Moyale, 6 September 2013 – Thousands of families remain displaced from the northern Kenya district of Moyale, close to the Ethiopian border, following the latest spate of clan violence, which has left at least two dozen dead since it broke out on 30 August.
Aid agencies say they have been unable to conduct a comprehensive assessment of humanitarian needs, essential for providing emergency assistance to populations in some of the district’s more volatile areas.
Two days of inter-clan fighting among the Gabra, Burji and Borana communities saw houses torched, gunfire exchanged and business come to a standstill in the areas of Somare and Teti. The violence has since subsided, but tension remains high in the area.
Education officials say all 32 primary and secondary schools in Moyale remained closed on 2 September, as all both teachers and students remained displaced, too afraid of renewed violence to return home.
The violence is believed to be part of a series of revenge attacks that began when the Borana and Gabra clashed on 15 July, leaving one dead and three injured.
“More than 38,000 people from 6,381 households have been forced to leave their homes,” said the Kenya Red Cross Society’s (KRCS) Moyale coordinator, Stephen Bonaya, who noted that most of the displaced had crossed into Ethiopia, while others were staying with relatives in Moyale and the counties of Marsabit and Wajir.
He said scores of children, women and men were still separated from their families, while others were missing. “A team is helping families trace lost members and reunite them. At the moment, 60 families have been united,” he added.
According to Bonaya, displaced families are in urgent need of food assistance, shelter, drugs, water, cooking utensils, clothing and mosquito nets, among other things.
Moyale’s traders say the suspension of operations by transporters has led to a spike in food prices in the area.
“My lorry has been parked for a whole week now. I am afraid it could either be burnt or hijacked, and yet I am supposed to service a loan,” said Golicha, a truck owner.
Ismail Adan, a livestock trader and a transporter, said the prices of hiring and ferrying livestock by lorries doubled as a result of the clashes. “It’s not possible to make any profit from livestock trade. Animals at the market are too few and very expensive,” he said.
Seeking a solution
Historically, the regions’ communities – which straddle Kenya and Ethiopia – have fought over resources such as pasture and water for their livestock, but research by Tufts University and KRCS shows that the violence has recently become more deadly and communities and their leaders now seek to achieve control over these resources through the political system.
“The government is now in charge. Militia gangs from the warring communities have been flushed out [by the police and the army],” Marsabit County commissioner Isaiah Nakoru told IRIN. “Some have fled and crossed the border. We have arrested eight Ethiopians, two Kenya[ns]. The state is serious; nobody will escape punishment… Politicians responsible will not be spared.”
He added that preliminary investigations had established that “foreign militia” armed with mortars and bombs had fuelled the fighting.
People affected by the conflict say the intermittent violence will continue unless the government addresses the root causes, involving the warring communities and their leaders.
“This is a political problem. Neither Kenya’s entire military nor police can contain or end this problem. Arrest the politicians, involve all communities in the political process and share resources fairly,” said one Moyale resident, who preferred anonymity.