NAIROBI, Kenya • Fighting between a community of cattle herders and farmers over land and water killed at least 12 people on Friday in Kenya’s southeastern region, the Kenya Red Cross said.
The two communities periodically clash over resources but this incident may also have politically instigated because it fits a pattern of violence which has occurred in three previous elections, according to the Red Cross. Kenya will hold elections in six months.
The Kenya Red Cross said another 10 people were wounded in the fighting in Tana River delta, near where more than 52 people from the Orma tribe of semi-nomadic cattle herders were killed late last month by member of the Pokomo tribe of farmers.
Mohammed Morowa, a Pokomo, said on the phone that the 11 of those killed in the dawn attack were his relatives and that the killing was retaliation by members of the Orma tribe over the killing of their community members last month.
Morowa said tens of grass thatched houses were burned at Chamwanamuma village region. The attackers used guns, arrows and machetes, Morowa said.
More than 200 people have died since January in several separate clashes that follow the pattern of pre-election violence that Kenya has suffered in most elections since the early 1990s, the Kenya Red Cross said recently.
Violence occurred before voting in three out of four of Kenya’s elections since 1992. The exception was the December 2007 polls, when deadly clashes erupted after voting. That violence was set off by a dispute over who won the presidential contest.
What started as street protests over the presidential results, which international observers said was flawed, soon degenerated into tribe-versus-tribe violence, in which ethnic groups that had rallied behind an opposition movement targeted members of President Kibaki’s Kikuyu community and other tribes that had supported him. More than 1,000 people died and 600,000 people were displaced from their homes in the wave of violence that lasted for two months.
The fighting ended when former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan brokered a peace deal in which opposition challenger Raila Odinga became Prime Minister in a coalition government, while President Mwai Kibaki retained his post.
As the 2013 general election approaches political tensions have increased among potential candidates for the presidency, exacerbating tribal animosity. Polls put Prime Minister Odinga ahead of the rest of the presidential hopefuls. Two other possible presidential challengers face crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court for allegedly orchestrating 2007-2008 violence.
Abbas Gullet, the secretary general of the Kenya Red Cross, said late last month that if the rate of the current killings continues the deaths could overshadow those in the 2007-2008 post-election violence.
He said one cause of the new violence is political competition for positions in the newly restructured seats in the legislature and administrative posts, which were created in a new constitution that Kenya adopted in 2010. Another contributing factor is disputes between communities over boundaries between counties and constituencies that were formed by the new constitution, he said.