Narok violence forces hundreds to spend Christmas night in the cold

By Saturday, the estimated 500 families had not returned to their homes as the violence escalated.

Sunday December 27 2015

By GEORGE SAYAGIE
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At least 2,000 people spent their Christmas night in the cold after fighting between two communities sent hundreds fleeing from their homes in Narok.

By Saturday, the estimated 500 families had not returned to their homes as the violence escalated.

Dozens of houses belonging to Kalenjins and Maasais were torched in retaliatory attacks following the killing of two herders in the controversial Maasai Mau Narok forest in Narok South Sub-County on Wednesday night.

More than 100 police officers who were Saturday deployed to the area appeared unable to stop the attacks when the Nation visited the scene as arsonists from the two communities carried on their criminal acts across the ridges.

In some instances, security officers would be putting out fires in one place only to see houses go up in smoke in the distance.

Four people were injured Saturday as the confrontations continued.

(READ: Fear grips village after militia attack leaves two dead)

According to Regional Coordinator Osman Warfa, more than 200 houses have been set ablaze in the last two days and more than 2,000 people displaced.

“We are calling for a ceasefire between the two peoples so that police can carry out investigations on the cause of the clashes. Already a lot of damage has been done and people now should give the police time to work,” he said.

Mr Warfa said that the government had deployed enough officers from the regular police, the General Service Unit and Administration Police.

He was accompanied by security teams from Narok and Nakuru counties.

Regional police commander Gideon Amalla, Narok County police commandant Abdi Galgallo and Nakuru County Commissioner Joshua Nkanatha were at the scene.

CAUSE NOT KNOWN

The police headquarters in Nairobi could not confirm immediately the cause of the clashes insisting they are still investigating, but said they had sent units to the area from neighbouring counties to calm down the situation.

“A high-level regional security team led by Mr Warfa, the Regional Commander and county security teams from Narok and Nakuru are on the ground to restore calm and progress is being made,” Police Inspector-General Joseph Boinnet told the Nation.

Mr Boinnet added that special units from Nairobi had also been deployed. He warned that those found to have incited residents will be charged in court.

“We have also deployed the GSU and Quick Response Teams from other security organs to support the local police with firm instructions to quell recurrence of violence and arrest any lawbreakers. Several suspects are being sought,” he said.

The clashes are said to have been triggered by the killing of two Maasai herdsmen.

Through elder Kimalel Sigei, the Kalenjin said that the Maasai had no good reason to attack them.

“We don’t own any guns and whatever happened is a criminal activity. We would like the government to investigate and find out who killed the two Maasai,” said Mr Sigei. More than 100 cattle had been stolen, he said.

A Maasai youth leader, who did not want to be named, alleged that the neighbouring community had provoked them enough and stolen their cattle. He also accused the police of laxity.

(READ: Houses torched as ethnic clashes erupt in Narok)

His sentiments were supported by the area MCA Wilson ole Masikonte who called on the security teams to crack down on armed militias who have been terrorising residents in Mau forest. He said four people, including two brothers, were injured yesterday and taken to the Narok County Referral Hospital.

Mr Masikonte appealed to those who may be holding stolen cattle to return them.

Kuresoi MP Zakayo Cheruiyot condemned the clashes, saying there is no grudge between the two communities. He blamed police for dragging their feet after the first incident where two herders were shot dead.

Tension had started building immediately after reports of the deaths on Wednesday.

SITUATION WORSENED

By Friday evening, the situation had worsened as both sides attacked each other with spears and arrows and burnt down houses.

Women and children fled their homes and camped at Township Primary School at Olenguruone.

The two herders who were shot were among a group that was grazing their cattle in the Kass area of the forest where a number of squatters who illegally occupied the Olpusimoru block of Mau Forest were evicted in September after the government set up police camps in readiness for a fresh round of evictions.

Before the evictions, they had set up villages in the middle of the forest block and named them Ararwet, Kass, Tenkek and Kosia. It is here that the herders have moved in to graze their cattle in recent weeks.

At least three people were admitted to Olenguruone District Hospital.

One person who had suffered serious injuries from a spear attack was transferred to Tenwek Hospital.

Other victims were rushed to Olukurto Health Centre where they received medical attention.

Friday’s clashes erupted moments after a peace meeting that was held at Olpusimoru trading centre addressed by Narok MP Moitalel ole Kenta, Narok County Commissioner Magu Mutandika, County Police Commander Abdi Galgalo and area MCA Wilson ole Masikonte.

According to Mr Masikonte, immediately after the meeting, a group of Maasai attacked their Kipsigis neighbours in Olengape Village and set more than 20 houses ablaze on Friday evening, in retaliation to their kin’s killing.