At least 39 people have been killed in a recent flare up of ethnic violence in Kenya, while dozens more, many of them women and children, have been injured and maimed.
Though the deaths and injuries have been small in number and mostly contained within a small geographic region of Kenya, coming national elections make the spread of such tribal rivalries a looming possibility. This recent development follows the deaths of 110 Kenyans due to ethnic violence between August and September.
In anticipation of the coming election’s impact on the renewed violence, White House spokesman Jay Carney denounced the recent attacks:
The United States condemns in the strongest terms the renewed violence in Kenya’s Tana River region, which left over 39 dead and dozens injured on Friday, including many women and children.
With historic elections approaching in March, peace and stability are essential to Kenya’s continued progress. The United States urges the people of Kenya to assert their rights through peaceful means, as provided for in Kenya’s constitution, so that all Kenyans may realize a secure, democratic, and prosperous future.
The recent violence broke out in Kenya’s Tana River region between two tribes, the Orma and the Pokomo. The tribes have had recent skirmishes over water and other resources, all of which are limited in the region.
Though limited resources seem to be the overt reason behind the violence, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Kenya, Aeneas C. Chuma, cautioned against such a shallow view:
The tit-for-tat cycle of killings may be related to a redrawing of political boundaries and next year’s general elections. However, on the surface the violence seems driven by competition for water, pasture and other resources.
The latest outbreak of violence occurred on December 21, 2012, as members of the Pokomo tribe reportedly raided an Orma herding village in the Tana River Delta region. The Pokomo were armed with spears and AK-47’s and set 45 houses on fire. Thirteen children, six women, and eleven men were killed in the attack, along with nine of the attackers.
Kenya’s last general election occurred in 2007; over 1,000 people were killed in similar resulting violence.