The United Nations humanitarian arm today voiced concern over inter-communal clashes in northern Kenya where some 46 people have died in recent months in reprisal attacks linked to rivalry over pasture and cattle rustling.
The clashes between the Borana and Gabra livestock herding communities around the northern Kenyan town of Moyale, which is situated on the border with Ethiopia, have reportedly also displaced thousands of people.
“What we are seeing up there is cyclical inter-communal revenge attacks and violence between the communities,” said Matthew Conway, spokesperson for the East African bureau of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which is based in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
“What appears to be motivating the violence is competition for land for grazing and livestock,” he said in an interview with UN Radio, adding that the violence follows the recent drought in northern Kenya during which pastoralist communities lost large numbers of their livestock due to the lack of pasture and the drying up of water sources.
“We seem to be seeing groups competing now for land for grazing and conducting raids on each others herds of livestock in an effort to restock some of the animals they may have lost during the drought,” said Mr. Conway.
Clashes have also been reported between members of the Borana and Turkana communities in the central area of Isiolo, he added.
He said access to the areas affected by the violence has not been easy due to insecurity, but the Kenyan Red Cross Society has been carrying out some relief work among those displaced.
“One of the things certainly that OCHA is calling for is greater provision of security and protection by Government authorities in these regions so that we can have access… to populations in need and so that they can also return to their areas of origin,” said Mr. Conway.
He stressed the need to step up ongoing reconciliation efforts to break the vicious cycle of violent animosity between herder communities that inhabit Kenya’s northern and north-eastern regions.
“Communities themselves are at the core of resolving this, but certainly greater attention need to be given by central Government authorities to rein in this violence and rein in the instigators of the violence,” Mr. Conway added.
He said that an estimated 300 people had died in such violence in 2009 and a similar number lost their lives last year, according to OCHA’s tally.