop MP David Koech

Mr Odinga said he was shocked when he and Ministerial delegation he had led to Todonyang one week ago were denied access to the Omo-Turkana delta which he said was well within the Kenya side of the Kenya-Ethiopia border because the Merille were preparing the land for cultivation. 

"In the adjacent arid land, the Turkana were languishing for lack of food. Even the District Commissioner could not access the delta. Neither could our security officers. I was informed that about 2,500 Merille live here, 900 among them armed militia. They use the arms kill to our citizens while exploiting our land and water resources," he said.

The Government has equally directed the Ministries of Provincial Administration and that of Lands and Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure the broken and dilapidated boundary beacons are repaired.

The Government has further directed the upgrading of the Todonyang Police Post to a Police Station and provide it with necessary facilities and equipment.

"The Ministry of State for Immigration and Registration of Persons will also move in at set up the border control at the actual border point to strengthen border surveillance and control," he added.

In addition, the Government has vetted responsible and respected Turkana men who will immediately start working with Kenya Police Reserves along the border.

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Mr Odinga further announced they plan to meet their Ethiopian counterparts at a Joint Ministerial Consultative meeting to be held in Addis Ababa between May 31 and June 2, to seek a joint and lasting solution to this border menace.
He said the meeting will be preceded by Joint Kenya-Ethiopia Border Commissioners’ meeting in Kenya on 25th and 26th May.

The Government said it plans to initiate major programmes for development of the Turkana region, in addition to the Sh27 million released to the Turkana County for drought mitigation measures in January.

"For example, the Government is currently expanding a number of irrigation schemes in Turkana East and South, which in total cover 5,800 acres. When these schemes are completed, 145,000 bags of maize will be harvested annually," he said.

"If the drought persists for a further six months, the Government shall spend another Sh130 million by June 2011," said the Premier.

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