Tribal skirmishes threaten crude transport, other economic activities in northern Kenya

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-19 00:08:38|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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KAPENGURIA, Kenya, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- Inter-tribal skirmishes that flared up recently along the border separating northern Kenyan counties of Turkana and West Pokot has threatened transportation of crude oil and other economic activities in the volatile region.

Dozens of people have lost their lives as a result of skirmishes linked to cattle rustling and fight over pasture and water points among the nomadic communities.

Three people died and scores were injured last Saturday at the volatile West Pokot-Turkana border.

Abbas Gullet, secretary general of Kenya Red Cross, said the attacks paralyzed transport between Lodwar and Kitale towns.

Retaliatory attacks have continued along the border, disrupting economic activities like irrigation along Lake Turkwel.

Oil transportation from exploration fields in Ngamia 1 in Lokichar area to the refinery in the port city of Mombasa was disrupted for one week due to worsening security.

"We have suspended transportation of oil for a while due to insecurity. Bandits attack on the highway is a threat to our operation in Lokichar," said an official from British oil company Tullow.

Mathew Kutto, police commander in West Pokot County, told Xinhua that tension remained high at the volatile Turkana-West Pokot border but the government had deployed police officers to boost security.

"It is true tension is high along the border of the two warring communities but... we have deployed security officers to protect civilians, especially motorists along the highway," Kutto said.

There is heavy presence of armed bandits along the Lodwar-Kitale highway, a key transport corridor in northwestern Kenya.

Education officials said several schools along the border separating the two counties have been forced to close due to insecurity.

"Schools along the border are not safe and most of them have been forced to close for the safety of students and teachers," said an education official who requested anonymity. "Learning will resume when there is calm and teaching fraternity is assured of security."

Turkana and West Pokot nomadic communities' leaders have been accused of fuelling the conflict at the border and lobby groups are calling for their arrest and prosecution.

So far, families in Lorogon, Turkwel, Takaywo, Kainuk, Loyapata and Kapur areas have fled their homes for fear of retaliatory attacks.

Locals said the violence was provoked by last week's incident where police officers from Turkana County allegedly opened fire on a convoy of leaders heading to Takaywo village for a peace meeting.

Kutto said police officers involved in the shooting have been arrested and put under investigation.

Peace monitors at the volatile border said that more than five people have been killed and hundreds of livestock lost since the beginning of the year.

Residents lamented that the renewed fighting will sabotage economic growth in the region.

"We are not attending our farms now. We fear being killed by the bandits and we regret that what has been achieved in the past years when there was peace will be drained to waste," said Grace Ekiru, a vegetable farmer.

Motorists plying the Lodwar-Kitale highway are protected by police escort, but traders complain of dwindling business due to insecurity.

"Transporting goods from Kitale has been frustrated by highway banditry and the problem has hindered business," said Peter Maina, a grocery shop owner in Lodwar town.