, NAIROBI, Kenya, July 24 – In the wake of recent attacks in Kenya’s coastal area which have killed more than 90 people, analysts say old grievances have resurfaced, making it all the more important for the government to act on a major report designed to address past injustices concerning land and other issues.
It is not yet clear who is behind a series of attacks that began on June 15 and 16 when armed men attacked the towns of Mpeketoni and Maporomoko in Lamu County, killing at least 65 people.
The Somali Islamist group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for those attacks as well as subsequent raids, including an attack on a bus last weekend in the coastal town of Witu that killed seven people.
Al-Shabaab has attacked a number of targets in Kenya in revenge for the country’s military intervention in southern Somalia, and representatives of the international community, including the United States embassy in Nairobi, have held them responsible for the Mpeketoni and Maporomoko strikes.
However, President Uhuru Kenyatta blamed the attacks on “local political networks” and described them as “politically motivated ethnic violence”. The victims of the Mpeketoni attack were largely Kikuyus, and one theory is that they were targeted by locals who resent their presence.
The Governor of Lamu County, Issa Timamy, has been charged with orchestrating the unrest.
While it remains unclear who was behind the attacks, analysts say the violence – and especially the ensuing heated rhetoric – have brought out longstanding inter-communal animosities in the Lamu area. That points to a need to address tensions that have persisted below the surface in areas like this. A good way to start, experts say, would be to begin implementing the recommendations of a report which the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) submitted to President Uhuru Kenyatta in May 2013.
One of the report’s conclusions is that land-related injustices have been a principal cause of violence between different ethnic groups across Kenya.
In the Coast region specifically, the TJRC report outlines longstanding discontent among indigenous communities which felt marginalised after Kenya gained independence in 1963. They were not awarded land titles as the British left, and many were subsequently forced from their properties, which were taken over by incomers who still claim ownership today.
These settlers were typically supporters of Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta – Uhuru’s father – and members of his ethnic community, the Kikuyu.