MOYALE (Xinhua) — At least five people have been killed and dozens wounded in inter-communal clashes in eastern Kenyan town of Moyale, police confirmed on Friday.
Regional police commander Marcus Ochola said the five were killed on Thursday night in the fighting between members of two major pastoral communities which he said seem to have been driven by local politics ahead of national polls due later this year.
Ochola said the political instigated clashes between the Borana and Gabra livestock-herding communities in Moyale, about 600 kilometers northeast of Nairobi, have also displaced dozens of people in the region.
“I can confirm that five people were killed on Thursday night in the dispute involving two major tribes.
“Many others have also been injured in the fighting which seems to have taken political dimension,” Ochola told Xinhua on Friday.
Residents said tension remains high in the area as more families flee the resource-linked conflict between the Gabra and Borana pastoralist communities.
The locals said at least 20 people have so far been killed in the past three days of inter-communal clashes turning the Moyale into a no-go zone.
“There is a lot of tension in Moyale town and its environs and I can tell no business opened this morning in the town.
“All you can hear is gunshots which started on Thursday up to Friday morning,” Abdi Hassan, a resident of Moyale, told Xinhua.
Hassan, who spoke from Moyale-Ethiopia border where he has sought refuge following deadly clashes between the two communities, said the current insecurity could be linked to the forthcoming general elections as local politicians plan to displace certain members of different communities to block them from voting.
“The exchange of fire between the rival communities and police have turned Moyale town into a no-go zone.
“The police are patrolling the town but still gunshots could be heard,” said Hussein Yusuf, a local businessman.
However, some humanitarian agencies said the violence is being fuelled by competition for land for grazing and livestock.
The incident comes as government comes under increasing pressure to improve security and curb the surge in rustling, which usually involves armed groups stealing livestock from other communities in and adjoining Kenya’s pastoral areas.
Drought-hit northern and eastern Kenya has seen a surge in cattle rustling in the recent past with the raids leading to an increasing number of deaths and a rise in economic losses.
Early this month, internal Security Minister Professor George Saitoti attributed the conflicts in northern Kenya especially in Moyale to power and resource sharing tensions in readiness for the eagerly awaited establishment of county governments.
“This political dispute clearly can be sorted amicably much so in this election year it would be embarrassing for incidences that refresh the memories of post election violence to start occurring.
“It would be a major let down to Kenyans and Kenya at large,” Saitoti said.
Ochola said that the police has beefed up security to deal with those causing chaos and that all those police reservists who have been identified as partisan will be disarmed.
“We have beefed up security to help contain the situation.
“As was before, the current fighting is not about grazing land and banditry but politics.
The police will help deal with acts of lawlessness,” Ochola said.
Livestock herding is the main livelihood and source of income in northern and some parts of eastern Kenya, and the hike in cattle thefts threatens to ignite cross-community reprisals and raids that could set the stage for a surge in ethnic fighting in the region.