KENYA: 1,500 families flee from inter-clan violence in Mandera
NAIROBI, 17 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - An estimated 1,500 families have fled their homes following the killing earlier this week of 22 people by armed raiders in the northeastern Kenyan district of Mandera, a spokesman for the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) said on Thursday.
Tuesday's attack took place at El Golicha village, near El Wak town, which is close to Kenya's border with Somalia. Police, who pursued and killed eight of the assailants, said the incident appeared to have been a revenge attack by one clan against another for an earlier raid.
Those killed included four girls and six boys, according to a statement signed by the government's public communications secretary, Alfred Mutua.
"Immediately after the attack there was panic, and we estimate that about 1,500 families have moved to areas around El Wak," Anthony Mwangi, the KRCS spokesman, told IRIN.
Jaspher Ombati, a police spokesman, said the assailants were believed to be members of the Murule clan, while the victims were thought to be from the Garre clan. He said it was still unclear what triggered the latest violence, but the two groups, both members of the Kenyan Somali community, had a history of feuding over pasture and water points.
Some of those who had fled their homes took their livestock with them, placing serious strain on the limited pasture, water and other resources around El Wak town, according to Mwangi. He said people had fled from the villages of El Golicha, El Kala, Alango, Bulla Dana and the Bulla Afya Centre area.
"Fear and tension is still high in those areas," he added.
According to Mwangi, a preliminary assessment indicated that those displaced would need food, shelter materials, cooking utensils, water containers, fortified biscuits and supplementary feeding for children.
In January, more than 20 people were killed during inter-clan violence between the Murule and the Garre communities in Mandera District, which is situated in Kenya's Northeastern Province. Tuesday's incident could have been motivated by the desire to avenge these attacks, police said.
Ombati said that no one had been arrested following Tuesday's killings, which are believed to have been carried out by about 40 attackers, but police had intensified patrols in the area. He said police suspected that the surviving raiders might have fled across the border into Somalia.
Meanwhile, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) condemned the killing of children during the attack at El Golicha.
"The shocking reality is that children seem to have been the primary target," Heimo Laakkonen, UNICEF's representative for Kenya, said in a statement.
"In the arid lands of Kenya, water means life, yet too often these days it is an excuse for killing and death," he added.
He said this was just one incident in a series of clashes that had engulfed communities in many parts of Mandera and elsewhere in Kenya. In Mandera over 20,000 people have been displaced by violence in recent months, Laakkonen said.
"No one wins in these conflicts," Laakkonen said.
"Whole livelihoods are destroyed, families are torn apart and it is always the children who suffer the most," he said, while urging Kenyan authorities to restore order among the feuding clans.
He also appealed to civil society to work with communities like the Garre and the Murule to help build peaceful methods of conflict resolution.
In its statement, the Kenya government said that calm had returned to the affected area.
"A major operation has been organised to control the corridor between Mandera and El Wak which was used by the attackers," it said.
According to the statement, a meeting between local elders and members of the provincial administration would be held in the affected area on Friday, with a view to encouraging reconciliation. Investigations were going on to ascertain whether any local leader might have instigated Tuesday's attack.
"If any leader is found to have incited the communities or even used militias from neighbouring countries to enter and kill Kenyans, he will, according to the law, be charged with treason," the government said.