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Tribal Violence in Kenya, 20 Dead

In Kenya, tribal violence along the country's coast has led to more than 20 deaths in recent days. The leaders of one of the tribes held a news conference Friday in Nairobi to demand that the government either do something to end the violence, or supply them with weapons, so they can defend themselves.

The leaders of the Pokomo community called the news conference to appeal to the government to end what they describe as the senseless killings in the Tana River District, about 600 kilometers from the capital.

The Pokomo, a farming tribe, are fighting over land rights with the Orma, who are cattle herders. An ongoing drought has worsened tensions between the two tribes. Almost 100 people have been killed so far this year.

At the news conference, the Pokomo spokesmen said most of the raids follow the same pattern. Just before dawn, heavily armed attackers emerge from hiding and invade people's homes, shooting anybody they find.

Mandara Barisa Badiribu, chief spokesmen for the group, says the government should supply the villagers with guns because the police are failing to protect them. "We are now demanding that every village be given at least 10 guns," he said. "Because these particular attacks have mainly concentrated on those areas where there are no guns. The police are very far. They are about 40 kilometers from where the people are. So, when there is an attack it can take even 10 hours before there is any reinforcement from the police. So, it is necessary that every village is adequately armed with the KPRs."

KPRs are Kenya Police Reservists, local villagers who are trained by the government to resist attacks. The government issued 13 KPRs with guns after a previous round of clashes. But this has failed to stop the killings.

The Orma deny any responsibility for the attacks, and claim they are the ones who are disadvantaged in the Tana River District. They say they are denied access to hospitals and schools because they are in Pokomo-dominated areas.

More than 3,000 villagers have been made homeless by this week's clashes.