Potential Hot Spots: December 15, 2001


Tana River Range War - Just Another Squabble?- Is the Tana River Range War just another fight between farmers and herders, or is it a destabilization attempt meant to frighten Kenyan leaders away from assisting in the War On Terrorism?

The 11 MPs of Kenya's Defence, Foreign and Administration Affairs Committee were seeking urgent talks with the Government over reports that their country could become a staging ground for the next round of US attacks on terrorist groups. They were concerned that Allied use of Kenyan bases could open the country to retaliatory attacks by terrorists and produce a flood of refugees from Somalia and Sudan.

Meanwhile, Kenyan Army chiefs were assessing the Tana River conflict with a view to intervening if they become convinced that outside forces are involved. A group of senior officers from Baragoi, Lamu, visited the Tana River DC early in the week of 10 December for briefings. According to UN OCHA, about 50 militiamen may have been recruited from neighboring Somalia to provide support to the Orma. 

Coast Provincial Commissioner Samuel Limo said that the fighting had not stopped despite the government confiscating guns from Kenya Police reservists (known as "homeguards") and transferring the Orma/Wardei and Pokomo security personnel serving in the district. The Pokomo farmers protested the government disarmament decision, saying it would make them vulnerable to attacks by Orma pastoralists armed with sophisticated weapons. Raiders had killed 58 people in the past two weeks.

UNOCHA Kenya also reported on 11 December that 3,405 people displaced by two weeks of violent clashes in the Tana River District were in danger, as the threat of further violence meant they were unable to access their farms or find pasture for their cattle. The displaced persons, particularly members of the agriculturalist Pokomo community, were in urgent need of food aid, emergency healthcare, clothes and cooking utensils. At least three months food rationing was needed for the populations of Chara, Ngao, Oda, Ozi and Kilelengwani 

To date, over 100 people have been arrested in connection with the clashes. Most were transferred to cells in Malindi and Mombasa, since the Hola police cells were overcrowded. Among those arrested were Tana River District Kanu chairman Athumani Mohamed and Bura ward councilor Simba Arte. - Adam Geibel


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