Wednesday, November 12, 2008


The military was deployed in Mandera to end fighting after the two major clans in the area failed to observe a peace accord, Parliament heard. Internal Security assistant minister Orwa Ojodeh said the Government had to intervene given the involvement of foreign militias and death of 21 people. This was because there is a simmering row between Garres and Murulles over the Mandera East border points, he says

Even as the parliament heard that 175 foreign militiamen had been arrested and arraigned in local courts, with some having been sentenced to six months in jail each and several weapons and ammunition, as well as communication equipment recovered in the process, questions still linger as to who brought or invited the security agencies to Mandera. Some say, it was because, the 2005 peace plan between Garre and Murule was not adhered to.

The operation had also led to the arrest of six chiefs who were believed to have organised entry of the militiamen from neighbouring Somalia and Ethiopia and supported their activities, he said.

“They were instrumental in providing food and shelter to the militia,” he said.

The Government also deployed a team of surveyors to determine the exact boundary of the two districts. Mr Ojodeh, who issued a ministerial statement sought by ODM-Kenya nominated MP Mohammed Affey, described the Government operation as a success.

But Mr Affey differed, saying the operation was a total failure as the Government had not managed to contain the situation. He questioned why security forces did not stop the entry of militia into the country.

He claimed Kenyan forces had brutally assaulted locals and raped women. Two chiefs, he said, were physically assaulted and are admitted at Kenyatta National Hospital while a 16-year-old is admitted at Nairobi Hospital. He asked the Government to apologise to the locals for the atrocities committed by the security forces.

“It must apologise for the excesses of the security forces and find it necessary to set up an inquiry to look into the same,” he said.

Mr Abdi Nuh (Bura, ODM-Kenya) said the Government took over four months to send a team of surveyors, noting that an earlier response would have averted the conflict. But Mr Ojodeh put up a strong defence for the Government, saying it was in full control. Instead, he accused Mr Affey of snubbing meetings convened by the Government for local leaders to address the conflict.

“There would have been more atrocities had we not moved fast to contain the situation,” he said.
“Mr Affey never attended meetings attended by other Northern Kenya MPs on this issue,” he added.

The assistant minister said the Government was forced to mount security operation in the affected areas from October 25 with the aim of restoring law and order. Despite the measures, militia believed to be from the Islamic Court Union on Monday attacked Elwak Catholic Mission in the area and abducted two nuns and made away with three vehicles.

Calm is slowly returning to Mandera town after the government scaled down the military operation to mop up illegal weapons. The operation has been criticised by a cross section of residents, religious leaders, human rights and civil society groups. Hundreds of villagers who had fled into Ethiopia and Somalia are returning home. Police said they had arrested 155 foreign militias, and recovered 130 rifles, six bombs, 620 detonators and 1050 bullets from suspects.

In another similar story, Warring communities in Tana River Delta District have been ordered to surrender illegal arms in two weeks or the Government will use force to recover them.

Coast PC Ernest Munyi, who was leading a peace team to the area, told residents to comply with the Government order or “I will send the doctor to you to deal with the problem”. Mr Munyi toured the district on Monday following rising tension between pastoralists and farmers.
He ordered district commissioners, DOs and chiefs to vet all foreigners suspected of importing guns into the area.

Addressing a baraza at Wema trading centre, Mr Munyi regretted that while residents of neighbouring Tana River District had surrendered their guns following an appeal by the Government, no single gun had been handed in from the Tana Delta District.

“I am telling you to hand in your illegal guns to me now. All those holding guns are doing so against the law,” he warned. Area District Commissioner Charles Monari told the meeting that no one had handed in any gun since the order was given two weeks ago. The grace period would expire in two weeks, he said.

“From today, I don’t want to hear a single gunshot from this place. If I hear that a single shot has been fired, I will send the doctor here and you know who the doctor is,” the PC said without elaborating.

In recent months, the Government has used the military to disarm warring communities, with the latest exercise being in Mandera.

Mr Munyi told the Somali pastoralists and Pokomo farmers to live in harmony. Pastoralists should stop taking their animals into farms, he said, and insisted that the communities should cultivate mutual respect.