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KENYA: Security improves but Mt Elgon disruption continues

NAIROBI, 5 October 2007 (IRIN) - Thousands of lives are still disrupted, despite an improvement in the security situation in the western district of Mt Elgon, along the Kenya-Uganda border, according to humanitarian officials.

"Aid agencies are planning to carry out food distribution for the next four months," Maurice Anyango, a relief officer with the Kenya Red Cross Society in the district, said on 5 October.

A few cases of malnourishment among children had also been reported in the Kopsiro and Chepkitale areas in the district, Anyango said.

"We will review the response depending on the situation," he said.

Aid organisations are operating mobile clinics and water and sanitation projects in the schools.

According to Anyango, the security situation remained unpredictable, with people scared of harassment by the Sabaot Land Defence Forces (SLDF) militias in the forest.

The SLDF was formed to protest against alleged discrimination in land allocation within the Chebyuk settlement scheme.

Hundreds of people were displaced on 29 August following the burning of their houses in a security operation targeting the SLDF, a pastor in the district whose church also runs the Kipsigon Health Centre, William Kebeney, said.

“A number of families were seeking refuge at our health centre, sleeping in the wards with the patients, while others were sleeping on the floor and outside on the verandas,” Kebeney said.

"Although there is calm in the district, there is still a lot of tension," Shadrack Koech, a nurse working in Kipsigon, in Kopsiro division, said. A 6pm to 6am curfew had been placed on the district.

"We still hear gunshots sometimes," he said.

Few teachers remained in the schools, with most having gone to other districts; the number of students in school was also low, according to a local chief who wished to remain anonymous.

Moreover, he said, the people still sought security escorts to travel to their farms in areas bordering the two communities at the centre of the conflict.

The people whose houses were not burnt were starting to return to their homes, however.

“The main problems we have here have to do with education, lack of food and warm clothing,” Samuel Moim, a resident of Chepkitale said. The rains had also made the roads impassable, he added.

The number of displaced people within the district has fallen, with thousands relocating to the neighbouring districts of Bungoma and Trans Nzoia.

Clashes over land allocation in the Chebyuk settlement scheme between groups of the Sabaot clan left at least 180 people dead, hundreds injured and more than 116,000 others displaced. The first killings took place in August 2006.




Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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