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  • on 11.09.2012
  • at 01:02 PM
  • by Staff

Kenya’s Water Wars Kill Scores 0

NAIROBI – Water scarcity is fuelling deadly inter-ethnic wars that continue to claim lives in Kenya, according to government officials. And if nothing is done to educate communities on how to conserve the valuable resource, the situation will escalate, governance experts and environmentalists warn.

On Sunday, Sep. 9, 38 people were killed in revenge attacks in the Tana River Delta district of Kenya’s Coast province. The deceased include eight children, five women, 16 men, and nine police officers.

The incident occurred as the government announced it would conduct a disarmament exercise in the Tana River Delta following clashes over water and pasture that have left more than 80 people dead.

Coast province police boss Aggrey Adoli told IPS that about 500 raiders from the Pokomo ethnic group attacked the Kilelengwani village, in Tana River Delta, and torched a police camp and several other structures at dawn. On Monday, Sep. 10 the area was inaccessible and police officers were flown in by helicopter to quell the violence.

“This was in retaliation to Thursday’s incident in which 13 Pokomos were killed when raiders from the Orma (ethnic group) struck the Tarassa village in the area,” Adoli said.

The attacks are in retaliation to an Aug. 22 incident over water and resources that resulted in the death of 52 people, including 11 children and 31 women. The attack occurred after cattle owned by the Orma ethnic group strayed onto farmlands belonging to the neighbouring Pokomo community and destroyed their crops. Both communities have a long history of conflict over resources.

But conflict over resources is not confined to this region. Also on Aug. 22, four people were killed in a separate incident in Muradellow village in Mandera North, in North Eastern province. Police said that the conflict occurred at a water point where herders had taken their animals.

In March, 22 people were killed in Mandera, in North Eastern. More than 1,500 people fled their homes as a result of the violence, which occurred in El Golicha village, close to Kenya’s border with Somalia.

North Eastern provincial officer Ernest Munyi, who is also the region’s assistant commissioner of police, told IPS that the attacks were becoming more frequent.

“Clan attacks are common in the region, which has now been witnessing clashes every month since February. The attacks were often sporadic, targeting members of other clans but usually arise from resource competition.

“These are nomadic pastoralists who depend on livestock for survival. They rustle livestock and fight over water and the few grazing fields,” he said.

Political leaders, human rights activists and environmentalists are calling on the government to address the problem urgently.

Mwalimu Mati, the chief executive of Mars Group, an NGO that deals with governance, told IPS that the government must provide equitable resources to end the clashes.

“Resource conflict will be with us for a long (time) because the government policies that promote timber harvesting have resulted in deforestation,” said Mati, who is also a lawyer. Scanty forest cover has resulted in the reduced rainfall here, according to water experts.

Peter Mangich, the director of water services at the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, told IPS that due to the effects of climate change, the country now only received one quarter of its previous rainfall.

By Protus Onyango

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