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Ethiopians Fleeing Clashes Cross into Kenya

A Kenyan newspaper reports hundreds of Ethiopians are crossing the border into Kenya, following clashes between rival communities over water and pasture land for livestock. The Reuters news agency quotes an Ethiopian police official as saying 19 people were killed. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi, most of those arriving in Kenya are women and children.

The Ethiopians are fleeing clashes that began last week between two rival communities, and they are arriving in the Kenyan districts of Moyale and Marsabit.

One of Kenya's national newspapers, The Daily Nation, quoted Moyale District Commissioner Peter Okioma as expressing fears that the fighting could spill over into Kenya, as members of both rival groups - the Borana and the Gabra - are staying with relatives in Kenya.

VOA was unable to reach Okioma for comment.

The newspaper says local leaders from the Moyale County Council appealed to the United Nations' refugee agency to help with those arriving in Kenya.

UNHCR spokesman Emmanuel Nyabera says his agency is monitoring the situation.

"The reason why we are monitoring the situation is that we've had situations before in Moyale where we've had movement of people form Ethiopia into Kenya," he said. "And, in such cases, we've always moved there to try and see if there are people who are seeking asylum. That's the kind of thing we will do, but at the moment, there's no indication that there's a big movement of people."

Nyabera says his agency was told that the latest conflict was over cattle rustling.

In July 2005, at least 80 people were killed in Marsabit district during cattle raids involving two rival communities in both Ethiopia and Kenya. Soon after, the two countries initiated cross-border peace meetings.