Monday, November 03, 2008


As former Mandera MP Billow Kerrow is being charged with inciting violence and disobeying the law, his lawyers are busy filing a court case against the Provincial administration, The Defence Minister, Yussuf Haji along with other government Civil servants. In a rare acsation, some Mandera politicians are saying this operation has been ordered by Defence Minister Yussuf Haji although it was a collective government decision that decided in it's totality to end the clashes.

Mr Kerrow, who was arrested on Friday and set free on Saturday night said on Sunday that police told him they would prefer the incitement charges against him. Uttering the same words that led to his arrest, he called on the Government to immediately stop the military operation in Mandera District.

“Men are being rounded up and taken to camps where they are beaten and maimed. And women are being raped. They say they have been raped by people wearing the crown,” Mr Kerrow said. These are the same words he uttered at a press conference on Friday, prompting officers from the Criminal Investigations Department to arrest him.

He said police had initially told him they would charge him with causing a disturbance likely to cause a breach of the peace before they amended the charge. Mr. Kerrow just spoke about the operation and how resident had suffered.

Mr Kerrow said nothing will stop him from speaking against the military operation in Mandera, which is aimed at disarming locals following violent clashes between two rival clans. The former MP urged the Government to form a commission of inquiry to find out the causes of the fighting.

However, in a different mode, a member of the arbitration committee between the Garre and Murulle clans, said failure to implement an agreement signed by the two feuding clans is to blame for the hostilities.

Sheikh Ahmed Takoy said Mandera will know no peace until the 2005 recommendations on clan-fighting are implemented.

“A lot of atrocities have been committed in Mandera in the last three months and it is unfortunate the Government has decided to turn a blind eye on the plight of the people,” Sheikh Takoy said.
He said the ongoing military operation is raising concern about the Government’s intentions, and questioned the professionalism of the soldiers who he accused of torturing residents.

In 2005, the two clans battled for four months in a conflict that saw a number of people killed. After a series of local peace initiatives headed by religious leaders, the two clans agreed to stop fighting and signed the Mandera Peace Accord on April 22 that year.

"The Government failed to enforce the accord" Ahmed Sheikh Takoy said as transport services between Mandera and the rest of the country had been cut. The only bus that goes to the area was taken off the road.

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Most Mandera residents are fed up with the clashes that happen everyday.

Ms Maimuna Aliow, 38, a mother of three, says

"We are fed up with this war. I thought we had settled our differences three years ago," Maimuna says, cuddling her frail two-year-old son.

The clashes keep recurring and in the new one to hit this tail end part of Kenya, more than 20 people have died and another 500,000 people have deserted their villages for fear of attacks by rival clans.

After a lull in bloodshed during the first half of the year, the killings between Murulle and Garre clans resumed with vengeance. With no end in sight for the conflict that began in 1984, the residents of northern Kenya are getting impatient. They fear that the negative publicity Mandera is receiving is earning the province a bad name.It is not difficult to discern why. The bitter internecine war between the two clans of the larger Somali community is the only unresolved inter-clan conflict in a province with a trail of bloody legacy. Other clans appear to have resolved their differences, but the Murulle and Gare clans have taken their differences to the wire.

Intense rivalry

Political differences and scramble for dwindling resources have fuelled intense rivalry between the two clans. But while the latest war has been portrayed as a struggle for pasture and water, a section of politicians have been cited for stoking the embers of animosity to settle political scores.
Patients receive treatment at the local hospital that was overwhelmed by many victims of the clashes.

Then Mandera DC Kimani Waweru accused the politicians of fuelling the conflict for political survival.

"When their popularity ratings go down, they instigate clashes and their popularity shoots up," Waweru said.

Signs of the latest apocalypse emerged after two people were killed in July and three injured following a dispute over a district boundary in Lafey, Wargadud, and El Wak triangle.On September 7, two more people were killed in Alungu village under unclear circumstances. Police identified the deceased as members of the Garre clan.

The next day, armed men raided Gari location in Warankara location inhabited by Murulle. The attack left four dead, among them two senior administration police officers, police say. Barely a week later, a dawn raid on the same Gari village left 12 people dead. The same evening two students from Arabia Secondary School hailing from one of the clans were kidnapped in broad daylight and their fate is yet to be established.

Killing spree
Although a cease-fire was called to give the residents peace during the month of Ramadhan in September, the killing spree still went on.Mandera remains volatile as bandits intercept vehicles, pulling out rival clan members and killing them. Scores of vehicles belonging to rival clans have also been hijacked.

Despite the presence of a contingent of security personnel, including the Army, attacks continue unabated.

Military assault
Aid workers say they too are usually caught up in the flare-ups. Mr Ibrahim Sheikh Hussein, a Red Cross El-Wak branch co-ordinator, says security personnel allegedly beat him up during an operation to restore order.

According to Khalif, 37 victims of military assault are hospitalised in El-Wak, Wargadud and Mandera district hospitals. But North Eastern PPO Stephen Chelimo, who is overseeing the operation, says the injuries claimed by the victims were self-inflicted.

The Government has made no secret of its desire to dismantle gangs involved in the clashes.
Chelimo says the operation will continue until law and order is restored. "So far we have recovered 48 firearms, 1,224 bullets, six grenades, three communications sets, a rocket propeller and drugs," he says. Police say they have evidence the clans are seeking support from militants in Ethiopia and Somalia.

However, local leaders are opposed to the Mt Elgon style of operation to flush out the armed gangs and recover illegal firearms. In a joint statement, Mandera Central MP Abdikadir Hussein, Mohammed Mahmud (Mandera West) and Mohammed Qaras (Mandera East) say their worries are based on the questionable human rights record such operations have left behind.

Abdikadir says a religious leaders arbitration should be given priority over the military operation.

A similar security operation to flush out bandits and illegal firearms during the Ajuran-Degodia clan conflict in 1984 in Wajir left a sour taste in the residents’ mouths.Although the operation ended decades of bloodletting between the two, it left thousands of people reportedly killed by the security agents in what was later to be known as the Wagalla massacre.

However, some leaders back the Government option. Ali Sheikh Omar says the operation was timely to end the clashes once and for all. "We have been lagging behind because of meaningless rows, the Government is in order to intervene," he says. Hassan Ali Hussein, a resident, says human rights activists should not only criticise the Government, but should also consider innocent victims who have lost their lives as a result of the unending clashes.

"No activist came out when the armed men were on a killing spree, but when the Government goes after the perpetrators they shout the loudest. Who will be the voice of those shot dead by the militia?" he posed in El-Wak, the epicentre of the clashes.

This conflict has sucked in a section of Government workers, especially teachers and businessmen, who allegedly offer financial and moral backing.

In the meantime, a dusk to dawn curfew imposed is not about to be rescinded soon until calm is restored.

"Anything to be done must be accomplished during daytime," the PPO says.

Living conditions for the displaced has deteriorated. Shelters are pieced together with sticks and plastic bags.

"Everyone is on the edge not knowing when the attackers will strike," Ms Ambia Bullow says, peeping from her makeshift shelter in Wargadud.