Tension high in Tana Delta as 38 killed

Monday September 10 2012

By NATION TEAM [email protected]

President Kibaki on Monday night ordered a dawn to dusk curfew in clashes-hit Tana Delta District after nine police officers and 29 villagers were killed in the latest tit-for-tat massacres.

The President invoked the Preservation of Public Security Act and directed the declaration and maintenance of a curfew among other measures to be published in a gazette notice.

In the meantime, additional detachments of security forces have been sent to the area. The Head of State condemned the killings and ordered security agencies to take firm and decisive action against those behind the skirmishes.

“The killings of innocent women, children, men and security officials is a heinous crime and the perpetrators must be punished accordingly,” he said, adding:

“The Government will get to the bottom of the matter. Local leaders must also take a proactive role and preach peace among area residents.”

In Monday’s raid, the attackers, estimated at between 200 and 300 strong, first struck at a police post established at Kilelengwani Primary School in Garsen constituency before pouring into the nearby Kilelengwani village. (SEE IN PICTURES: Tana River clashes)

They were armed with guns, machetes, spears, bows and arrows. The security team, drawn from the General Service Unit and regular police, said the attackers tricked them that they were villagers fleeing an attack.

When the officers went out to investigate the calls for help, the raiders opened fire. The officers said the attack on Kilelengwani, an Orma settlement, was by suspected Pokomos in retaliation to last week’s raid on Chamwanamuma village where 12 people were killed.

The 38 killed on Monday included nine police officers from the GSU, AP, and regular police, and 29 civilians. (READ: 8 policemen killed as Tana death toll rises)

A witness, Ishmael Jaso, 33, said he was sleeping in his house when the alarm was raised that the village had been attacked.

“When I came out, I saw a huge crowd of more than 500 people surrounding the village. They were torching houses and shooting people indiscriminately,” Jaso said.

Apart from burning 30 houses and a police Land Rover at Kilelengwani, the raiders also drove away several animals.

There have been allegations of oathing in  the Tana Delta, especially among farmers in Kipini. Sources told the Nation on Monday that some youths had taken an oath to protect the community and are believed to have carried out the attacks.

The oathing is also linked to sympathisers of the Mombasa Republican Council, who are said to have been trying to make inroads into the Tana Delta.

Police arrested some youths who had tattoos associated with the oath and charged them in a Garsen court on Monday. They denied the charges.

Ahadi Gonchoro,68, said he was in Garsen attending a court session when he was alerted of the attack. “When I came back the entire village had been razed,” he said. Mzee Gonchoro said the attack was politically motivated “because it had nothing to do with pasture or watering points.”

“The Pokomo have harvested their crops so we have no problem of cattle going into their farms, and there is enough water to cater for all of us.”

Sixteen men, eight women and five children were killed. Eight villagers are undergoing treatment at Witu Health Centre. The Kenya Red Cross said 167 houses were torched.

By Patrick Mayoyo, Sandra Chao, Zahra Rashid and KNA