The trouble with the Tana River Delta is simply a failure of leadership. Politicians have been blamed, and rightly so, for fanning the violence with their utterances, especially as the campaigns for the March General Election gain momentum.
Galole MP Dhadho Godhana has been accused of playing a role in the flare-ups in Kipini, where 52 people were killed at Riketa last Wednesday. Though he has denied the accusation, the Livestock assistant minister seems to acknowledge the role of politics in the recent clashes.
“We need the National Security Intelligence Service to investigate these clashes that have become the norm, especially as we approach the General Election,” he said on Wednesday.
Acting Security minister Yusuf Haji has ordered the CID to investigate the MP over his utterances, but in his response on Friday, Mr Godhana accused the minister of being the “cause of insecurity” in the area.
“He has been agitating for the adjustment of the boundaries between Tana and North Eastern,” the assistant minister said.
As the minister and the MP spar over the violence in Tana River County, one of the issues that may take centre stage is the long-running conflict between the Pokomo farmers in Galole and Orma pastoralists from the neighbouring Ijara district. Mr Haji is Ijara MP.
The Pokomo have always claimed the three-mile strip on the east bank of River Tana on the side of Garissa and Ijara districts. According to them and government officials, the strip is trust land held by the Tana River County Council.
“The strip was allocated to the Pokomo as part of their farmland,” said a Lands official.
But that land is not always available for use by the Tana River farmers.
Conflicts in Tana River seem to heighten in the run-up to elections. Statistics show there were clashes in Salama in Garsen in 1996; in Zubaki, Duwayo, Kinakomba and Mnazini in Galole, and Idzowe and Chara in 2001; and in this year in Kipini. This is an indication of the jostling for power between the communities in the area.
The Pokomo generally control Tana River politics, so an influx of pastoralists in a Pokomo stronghold in an election year may be worrying for some leaders as the herders might just swing the vote in favour of an Orma candidate.
Take Garsen constituency, for instance. It is now teeming with pastoralists from all over the county. If they register and vote there, they could very well determine who the area’s next leaders will be.
And now, the political stakes are much higher. The real battle is the race for governor. There are at least four Pokomo hopefuls in the race, including Garsen MP Danson Mungatana and Galole’s Godhana. And the Orma have former MP Molu Shambaro and his cousin, former ambassador Hussein Dado, eyeing the seat.
Though Mr Shambaro and Mr Dado are bitter rivals, there is a likelihood that they will close ranks to front one of them against the Pokomo candidates. Such a candidate could romp to victory, buoyed by the new voters from the north, if they register. That possibility could fuel ethnic animosity.
But the root of the perennial conflict between the farming Pokomo community and the nomadic pastoralist Orma and Wardei is in the failure