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Land Clashes Re-Ignite in Kenya's Rift Valley


Kenyan police spokesman Jaspher Ombati told VOA that, although the situation is now calm in Mai Mahiu township, about 60 kilometers northwest of the capital Nairobi, police are still patrolling the area in case more fighting and demonstrations break out.

Mr. Ombati said police have arrested 75 people in ethnic land clashes that re-ignited Monday.

The worst fighting occurred Wednesday, when police mounted a large operation to flush out raiders who had attacked homes and farms in the area. Four people were reportedly killed and 50 injured during the violence.

Mr. Ombati described what police say sparked the latest round of fighting between ethnic Maasai herdsmen and Kikuyu farmers.

"There are the herders who are taking their animals to a water point and they were passing through the farms of the farming community. And then there was that resentment now," he said. "The farms have got some crops on them. So you see they [farmers] were alleging the animals were destroying their crops. And then the confrontation just ensued like that."

Clashes between the Maasais and Kikuyus over access to water are an on-going concern in the area.

Last month, at least 14 people were killed in similar fighting. That conflict was believed to have erupted after Maasai herdsmen accused Kikuyu farmers of diverting water from the Ewaso Kedong River to irrigate their farms.

According to media reports, the herdsmen vandalized water pipes belonging to farmers, who then retaliated by attacking the herdsmen.

The area's Kikuyu member of parliament, Jane Kihara, says many farmers feel they and their land are not respected.

"There are people already there who bought the land, and they feel their rights are being interfered with because our brothers bring their cattle all over their farms at will and nothing happens to them," she said.

In an earlier interview, Member of Parliament William ole Ntimama, representing the bordering Narok constituency, said the rights of the Maasai are also not being respected.

"The Kikuyu farmers, you know, wanted to divert the water, they made a dam of it, and they actually stopped the Maasai cattle from taking water," he said.

Mai Mahiu is one of several locations in the Rift Valley and northern Kenya that are experiencing clashes over access to water and land.

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