An uneasy calm is slowly returning to clash-torn Nessuit, Mariashoni and Ndoswa areas in the Eastern Mau Forest after violence rocked the area since Thursday last week.
Local leaders have called on the warring communities to end the conflict and embrace peace.
Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, Senator Susan Kihika, MPs Charity Kathambi (Njoro), Kuria Kimani (Molo), Joseph Tonui (Kuresoi South) and Woman Rep Liza Chelule have asked the communities involved in the conflict to stop the fights.
The leaders have also called on the government to intervene and ensure that peace prevails in the county.
"I am deeply saddened by the recurrent conflict in Mariashoni and Nessuit, Njoro Sub-County. I have liaised with the county security team to enhance security presence across the area to prevent further loss of lives and property. I urge the residents to maintain peace and stop bloodshed. Issues of land can be sorted out by the law. They must embrace dialogue and reconciliation. The sight of burning houses and suffering families is unbearable and primitive," said Mr Kinyanjui.
Governor Kinyanjui also asked community leaders from the areas to rise to the call for peace and ensure there is lasting harmony in the areas.
Rift Valley Council of Elders chairman Gilbert Kabage said underneath the ethnic conflicts in Njoro Is the enduring feeling of historical land injustices that date back to the colonial times. He said the issues mainly border on land allocation.
“To end ethnic antagonism between communities living on the fringes of the Mau Forest, the government must urgently address the root cause of the incessant conflicts and that is the Mau Forest land question not cattle theft. We urge the government to form a multi-agency team to address the Mau Forest land riddle and all historical land injustices to end frequent conflicts,”said Mr Kabage in an interview.
He added, “The major cause of the clashes is tribal animosity and bad blood between communities bordering the Mau Forest.”
The ethnic flare ups in Njoro, mainly between the Kipsigis and Ogiek communities, have been recurring and every time they are triggered by small incidents like cattle thefts, which mutate quickly to full-blown ethnic clashes.
By Saturday evening, at least six people had been killed and several left nursing arrow injuries in Elburgon and Nakuru Level Five hospitals following the clashes.
The government has dispatched more than 200 police officers to quell the skirmishes.
Scores of people have been left nursing injuries after members of the two rival communities fought over ownership of land on the edges of the Eastern Mau Forest.
Several houses and business premises were torched and all activities brought to a standstill.
When the Nation visited the affected areas on Saturday, residents were still coming to terms with the destruction left bythe clashes.
At various trading centres including Mariashoni, Ndoswa and Nessuit some residents could be seen in small groups talking in low tones.
TRAIL OF DESTRUCTION
The attackers left a trail of destruction that is still evident in the areas.
A spot-check by the Nation revealed a heavy presence of police in the affected areas of Nessuit, Ndoswa, Mariashoni, Kaprop and Kpanoswa.
At least 80 families that fled their homes for fear of attacks have sought refuge in local schools including Oinoptich Primary School in Mariashoni.
By Saturday evening, calm had started returning to the areas amid some tension.
In a bid to restore peace, the government has declared a dusk to dawn restriction of movement for people in the clash-hit areas of Mariashoni, Ndoswa, Nessuit, Kaprop and Kapnoswa in Njoro Sub-County and in Mau Narok at the Nakuru-Narok border which also experienced clashes earlier.
Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya revealed that detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations are pursuing 10 people, among them politicians, who are suspected to have planned the violence.
Already, three people have been arrested among them a chief from Marioshoni who was found with arrows and other weapons.
"The 10 people have gone into hiding. Once arrested, the suspects will be arraigned on Monday to answer to incitement charges," said Mr Natembeya.
The administrator also revealed that peace meetings will be held in the area starting Monday to seek for lasting peace in the region.
The Nation has established that the government is also mulling over building of more permanent police stations in the volatile areas including Kaprop and Nessuit to avert future clashes.
"We expect these posts to improve security in the affected areas and tackle any other form of crime,” a source told the Nation.
MAU FOREST LAND
Residents interviewed by the Nation link the violence to the thorny Mau Forest land issue and political incitement among other factors.
Aaron Rono, a resident of Kapnoswa which was among the worst hit by the clashes, revealed that a long standing conflict over land was to blame for the violence.
"There has been tension in Njoro and other areas around the Mau Forest especially after the government started evictions of people from the forest last month. Our neighbours who were evicted now want to push us away from parcels of land which they had sold to us and moved into the forest," said Mr Rono.
Another resident, Ms Beatrice Kiptanui, also revealed that the conflicts experienced in the areas were as a result of land disputes and bad blood between the two warring communities.
"The problem here is historical and it’s about land. One community sold their land and moved out and encroached the forest. Now after the recent evictions they want to reclaim their land," she told the Nation.
Mr Joseph Towett, the chairman of the Ogiek Council or Elders, said the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and that of Lands should be involved in a joint team to seek for a lasting solution to the Mau Forest land question.
“The government should move in and resolve the land question in Njoro without any discrimination. For how long should we kill each other because of unresolved land issues? We need an urgent solution to end bloodshed especially in Nakuru and Narok Counties,” he said.
Early this month the government kicked off evictions of illegal settlers on the fringes of the expansive Eastern Mau Forest in Nakuru.
Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has kicked off a multi-agency operation to reclaim Logoman, Sururu, Likia, Kiptunga, Mariashoni, Nessuit, Baraget and Oleposmoru forests within the Mau Forest complex.
The operation started on June 27 and it involves officers from KFS and the Kenya Police Service.
The operation seeks to stop all illegal human activities in these government forests which form the Eastern side of Mau Forest complex.
More evictions are expected in Nessuit, Tachasis Chepkosa, Sururu and Likia targeting about 20,000 households.
The Nakuru County security team is expected to visit the affected areas Sunday to assess the situation ahead of the planned peace meetings.