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Kenya Links Tana River Clashes to Somali Weapons, State Security

A Kenyan panel investigating clashes in the coastal region that left 164 people dead since last year said the flow of illegal arms from Somalia and an outlawed separatist group played a part fueling the violence.

Fighting between the Pokomo farming community and the Orma people, who are nomadic livestock herders, was politically instigated and also sparked by competition over land and other resources, according to a copy of the report distributed by the government-appointed panel to reporters yesterday.

The clashes in Tana River at the Kenyan coast, which is one of the country’s poorest regions, escalated after authorities failed to react, according to the panel led by High Court Judge Grace Nzioka. More than 40,000 people were displaced, it said. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta received the report in May, according to statement from the presidency.

Disputes over land have been rife since before Kenya’s independence from Britain in 1963.

Members of the Mombasa Republic Council, who want autonomy for the coastal area, were trained to attack Orma clansmen, who were accused of grazing their cattle on land the Pokomo claimed to own, according to the report. The feuding communities got weapons from arms traders on the Somali border, it said.

MRC Secretary-General Randu Nzai said his organization had nothing do with the fighting.

“It’s total lies; the MRC was not involved in Tana River killings,” Nzai said by phone. “The commission of inquiry only relied on information from various people and state security agencies who peddled rumors and lies.”

Sora Abaduba, who lost his wife and two children in one of the attacks in the village of Kilelengwani, called for the arrest of those guilty of murder and displacement. “I call on the government to apprehend the political leaders and hired armed attackers behind the killings,” he said in an interview.

About 628 people have been killed and another 523 injured in inter-communal violence in Kenya between last year and June 2013, while more than 168,000 more have been driven from their homes, according to data compiled by the United Nations.

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