Friday, November 07, 2008


The Kenya Government said on Wednesday it had arrested 155 militiamen from Somalia and Ethiopia during a security operation in its remote northeast, and promised to investigate accusations of army torture and rape.

The government sent hundreds of soldiers into Mandera district last week to try to end clan conflict over grazing and water resources in the arid and sparsely populated region where the borders of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya meet. Human rights groups say Kenyan soldiers terrorised the local population, torturing scores of suspects, injuring several hundred people and raping local women.

Internal Security Minister George Saitoti said the government was forced to intervene when conflict between the local Garreh and Murulle communites dragged in foreign fighters, killing 23 people in the last month.

This "amounts to gross violation of the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity", Saitoti said adding that "it has been a success, we have arrested 155 foreign militias from Somalia and Ethiopia. They were involved in the clashes and that is why we had to involve our military personnel to support the local police."

Saitoti promised a probe into reports or rights abuses.

"All allegations of torture, rape and other related malpractice will be fully investigated," he said.

Kenya's vast, north-east regions are mainly inhabited by nomadic herders. Locals feel so cut off they sometimes greet visitors from Nairobi by asking: "How's Kenya?"

The region has a long history of conflict, from cross-border raids to inter-clan disputes and the "Shifta War" in the 1960s when the government crushed a pro-Somali secessionist movement although 75% of the province is now safe than most of Kenya. Saitoti said the army operation had now been scaled down.

"It is not because of the critism and accusation made against the security forces," he said.

Ethiopian detainees have been handed back to their government but Somalis are being held in Kenya, he said.

The operation also netted 130 assault rifles, 6 bombs, 620 detonators and 1,051 rounds of ammnunition, Saitoti said.

The Mandera has also been condemned by several Muslim NGO's although the operation was precipitated by the communities failing to adhere to the 2005 Mandera Peace agreement. Muslims are urged to be tolerant the way their religion teaches.