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Kenyan Women Call for Government to Halt Land Clashes


Kenya's national women's organization is calling for the Kenyan government to increase security in, and provide assistance to, an area in western Kenya plagued by long-running land clashes. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

For the past five months, a local militia by the name of the Sabaot Land Defense Force has been killing, assaulting, raping, and harassing residents of the Mount Elgon area of western Kenya near the Ugandan border.

The violence started in November of last year, when the Kenyan government allocated plots of land to 1000 families of the Ndorobo clan of the Sabaot ethnic group.

In the process, members of the Soy clan were displaced from their homes and moved to the nearby forest. Many of them joined the militia to fight for the land they say is theirs.

According to the national women's organization, Maendeleo ya Wanawake, 137 people have been killed, about two dozen women raped, 28 schools closed, and 45,000 people displaced during land clashes occurring since the land allocation.

The national chairman of Maendeleo ya Wanawake, Rukia Subow, tells VOA the land was improperly distributed, and that the government needs to address that imbalance.

"People were settled in a small area - they are a kind of double allocation (of land) to people. There is an issue of middlemen, selling the land to others who are not resident of those areas. Those are the issues that accumulated for a long time, and people are reacting," Subow said.

Kenyan security forces deployed to the area do not allow anyone to go in or out.

The women's organization is calling for the Kenyan government to increase security in the area, but also allow humanitarian aid to get to those who need help.

The organization is also asking the government to set up a fund to help land clash victims.

The Kenyan government says it is doing the best it can to quell the violence in the Mount Elgon area.

"There are enough security personnel on the ground - we have put people there," explains George Natembea, the personal assistant to the internal security minister. "The problem is being addressed by the provincial commissioner - Western Province and his team. They have been holding community meetings there."

The current conflict draws on land issues dating back to colonial times.

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