Boundary row blamed for deadly Kisumu clashes

Whereas Nandi County residents blame it on theft of cattle, those in Kisumu County say the problem revolves around a long-standing row over the location of the border.

Monday January 11 2016

Security officers patrol the Kisumu-Nandi border at the clash torn Kibigori Centre on January 10, 2016. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Security officers patrol the Kisumu-Nandi border at the clash torn Kibigori Centre on January 10, 2016. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ByMOSES ODHIAMBO
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As uneasy calm returned to the Nandi-Kisumu border on Sunday even as some residents claimed there was more to the violence than just cattle rustling.
Those who spoke to the Nation on Sunday at the clashes-torn border said the problem went beyond livestock theft which triggered the attacks that left five people dead.
Whereas Nandi County residents blame it on theft of cattle, those in Kisumu County say the problem revolves around a long-standing row over the location of the border.

NOTHING TO DO WITH LAND
Mr Michael Oleche, who spoke at Kibigori junction market said the Nandi community had been pushing them out of their land owing to its fertility.
“Cattle theft is just an issue on the surface. The war is because our brothers from Nandi want us to be frustrated so that we leave our land on the northern side of the railway,” Mr Oleche alleged.
But Chemase Ward Representative in Nandi, Mr Douglas Martin, said the problem had nothing to do with land as claimed.
“The problem was caused by the manner in which youths from Kisumu, in the hunt for cows that had been stolen on Thursday night, rounded up (Nandi) cattle which were grazing in a field,” he said.

“It is this provocative act that spurred the conflict,” Mr Martin said.

The Nandi wanted the border of the two counties to be marked by the railway line — which is about three kilometres from the road that separates the two communities.

The boundary is said to be imaginary and stretches from the Tom Mboya Dispensary on the foot of the Nandi Hills.

Mr Oleche said that a permanent solution will only be found if anti-stock theft police units are deployed along the border and the issue of land tackled amicably.

“It is an issue that emerges anytime elections are around the corner. The matter of the boundary has always been handled superficially,” he said.

Kenya Red Cross officials gave blankets, tarpaulins, water containers and  cutlery to families whose homes had been torched.

The team said they had intensified surveillance on  the hotspots of Kibigori Junction, Majimbo Village, Aora Village and the Kibigori Settlement Scheme which is divided in 16 blocks.

OLPOSIMORU CLASHES IN NAROK

Last month during Christmas, about 2,000 families were displaced in Olposimoru in Narok County after a border conflict between the Kipsigis and the Maasai communities living in the area over cattle rustling.

In Kisii-Bomet County border, neighbouring communities are constantly at each other over cattle rustling.

In Kisumu, the Nandi border in Kopere, Muhoroni and Miwani borders experience flare-ups while Nyakach in the Kericho-Kisumu border has also seen a spate of fights.

Police said the cattle thieves are said to work in cahoots with youths from Kisumu and this war could be associated to ‘a fight between brokers from either side of the divide who reap big from the spate of cattle theft’.

Mr Joseph Chepkeitany, the Kisumu County Administration Police Commander, said one person has been arrested in connection with the incident.

“We have also circulated names of those suspected to have committed the murders of those who died in this conflict. We will apprehend so that they are brought to book,” Mr Chepkeitany said further cautioning politicians against remarks that might re-ignite chaos at the border.

A team of about 230 police officers from Kakamega, Vihiga, Kisii, Homa Bay and other counties that neighbour Kisumu and Nandi will remain at the border until peace prevails.

On Sunday, residents went about their business amidst the heavy presence of police officers who have since intensified patrols.

Violent attacks have subsided,  but residents said they still lived in fear since the leaders from either side are yet to convene a reconciliation meeting.

Some shops in Kibigori and Chemelil towns remained closed following the recent  violence.  It remains unclear whether schools will open on Monday.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) is expected to hold talks with the residents on Wednesday this week.

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