Call for lasting solution to
insecurity in western region
NAIROBI, 6 March 2008 (IRIN) - Weary of the violence that has
plagued Kenya's western district of Mount Elgon, residents have
urged authorities to step up efforts to restore security in an
area where long-standing disputes over land ownership erupted into
bloodletting in 2006.
"The gang of attackers shot me four times after breaking down the
door after they failed to burn down the house," said Stephen
Chemengich, a survivor of the latest raid on 3 March, when at
least 12 people, including two children, were killed.
"They also cut up my wife and beat up my three children, killing
two instantly, while one child died at the hospital," said
Chemengich, a resident of Embakasi village in Trans-Nzoia West
district, where the attack happened. "The people responsible -
women and men alike - should be arrested.
"They [the gang] did not give any reason for attacking us; it
seems they were just after my life. This is because they let the
cows and the calves loose but later decided to return all the
livestock," he added.
Most of the raids have been blamed on the Sabaot Land Defence
Forces (SLDF), a militia group ostensibly fighting for the land
rights of members of the Sabaot community, a sub-group of the
larger Kalenjin ethnic community.
Frequent attacks have led to the deaths of hundreds of people and
the displacement of thousands more in Mt Elgon since late 2006.
The SLDF was formed to protest against perceived injustices in
land distribution in connection with the Chebyuk scheme in the
At least five victims of the latest violence, including Chemengich,
have been admitted to the Kitale District Hospital, according to
Gilbert Mulanda, a doctor there.
The injured include a woman with severe gunshot and machete wounds
and three children who were burnt in arson attacks, Mulanda said.
In response to the latest attacks, the government has intensified
security operations, but residents live in fear.
" They also cut up my wife and beat up my three children,
killing two instantly, while one child died at the hospital "
"People are scared to talk, with many of them leaving their farms
for Kitale," said Ronald Matai Sakong, a local councillor in
Trans-Nzoia. Kitale is about 18km from the violence-hit areas.
Sakong suggested the government should offer amnesty to militiamen
believed to be hiding in the forest, to encourage them to abandon
"The Sabaot council of elders and opinion leaders should be given
a chance for dialogue because we all belong to the same community
and we are suffering," he said.
"The only solution is forgiveness and reconciliation because
relying on the police alone is not a permanent solution," he said.
"Right now children and women are not staying in their homes at
night, only doing so during the day when there is a police
He said it was not possible to initiate dialogue between the
feuding clans due to suspicion.
"If you are seen talking to a police officer you are labelled a
traitor," said Sakong. "Within one community it is not possible to
know who your enemy is."
The conflict has pitted the Mosop clan against the Soy clan - both
are members of the Sabaot group.
"If people are affected by fighting in Mt Elgon, we are also
affected in Trans-Nzoia because we are the same community," he
Poverty and land dependency
The councillor said it was necessary to address issues such as
poverty and lack of infrastructure in the district to find a
"There are many people living on a narrow stretch of land, forcing
others, such as the Mosop, to occupy forests," he said.
The government should build institutions where the youth could
acquire skills that would enable them to have decent livelihoods
and reduce their dependency on land, Sakong said. "Here, people
can only rely on farming for sustenance."
According to Hezborn Wekola, an assistant relief officer with the
Kenya Red Cross Society in the western region, it was vital to
create job opportunities for the youth to reduce their involvement
in militia activities.
"In the short term, the youth should also be provided with
recreation facilities and livelihood support, such as farming
implements, so that they are gainfully occupied to avoid engaging
in destructive activities," Wekola said.
Meanwhile, the KRCS and other humanitarian agencies continued
distributing food and non-food items to thousands of displaced
people in the area. At least 2,200 people are camped at Gituamba,
near Embakasi village, the scene of the violence, according to an
Those targeted in the attacks were mainly people who were
unwilling to support the militias, according to local sources.