Kenyan Lawmakers Vote to Deploy Army to Halt Ethnic Fighting

Kenyan lawmakers voted to deploy the nation’s military in the southeastern Tana Delta region where at least 116 people have died in ethnic fighting over the past four weeks.

The vote was carried by acclamation in Parliament in the capital, Nairobi, today. The motion for the deployment came after groups including the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights criticized the government for failing to stem the violence.

“The Kenya Defence Forces should be deployed to restore peace and order in the Tana Delta region,” Danson Mungatana, MP for Garsen, told lawmakers. “The military, as they go there, can be subdivided into different groups, some to chase the bandits, others to mop up arms, others to reconstruct the place.”

Fighting erupted between ethnic Orma pastoralists and the Pokomo, who are farmers, in the Tana Delta last month in a dispute over pasture and water. There is evidence that the clashes were instigated for political reasons, according to the United Nations. More than 12,000 people have fled their homes because of the violence, according to the Kenya Red Cross Society.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki today held talks with Defense Minister Yusuf Haji and lawmakers from the Coast province, where the Tana Delta is situated, and agreed that more security personnel be sent to quell the violence. The East African nation’s constitution requires that parliament approve any deployment by the army to deal with unrest or instability.

The meeting also agreed that “leaders and other persons who incited leading to the skirmishes” be arrested, according to a statement from Kibaki’s office. “This includes those based in Nairobi, Tana River and other parts of the country plus those funding the skirmishes.”

Kenya, East Africa’s biggest economy, is scheduled to hold elections in March, the first since a disputed 2007 vote sparked two months of ethnic and political reprisals in which more than 1,100 people died.

To contact the reporter on this story: Johnstone Ole Turana in Nairobi at jturana@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson in Nairobi at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

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