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Tension mounts at Kenya-Sudan border

Saturday October 17 2009

By NATION Team

Tension is mounting along the Kenya-Sudan border between Kenyan security forces and armed Toposa pastoralists from southern Sudan, but a Kenyan official on Saturday denied reports that 16 Kenyan troops had been shot dead.

Kenya's Internal Security minister George Saitoti denied reports that 16 army officers were killed by Toposa raiders at Nadapal Barracks on the Kenyan border with Sudan. “None of our people has been killed. No one has been killed at all, at all, at all,” he told the Nation on Saturday evening.

Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner Osman Warfa also said reports from the area indicated no such incident had occurred and added that the government had no reason to conceal any deaths.

“I have just talked to the area District Commissioner less than five minutes before you called, and he as assured me that there was no incident,” Mr Warfa told the Nation.

“I can confirm that no one has been killed by Toposa raiders,” he said. “Our borders with both Sudan and Ethiopia are well protected. We have enough forces there, and in case of an incident I am always open to the media,” he said.

Several shooting incidents have been reported between the Kenyans and the Toposa in the past two weeks after the deployment of the General Service Unit, administration police and soldiers near Nadapal in Turkana West.

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A series of meetings between leaders from both sides has not borne fruit as the Toposa, who have been living and grazing their animals on the Kenyan side of the border for some time, are opposed the establishment of a Kenyan border position in the area.

The only border post has been manned by Sudan Peoples Liberation Army(SPLA) who early this year blocked a Kenyan government delegation from visiting some parts of the area.

Ministerial meeting

An inter-government ministerial meeting later established that SPLA forces had strayed into Kenya, and it was resolved that they move back. However, since the deployment of Kenyan security forces and the subsequent departure of the Toposa from the area that is served by the region’s largest bore hole, Toposa herdsmen have been shooting at Kenyan security forces.

Unconfirmed reports indicated that on October 15 Kenyan security forces ‘responded to the aggression’ and repulsed the Toposa. Unlike other areas of the largely dry district, the stretch from Lokichoggio town to Nadapal on the border has plains full of grass and has been a battleground between Toposa and Kenyan Turkana herders. But due to the presence of army officers from southern Sudan, the Turkana have left the border to the Toposa.

There was confusion on Saturday as Reuters news agency, quoting a South Sudan military spokesman, reported that 16 Kenyan security officers had been killed by Toposa herdsmen during an attack in Nadapal.

“ We have not had any reports of the killing of our officers or an attack. We have touched base with out commanders, and there is no such incident. Our soldiers in the area are safe. Those are unfounded rumours that our officers on the ground have discounted,” DoD spokesman Bogita Ongeri told the Nation. Area chief Barnabas Lochilia also said he did not know of any killings.

Reported by Dominic Wabala, Casper Waithaka and Wanjiru Macharia