News / Africa

Kenyan Troops Try to Keep Peace in Tana River

Hundreds of homes like this one were burned to the ground, and 38 people died in the massacre, carried out by Pokomo militia, in Kilelengwani, Kenya, September 2012. (VOA - R. Gogineni)Hundreds of homes like this one were burned to the ground, and 38 people died in the massacre, carried out by Pokomo militia, in Kilelengwani, Kenya, September 2012. (VOA - R. Gogineni)
x
Hundreds of homes like this one were burned to the ground, and 38 people died in the massacre, carried out by Pokomo militia, in Kilelengwani, Kenya, September 2012. (VOA - R. Gogineni)
Hundreds of homes like this one were burned to the ground, and 38 people died in the massacre, carried out by Pokomo militia, in Kilelengwani, Kenya, September 2012. (VOA - R. Gogineni)
Roopa Gogineni
Thousands have fled violence that claimed more than 100 lives in August and September in Kenya’s Tana River District. One-thousand paramilitary troops have been deployed to keep a tenuous peace between the Pokomo and Orma communities.  

Today in Kilelengwani, Marabou storks circle the carcasses of cows scattered between the remains of still-smoldering homes.
 
On September 11, a few hundred Pokomo men wielding guns, machetes and spears attacked the village in Kenya’s Tana River District, killing 38 people. Nine of the victims were police officers sent to protect the village. Most others were Orma women and children.
 
In Nairobi, Hussein Dado, a candidate running for governor of Tana River County, received a call from his niece the morning of the massacre.

"I have never been traumatized the way I was traumatized by a call from a woman who ran for safety into the mosque. She is a niece. She called me on the phone and said, ‘Uncle we are being killed, please save us.’ I could hear children crying," said Dado.
 
A village elder in Kilelengwani, Omar Shure, also was inside the mosque. He threw himself against the door, keeping the militia outside the main room. But attackers broke into an adjacent prayer room where several people were hiding.

“They left them, just there, after killing," said Shure. "In the room... two children, five women.”

A victim of the Tana River clashes between the pastoralists and farmers within the delta region rests inside a ward at the Malindi District hospital in Kenya, September 7, 2012.A victim of the Tana River clashes between the pastoralists and farmers within the delta region rests inside a ward at the Malindi District hospital in Kenya, September 7, 2012.
x
A victim of the Tana River clashes between the pastoralists and farmers within the delta region rests inside a ward at the Malindi District hospital in Kenya, September 7, 2012.
A victim of the Tana River clashes between the pastoralists and farmers within the delta region rests inside a ward at the Malindi District hospital in Kenya, September 7, 2012.
The massacre at Kilelengwani followed a string of attacks between the agriculturalist Pokomo and pastoralist Orma communities.  Historically, tensions flare between the two during dry season, when Orma bring their cattle to graze on Pokomo land.

Thousands of Pokomos and Ormas have fled their villages fearing retaliatory attacks. Pokomo elder Suleiman Ludu is staying in an internally displaced persons camp in the town of Witu.
   
"The Ormas, they come to the shambas [farms] and they graze on our plants, and if we refuse, they say, 'if you do not want us to graze here we will beat you and kill you.' So it is better we run instead of waiting to be killed," said Ludu.

International Crisis Group Kenya analyst Abdullahi Halakhe described the conflicting livelihoods of Tana River.

"How can we negotiate this reality? Some argue pastoralism is good for the area, in terms of economic activity, and it gives time for grass and other natural resources to regenerate. Others are dead set on saying that pastoralists should move away from their nomadic livelihoods and turn to agriculture," said Halakhe.

Though people on both sides have been killed, the majority of victims during the most recent violence have been Orma pastoralists.  Survivors describe an organized Pokomo militia, wearing red and black uniforms and having a clear command structure.
 
"They are after this delta, it is the only good delta in Kenya, the only big delta in Kenya," said Omar Bacha, an Orma health worker. "That is why our tribe are being killed, and their cows are being destroyed."
 
The Tana River region contains some of the nation’s most arable, but least developed land. Through the process of devolution outlined in Kenya’s new constitution, local administrators soon will have more control over regional resources.  

A Human Rights Watch report released last week implicates Tana River politicians in the attacks. Last week the government arrested parliament-member Dhadho Godhana in connection with the violence. Godhana is running for governor of Tana River Country in the elections scheduled for next March.
 
In addition to Godhana’s arrest and continuing investigations into the violence, the government has deployed 1,000 paramilitaries to secure the region. Despite these measures, both Pokomo and Orma have been slow to return home.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More