News 2008


Kenya army launches crackdown on tribal militia

11. March 2008

NAIROBI (AFP) The Kenyan army has launched a massive crackdown on a tribal militia in western Kenya that has killed hundreds of people in recent months, officials said Monday.

Rift Valley provincial chief Hassan Noor Hassan and the region's police commander announced a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the Mount Elgon region as the army hunted down the rag-tag Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) militia.

"We want people to remain indoors so that the operation can go on well. We are determined to succeed," Hassan said.

Police estimate that the militia has killed at least 500 people in the past year alone and displaced thousands of others.

Last week, the group attacked a village in the area and killed 15 people, some hacked others burnt or shot dead.

Several residents fled the area Monday for fear of arrest as hundreds of heavily armed soldiers kicked off the operation.

"It is a massive operation. We are using helicopters to over fly the forest. We are also moving from house to house to search for these criminals," a senior police officer said on condition of anonymity.

The SLDF is demanding the nullification of a government settlement scheme which it deems unfair because it displaced the small Sabaot tribes from their ancestral land.

The group intensified attacks in 2006 and killed several villagers and destroyed homes in the fertile Mount Elgon region near the border with Uganda.

The violence in the flashpoint Mount Elgon area is not directly linked to the turmoil that erupted following Kenya's disputed December elections but tribal and land disputes have been exacerbated in recent weeks.