Kenya Police Brace for Retaliation After Tana Death Toll Hits 23

Kenyan police barricaded roads leading to the southeastern Tana River delta to prevent more bloodshed after the death toll from two days of raids between feuding communities reached at least 23.

A retaliatory attack by the Orma people, who are nomadic livestock herders, on the rival Pokomo community killed at least 12 people today, Tana Delta District Commissioner David Kiprop said. The violence followed a Pokomo assault that killed 11 Ormas yesterday.

“It’s a revenge attack carried out by Orma youths,” he said by mobile phone. “So far 12 bodies have been recovered and rescue efforts to retrieve more bodies trapped in the burned houses are ongoing.”

Fighting between the Orma and Pokomo has killed at least 178 people, including nine police officers, since violence broke out over a land and water dispute in August, according to a Bloomberg tally of police and Kenya Red Cross figures. The United Nations says the Orma and Pokomo are competing for seats in local government bodies that will be filled for the first time at an election scheduled for March 4.

Kenya, East Africa’s largest economy, is expected to hold its first national vote since a disputed 2007 ballot erupted into violence that killed at least 1,100 and forced 350,000 more to flee their homes. The country enacted a new constitution in 2010 that created a more devolved government structure, part of a pact to end the post-election bloodshed.