Kenya clashes over grazing leaves 10 dead in drought-hit north

Turkana armed tribesmen stand around a borehole in order to protect their cattle from rival Pokot and Samburu tribesmen near Baragoy, Kenya February 14, 2017.    REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Turkana armed tribesmen stand around a borehole in order to protect their cattle from rival Pokot and Samburu tribesmen near Baragoy, Kenya February 14, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

By Reuters

A gun battle between two pastoralist communities competing for grazing killed least 10 people in northern Kenya on Sunday morning, police said, raising questions about the government’s ability to maintain peace before August elections.

Armed cattle herders from Isiolo and Samburu counties fought over grazing access along the two county borders, said Isiolo County police commander Charles Ontita.

“Ten bodies have been recovered from the scene. Scores of people sustained gunshots wounds,” Ontita said during a press briefing at his office.

Northern Kenya is suffering a severe drought, which has worsened competition for grazing and water holes. Some residents say local politicians are fuelling the violence in an effort to win votes from particular ethnic blocs in national elections scheduled for August.

On Friday, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced he is sending troops to the northern regions of Laikipia and Baringo. Both have suffered a string of deadly attacks in recent months as armed cattle herders searching for grazing have driven cattle onto private farms and ranches.

Sunday’s violence took place further to the east, at Kom, 100 kilometres (62 miles) northeast from the town of Isiolo.

Ontita, the police commander, said extra police and paramilitary forces had been sent to Kom.

At least 15 people have already been killed in clashes along the border between Isiolo and neighbouring Marissa County in the past month.


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