At least 30 people were killed in renewed ethnic fighting in Kenya’s southeastern Tana River delta, where Orma livestock herders and Pokomo crop farmers have clashed repeatedly this year over pasture and water.
Thirty people were injured in the latest violence that occurred at 6 a.m. this morning in Kipao, about 400 kilometers (249 miles) southeast of the capital, Nairobi, the Kenya Red Cross Society said in a statement on its website. Suspected members of the Pokomo community armed with bows and poison- tipped arrows, guns and other hand-made weapons carried out the attack on Orma residents of Kipao, County Commissioner Joseph Rotich said in a phone interview.
“The death toll might rise as we have received many reports that injured people are fleeing the scene of the attack with serious injuries,” Rotich said.
Kenya is scheduled to hold presidential elections in March, the first since a disputed vote in 2007 triggered ethnic clashes in which more than 1,100 people died and 350,000 were forced to flee their homes. More than 250 people have been killed in violence in Kenya so far this year as ethnic groups and clans try to undermine each other’s political power, Abbas Gullet, secretary-general of the Kenya Red Cross, said in August.
The spate of violence between the Pokomo and the Orma erupted in August in a dispute over grazing land and water. The United Nations said there is evidence the clashes were politically motivated. Kenya President Mwai Kibaki on Sept. 13 fired a minister who was arrested on suspicion of instigating the violence.
Concern among Kenyan business owners that ethnic tensions may flare as the election approaches has dented confidence in the economy, according to Ipsos Synovate, a Nairobi-based market-research company. The Kenyan shilling weakened 0.2 percent to 85.95 a dollar by 11:08 a.m. in Nairobi.
Police in the Tana River delta are trying to restore calm to the area where today’s attacks took place, Richard Mukwate, the region’s police chief, said in a phone interview.
“It is very volatile,” he said.
The government has carried out “forceful disarmament” over the past three months in all villages in the Tana River delta hit by conflict, Rotich said. Eleven people have been charged with incitement, planning and assisting in the attacks, he said.