Kenya Police Chief Says Slow Reforms Hinder End to Tana Massacre

Kenya’s efforts to curb deadly inter-clan clashes in the eastern Tana River area and track down the perpetrators is being undermined by the sluggish pace of police reforms, Inspector General David Kimaiyo said.

Violence between the feuding Orma and Pokomo groups that’s killed at least 178 people since August is driven by disputes over land and water and linked to political maneuvering before elections planned for March, Kimaiyo said, according to an e-mailed statement. The latest set of tit-for-tat attacks on Jan. 9 and yesterday killed at least 23 people from the semi-nomadic Orma group and the Pokomo farmers.

“We might not be able to assemble adequate evidence to prosecute key personalities partly due to the slow pace of police reforms,” Kimaiyo said. “No case of criminal violence as a means to ascend to political office will be abandoned.”

The police cannot solve the situation alone and may need assistance from the courts, the witness protection agency, provincial administrations and Kenya Defence Forces, according to the statement. Military reinforcement is not a serious option at this point, Kimaiyo said in a follow-up statement.

Police officers are finding their efforts to prevent attacks and conduct criminal investigations thwarted by the “culture of secrecy” in both of the communities, Eric Kiraithe told reporters today in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. Even children won’t divulge information to authorities to protect their community from police scrutiny, Kiraithe said.

‘Communal Secrecy’

“The culture of communal secrecy in the presence of individuals planning murder is devastating and it doesn’t serve any positive interest for humanity anywhere,” Kimaiyo said.

In his first speech after being sworn on Dec. 24, Kimaiyo said inter-clan conflicts were among the most serious security challenges he faces and he visited the Tana River delta on his second day in the job. Kenya created the position of inspector-general under a constitution enacted in August 2010, giving the chief greater power to act independently from the state during a single four-year term.

Elections scheduled for March 4 in Kenya, East Africa’s biggest economy, will be the first since a disputed 2007 vote sparked two months of ethnic and political reprisals that killed 1,100 people and forced 350,000 to flee their homes.

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