Clashes Devastate Kenya
By Cassidy Regan on 08/22/2012 @ 04:00 PM
UPDATE: Since this post was written in late August, more than 100 people have died in clashes in Tana River. A Kenyan politician has been charged with violent incitement, and a recent article raised concerns that security forces sent to disarm those involved actually attacked civilians (though a subsequent statement from a Kenyan official disputed this claim). The continued instability highlights the need for immediate investment in mediation, violence prevention, and long-term conflict transformation.
Last night, at least 48 people were killed in an attack on Reketa village in southeastern Kenya. The violence is believed to have been undertaken in revenge, following ethnic clashes between two tribes that have escalated during the past few weeks. The 48 identified included 6 men, 11 children, and 31 women.
The area has a history of conflict over land and resources, and many in Kenya have noted the imminent elections as a source of rising tension. One nearby resident was quoted in the IRIN article linked above:
If you go by history, you will find that such incidents usually occur whenever we approach an election," he said. "The reason behind it being to displace people in order to achieve a certain voting pattern that will favour particular politicians... The end result is always death and destruction."
While Kenyan politicians have not been formally implicated in fueling this tragedy as of yet, local leaders have said that warnings of rising tension weren’t heeded by security forces and that representatives have historically exacerbated divisions. A number of Kenyans have also criticized their government’s lacking commitment to rural and marginalized communities, saying that the roots of the conflict require long-term solutions.
Reketa is not the first village to experience deadly clashes in recent months, though the brutality and extent of the killing has shocked many. Thousands have been displaced in places including Isiolo, and those along Kenya’s border continue to suffer from attacks – which, in some instances, may have involved soldiers trained to fight in Somalia by Kenyan forces. The Kenyan government announced this week that it will undertake a disarmament campaign in communities nationwide to prevent further violence, but, given the vast human rights abuses committed during such campaigns in the past, this response may not serve to increase security.
As March of 2013 approaches, the likelihood of violent clashes in Kenya will only increase. During our last conference call, the Friends Church Peace Team (FCPT) reported that it has already begun training its election monitors and working to determine how Kenyan peacebuilders can translate their experience into effective mediation and violence response. Though no initiative can offer a panacea for the many injustices and conflicts impacting Kenyan communities – and nothing can bring back the lives of those lost in Reketa and elsewhere – grassroots groups like FCPT still prove that people hold the power build peace, even in the aftermath of devastating violence.