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Inter-communal clashes displace thousands in Nothern Kenya

CLASHES BETWEEN THE BORANA AND GABRA AROUND
MOYALE, ON THE BORDER WITH ETHIOPIA, HAVE FORCED
MORE THAN 20,000 PEOPLE ACROSS INTO ETHIOPIA

SPECIAL REPORT BY XINHUA CORRESPONDENTS
CHRISTINE LAGAT, STEPHEN INGATI AND NJOROGE KABURO
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MOYALE (Xinhua) — Inter-communal clashes in northern Kenya has left some 60 people dead and displaced thousands others in recent months in reprisal attacks linked to rivalry over pasture,cattle rustling and local politics, aid agencies and local authorities said.

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the clashes between the Borana and Gabra around Moyale town, on the border with Ethiopia, have forced more than 20,000 people across the border into Ethiopia.

“At present, humanitarian organizations are using a working figure of 20,000 people who may have been displaced into Ethiopia from Kenya,with approximately half in Moyale (Borena zone, Oromia region) and half in Moyale (Liben zone, Somali Region) to organize the response,”OCHA said in its report received by Xinhua on Wednesday.

“The working figure is being used pending verification of the number of people displaced into Ethiopia,” said the UN humanitarian agency.

According to the report, a number of UN agencies and NGOs have indicated their availability to support the response, and agreed to cover gaps in the response as they are identified.

Residents say tension remains high in the area as more families flee the resource-linked conflict between the Gabra and Borana pastoralist communities.

Moyale district in Kenya’s northern border with Ethiopia has been the scene of recent tribal clashes involving mainly Borana and Gabra communities.

A rapid initial assessment conducted by Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) found that fighting in January resulted in approximately 60 deaths and 57 injured and that 1,000 houses, health facilities, water points and schools have been vandalized or burned, with more than 5,000 families displaced and without access to shelter or basic services.

The humanitarian agency has been delivering immediate assistance in areas of shelter, relief, health, water and sanitation to some 5,000 households affected by the clashes.

“We are trying to reunite and support these displaced households but the reports we are getting from the locals is that thousands of their people are missing with some having crossed into Ethiopia,” KRCS spokesperson Nelly Mulluika told Xinhua on Wednesday.

Mulluka said access to the areas affected by the violence has not been easy due to insecurity, but noted that the KRCS has been carrying out some relief work among those displaced in the vast region.

“KRCS is currently conducting a more detailed assessment to identify the evolving needs as a result of these clashes.

“The results of the assessment will inform further KRCS response, which may include an eventual emergency appeal,” she said.

The assessment is expected to be implemented over three months, and will therefore be completed by May.

The latest development comes as authorities said they have disarmed more than 150 Kenya Police Reservists (KPR) in Moyale as part of government efforts to restore security in the area.

Regional Police commander, Mercus Ochola said the officers have also surrendered ammunitions to the local administration as investigations intensify to find the root cause of the conflict in the volatile region.

“We are going to extend the current disarmament exercise which has been going on to other areas like in Wajir and Isiolo,” Ocholla said.

The regional police commander said security has been beefed up in Moyale and its environs to quell further clashes that had been experienced in the past month.

On Wednesday, the High Court ordered Moyale lawmaker Mohamud Mohamed Ali who had rushed to the Court to block his impending arrest by the police to deposit 1,800 U.S. dollars as anticipatory bail.

The High Court also directed the police to charge the lawmaker if they have evidence linking him to the clashes which the police said is caused by incitement by politicians.

Ali has recently accused the provincial administration in the area of laxity and corruption in handling the recent wave of violence that has left dozens of people dead.

He also blamed the provincial administration of biased and selective application of justice and called on the government to replace them.

“I am demanding for fairness, I am demanding for impartiality and I am demanding that the provincial security committee and the district security committee be investigated at a higher level so that we will be able to solve these problems,” Ali said on Sunday.

Moyale has been hit by sporadic clashes between the Gabra and Borana Communities since November last year despite peace efforts to unite the two communities.

“There should be no blame games, we have petitioned the government even towards the end of November when the first incident occurred,”said.

Livestock herding is the main livelihood and source of income in northern and some parts of eastern Kenya, and the hike in cattle thefts threatens to ignite cross-community reprisals and raids that could set the stage for a surge in ethnic fighting in the region.

Clashes between the rival cattle herding pastoralists in the region are common, with herders often carrying guns to protect their animals,but the recent fighting has been unusually heavy.

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