Dozens of Women and Children Perish in Ethnic Clash in Kenya


 

At least 52 people have died in a serious ethnic attack in Kenya on Tuesday. AFP notes that most of the victims were women and children. The original toll of 48 casualties reported on Tuesday was raised to 52 after four more people perished from sustained injuries on Wednesday.

The tragedy was sparked by the long rivalry between Pokomo and Ormo people in a remote corner of Kenya near the Tana River district. Police chief Joseph Kitur said that 31 women perished, along with 11 children and six adult men. Kitur also told reporters that 34 of the victims were hacked to death and 14 were burnt.

The attack occurred in a rural corner of southeast Kenya, about 185 miles away from the capital of Nairobi. The New York Times notes that the gruesome incident was staged by numerous members of an armed militia from the Pokomo group who entered the Ormo village and began to slash residents before setting many of the homes on fire.

One member of Parliament, Danson Mungatana, thought the attacks were probably a backlash after an Ormo cattle raid that occurred last week. Battles for water and land resources between the two groups in this part of Kenya are reportedly very common. Another clash between the two groups back in 2001 caused around 130 deaths. The Pokomo reportedly practice subsistence farming, while the Ormo tend towards a pastoral livelihood. The Kenya Red Cross was at the scene and reported that they sent seven people to the hospital with severe injuries.

The most tragic aspect of the current episode is the high number of children lost in the conflict, along with women and unsuspecting male village members. Both the AFP and the New York Times note that this most recent attack is a reminder of the post-election ethnic violence of 2007, when there were contested election results between two candidates from different ethnic backgrounds, which pitted populations against each other, resulting in more than 1,000 deaths.

In January, the International Criminal Court charged four Kenyan officials with crimes related to the post-election deaths. The next set of elections are planned for next year, according to UPI. The most recent violence has sparked discomfort and is an unsettling reminder that elections could also pose more danger for Kenyans next year.

 

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