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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

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