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Drought Triggers Fighting Among Pastoralists in Northeastern Kenya

As the drought in East Africa continues, the lack of water is increasing tensions between nomadic clans in northeastern Kenya.

The group ActionAid says nomadic people are starting to fight over scarce fertile land. It says the situation is particularly bad in the Malindi, Kwale and Wenje regions bordering Somalia and Ethiopia.

Eric Mgendi is a spokesman for ActionAid. From Nairobi, he spoke English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about how the drought is affecting the pastoralists.

He says, “What it means for the pastoralists in the northeastern community is that they move from one region to another. And these people, the way they live is that one region is occupied by a particular clan. If they move for greener pastures for their cattle to the other clan’s… pastures there is likely to be conflict.” Mgendi says action should be taken to ease tensions. “What has happened recently is that the government has even sent some lories with fodder for the animals. And there are also boreholes around those places…. We have been involved in providing subsidy for fuel so that the boreholes can extract water for the people. If there can be water points where there are bore holes this will help alleviate the conflict. Secondly, the government can actually buy out this livestock from these people so that they don’t lose their livelihood.”

When the rains return the pastureland is fertile again, the pastoralists can buy new livestock. As for food aid in the region, the ActionAid spokesman says that there has been evidence of corruption, with some businesses diverting some of the food and some civil servants being sacked. He recommends food agencies work directly with community-based programs rather than the provincial administrations.