Deserted Tana homes burnt despite GSU patrols

September 17, 2012 2:07 pm
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The incident at Bura-Kipini area occurred when people believed to be members of the Orma community burnt houses belonging to their Pokomo neighbours/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya Sep 17 – Fresh violence broke out in Tana River on Monday, where 22 houses were razed in a village even as over 2,000 heavily armed para-military GSU officers patrolled the troubled region.

The incident at Bura-Kipini area occurred when people believed to be members of the Orma community burnt houses belonging to their Pokomo neighbours who had fled their homes following last week’s attacks.

“We responded fast and the situation has been contained. There are no casualties,” the head of the security operation Anthony Kamitu said.

The officers appeared to have been caught flat-footed by the attackers who torched the houses at dawn.

Owners of the houses had fled their homes following the killing of 107 members of both communities in a span of three weeks.

Residents whose homes were burnt on Monday had already fled to seek refuge with their relatives in far flung areas – and in schools within Tarassa division.

“We will not go back home as long as our neighbours are still holding arms… let the police take away the arms because these Orma people are still determined to attack us,” one Pokomo resident Said Shika Shika warned.

The Pokomo’s are small scale farmers while Ormas are pastoralists who trek long distances with their animals in search of pastures and water.

In a series of interviews held by Capital FM News in the troubled zone at the weekend, members of both communities traded accusations, with each blaming their neighbours as the aggressors.

“The Pokomo have been saying we are the ones who attack them, but they have also burnt our houses and taken away our animals,” Adhi Konchora, an Orma who resides in Kilelengwani said.

With such accusations flying, it appeared unlikely the animosity between them will end anytime soon.

While the Pokomo’s accuse the Orma’s of feeding animals on their crops, the Orma’s claim the Pokomo’s have been killing their cows whenever they stray to their farms.

“We have seen a lot of police officers around here. What I can tell you is that their presence is not helping a lot because they are just patrolling and not collecting arms,” another resident said.

Several theories have been advanced as to the cause of the clashes, but the most consistent is land ownership.

“This is our original home. The Orma’s only come here to graze their cows and they end up destroying our crops. They did not have a single ancestor here. The land was just donated to them,” Abdi Irbae, an elder in Tarassa said.

“We will not go back home as long as our neighbours are still holding arms… let the police take away the arms because these Orma people are still determined to attack us,” one Pokomo resident Said Shika Shika warned.

The Orma community too insists the land in dispute is theirs.

The Cabinet has resolved to have a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the root cause of the deadly violence which has cost an area Member of Parliament Dhadho Godhana his job as Livestock Assistant Minister after he was accused of inciting the warring communities.

Godhana has since appeared in court to face incitement charges, but he denies the allegations.

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