At least eight people were killed and several wounded in the latest outbreak of violence in the Tana River region of southeast Kenya, where scores died in clashes last year, the Kenyan Red Cross said yesterday.
Less than two months before Kenya holds general elections for the first time since bloody post-poll violence five years ago, the renewed clashes raises concern over security and a lack of police capacity in volatile areas.
Violence in the region first erupted in August, pitting the Pokomo farming community against their Orma pastoralist neighbors, leading to a series of vicious reprisal killings and attacks.
Two of the eight killed were believed to be from the attackers, who launched a raid on the Orma village of Nduru about an hour before dawn yesterday, said Caleb Kilunde, a Kenya Red Cross official in the Tana River Delta region.
“Three people were critically injured, with deep head cuts,” he said, adding that “the situation remains volatile ... with rumors of a revenge attack being planned.”
A senior police officer, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, confirmed at least eight had been killed, nine were wounded and that houses had been torched.
The police officer said those killed included both members of the Ormas and Pokomo, taking the number of those killed since the clashes began last year to more than 140. Last month, at least 45 people were killed in an attack.
The two communities have clashed in the past — violence that has often been attributed to disputes over water and grazing rights.
However, the scale and intensity of recent killings — with women and children hacked to death or torched in their huts — has shocked many, with some locals accusing politicians are fueling the spate of attacks.
Elections five years ago descended into deadly post-poll killings that shattered Kenya’s image as a beacon of regional stability, with at least 1,100 people killed and more than 600,000 displaced.
The upcoming March 4 elections — for the presidency, the parliament, regional gubernatorial posts and local councils — have raised tensions both nationally and at a grass-roots political level.
About 14 million voters are registered for the elections in the country of approximately 40 million.