alexa Kenyans feared dead in clash with soldiers - Daily Nation

Kenyans feared dead in clash with soldiers

Sunday August 17 2008

By LUCAS BARASA

Kenyan pastoralists are feared dead following a confrontation Sunday with Ugandan soldiers at the border.

Labour Minister John Munyes said reports indicated that the Ugandan army had ambushed thousands of Turkana herders who had crossed into the neighbouring country in search of water and pasture for their livestock, and killed a number of them.

“The Ugandan army bombed the herders in a bid to flush them out. The bombing and shooting has been going on for the last 24 hours,” an angry Mr Munyes told the Nation by phone last evening.

Mr Munyes, who is also the Turkana North MP, however, said it was not clear how many people had been killed or injured because the Ugandan army had blocked people from reaching the area, 10 kilometres inside Uganda from the border.

“Those who have attempted to cross the border to go and help have been denied access, making it difficult to know the exact number of deaths and those injured. However, I will fly to Kakuma tomorrow (today) then drive for five hours to the area to get first hand information,” said Mr Munyes.

He said 5,000 Turkana herdsmen crossed to Uganda two months ago due to drought in Kenya, but were asked to leave by the army.

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A meeting between Kenyan and Ugandan authorities scheduled for July 30 to resolve the issue never took place.


Kenya’s ambassador to Uganda was asked to arrange for another meeting, said Mr Munyes, adding that the ambassador was to accompany four other ministers to Kampala next week for further negotiations, for the herders to be allowed to stay in Uganda until the situation in Turkana improved.

The four are Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, Defence’s Yusuf Haji, Minister for Nothern Kenya and Arid Areas, Mr Mohamed Elmi and Foreign Affair’s Moses Wetang’ula.

Mr Munyes said the attack was reminiscent of a 2005 one in which 60 Turkana herders were killed by the Ugandan army.

“This is the second time our people have been attacked and killed. We thought we would negotiate under the spirit of East Africa Community,” he said.

He added that some of the herders who had gone to Uganda were returning because the rains had started.

Mr Munyes said even the UN had condemned the 2005 attack, saying it was wrong for Uganda to use excessive force to evict the herders.

The Karamojong community of Uganda, which occupies Koten area where the attack occurred, has for long been involved in conflict with the Turkana community over livestock.

On Sunday, Mr Munyes accused Kenyan authorities of watching as Turkanas were killed both in Kenya and Uganda.

He said the Government had not shown any concern over the killing of 40 members of his community by suspected Pokot cattle rustlers two weeks ago.

“Our people need to be helped. The Government should intervene,” said Mr Munyes.