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Clashes Over Water Access Resume In Kenya

Kenyan police say one person was killed and six injured over the past few days in a renewal of recent ethnic land clashes over access to water..

Kenyan police spokesman Jaspher Ombati told VOA Monday security has been beefed up in an area outside of Mai Mahiu township in the Rift Valley, the scene of ethnic land clashes that killed 15 people in the last couple of weeks.

He says the latest violence near Mai Mahiu is an extension of the fighting over a water access point that pits Maasai herdsmen against Kikuyu farmers. "The attacks happened over the weekend, and we believe this was a revenge attack as a result of what happened at Mai Mahiu area a few days back. The Maasais attacked the Kikuyus. The situation has been contained but still our officers are monitoring to ensure that nothing like that happens again," he said.

The original fighting is 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 Maasai herdsmen had vandalized water pipes belonging to Kikuyu farmers, who then retaliated by attacking the herdsmen. Kenyan authorities had reported that 15 people had been injured, 20 houses destroyed, and up to two-thousand people displaced by the violence.

Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner Wilson Ndolo told VOA the country's internal security minister plans to meet with leaders and residents from the area this week to resolve the conflict and then hold a public rally appealing for calm.

Mr. Ndolo said all water obstructions from the river would be halted until certain measures are put in place."I gave instructions that the water obstruction cannot be done again until we form a water association in line with the water reforms which the government is undertaking, where the members of the public have to be consulted before any connection or diversion of water is done. This is the more permanent solution which we need," he said.

In an earlier interview, the member of parliament for the nearby Narok North, William ole Ntimama, said the problem in Mai Mahiu and other areas dates back to unfair land ownership and distribution policies during colonial days that have not been corrected by post-independence governments. "The British handed over land to other people and this has actually created a big problem right now because we are getting short of grass, short of water. I think the government must start sorting it out," he said.

Mai Mahiu is one of several locations across Kenya that are experiencing clashes over access to water and land.

Similar fighting is occurring in three other areas in Rift Valley and northern Kenya.