* Clashes part of long dispute over water, grazing land
* Fighting has raised fear of unrest ahead of March polls
* Tourism at the coast could be hit
By Joseph Akwiri
MOMBASA, Kenya, Dec 21 Raiders armed with guns,
machetes and spears killed 30 people, including several
children, and torched their houses in Kenya's coastal region on
Friday, police said, heightening security concerns ahead of next
Nine of the raiders were also killed in what appeared to
have been a revenge attack by settled Pokomo farmers against the
semi-nomadic Orma pastoralists after a series of clashes in
August in which more than 100 people were killed.
The two groups have fought for years over access to grazing,
farmland and water, but human rights groups have blamed the
latest violence on politicians seeking to drive away parts of
the local population they believe will vote for their rivals in
presidential and parliamentary elections in March.
If those charges are true, it further raises fears of a
repeat of the ethnic violence that rocked Kenya after the
disputed 2007 presidential election, in which more than 1,200
people were killed countrywide and many more thousands driven
from their homes.
"About 150 Pokomo raiders attacked Kipao village which is
inhabited by the Ormas early on Friday. The Ormas appeared to
have been aware and were prepared," Robert Kitur, Coast Region
deputy police chief, told reporters.
One survivor said the attackers stuck at dawn.
"There were too many gunshots. They used also spears and
machetes. I ran out of my house and left behind my wife and two
children, and told them not to leave ... but the enemies reached
my house, killed my family and burnt my house as I watched from
where I was hiding," said Osman Amran, 63, of the Orma tribe,
who lay on a hospital bed with deep cut wounds on both thighs.
President Mwai Kibaki instructed security forces to prevent
further deaths. Kibaki imposed a curfew in September and sent
extra security forces to the area to try to end the violence,
intensified by an influx of weapons in the last few years.
BURNS AND BULLET WOUNDS
Police sent an additional team of 200 paramilitary officers
to the region to quell the fighting.
Police had already been deployed to the area in September
after the attacks in August. It was unclear how the latest
violence erupted while officers were on the ground, something
which also baffling to the police.
"We are still trying to establish how these attacks escaped
the knowledge of the officers on the ground. The officers
responded after most of the damage had been done," Kitur said.
Police said six women and 13 children were among the dead
and nine of the attackers were killed. Many bled to death from
wounds inflicted with machetes. The village was deserted as the
survivors fled for fear of further attacks.
Kenya Red Cross, which has a team on the ground treating the
wounded, put the death toll at 32, including several children,
with about 45 houses set on fire. Red Cross photographs posted
on Twitter showed the injured being treated for serious cuts to
the arms and head. One person had lost an arm.
"We have been administering first aid services to many with
cuts, some very deep on various body parts especially the head
and back. Others have burns and bullet wounds," said Mwanaisha
Hamisi, the Coast regional Red Cross coordinator.
"It is almost overwhelming but we have mobilised our people
from other areas of the province."
Prolonged trouble at the coast would cause jitters among
some tourists and may affect Kenya's vital tourism industry,
already damaged by the kidnappings of Western tourists from
beach resorts by Somali gunmen and grenade attacks in the port
city of Mombasa, at the height of the tourist season.
Dams along the Tana River, Kenya's longest, supply about
two-thirds of the east African state's electricity, but the
fighting has so far not threatened electricity generation.