A trend of ethnic clashes
July 2, 2007
The approach of the General Election brings back memories of
deaths and instability in Rift Valley Province.
General Service Unit officers
patrol an abandoned village in Mt Elgon after violent gang
attacks forced villagers to leave.
It is characterised by a
vicious cycle of senseless killings, which has made it a
trouble spot like no other in the country.
The provincial administration has known no calm in the area
as violence recurs in Likia, Molo, Laikipia and Kuresoi.
And to prevent the recurrence of violence in the province as
this year’s General Election approaches, police are on high
alert and have put up cautionary measures.
The Rift Valley Provincial Police
Officer, Mr Everett Wasige, says police are closely monitoring the
"We are working round the clock to ensure that there is peace in
the province as we approach the polls. Police are on red alert for
any breach of peace," said Wasige.
He said community policing makes it easier for police to identify
He said the Provincial Security Committee, led by Rift Valley PC,
Mr Hassan Noor Hassan, was prepared for any eventuality.
Before the advent of multi-partism in 1991, no clashes had been
witnessed between local communities.
They co-existed peacefully until the bad seed of hatred was
planted among them.
In early 1990s, politicians had predicted that the return of
multipartyism would result in tribal violence.
The prediction was alarmingly fulfilled as violent clashes between
ethnic groups erupted across the country from 1991 to 1998.
However, far from being the spontaneous result of a return to
political pluralism, there was clear evidence that politicians
helped to provoke the ethnic violence for their selfish purposes.
Wasige said it was unfortunate that politicians were involved in
fanning the clashes.
But he said police were closely monitoring utterances by
politicians, especially during political rallies, to take
immediate action on inciters. A presidential commission of inquiry
established in 1998 to investigate tribal clashes pointed out that
politicians were behind the violence.
The commission was set up to find out the causes of the violence,
the actions of police and other law enforcement agencies in
addressing the incidents, and the preparedness and efficacy of law
enforcement agencies in preventing and controlling such violence.
The commission was tasked to recommend further investigation or
prosecution of perpetrators as well as ways to prevent and control
future inter-ethnic attacks.
Land conflicts still unresolved
Just before the 1992 General Election, clashes erupted in Miteitei
in Nandi Hills and Kipkelion.
It became a full-blown inter-ethnic fight in Chepakundi and
Olenguruone in Nakuru District by election time.
Hundreds of people lost their lives and thousands were displaced
as the ethnic violence spread to other parts of the district.
The areas that bore the brunt of the clashes include Ka Mwaura,
Londiani, Sitoito, Temuyota, Muchorwe, Enoosupukia, Enalbelbel and
Tipis in Narok.
In Laikipia, there were mass killings and displacement of people
in Sipili and Olmoran.
The clashes continued even after the elections in 1993 in Kondoo
Farm, Kiruka and Kaptagat areas in Burnt Forest.
It was not until the clashes spread to Burnt Forest near Eldoret
that the Government stemmed them.
But come 1997, there was a replica of violence in the same areas
as local communities turned against each other. Hundreds of people
were killed and houses torched as fresh clashes erupted in Njoro,
Ndeffo, Mau Narok, Tipis and Likia in Molo constituency.
The violence spread to Nakuru Municipality just after the 1997
The clashes were however contained in 1998 after leaders from the
two warring communities agreed to find a lasting solution.
The peace talks between the fighting communities were brokered by
former President Moi and the then Molo MP, the late Kihika Kimani.
In Molo, clashes were sparked by the Government’s decision to hive
off part of Mau forest into settlement schemes. The plan was later
Mt Elgon District and parts of the North-Rift region have been
prone to tribal clashes every election year since the advent of
multi-party elections in 1992. In Uasin-Gishu District, areas
around Burnt Forest in Eldoret South and Kwanza in Trans-Nzoia
have experienced tribal-flare-ups during each election year.
In 1991/92, hundreds of people lost their properties in the Burnt
Forest clashes. Some of them have been re-settled while others are
"The situation on the ground is not bad and those who are yet to
re-settle may have decided not to return," says Mary Chepkwony, a
peace campaigner with the Rural Women Peace Link. The organisation
is involved in peace building initiatives.
Uasin-Gishu DC, Mr Bernard Kinyua, recently warned those who had
started circulating leaflets, warning members of a certain
community to leave.
Kinyua said the Government would deal firmly with those out to
cause trouble and urged the public to help police with information
The killing of more than 15 people in Matisi and Kinyoro near
Kitale town also raised fears of the ugly scenes of tribal clashes
emerging as this year’s General Election approaches.
Hassan, who chaired a meeting at Kinyoro after some killings, two
months ago, warned politicians to desist from inciting residents
against each other. This year and late last year, Kopsiro division
of Mt Elgon has remained volatile, with the violence threatening
to spread to neighbouring districts. Although Mt Elgon clashes are
linked to the third phase of Chebyuk settlement scheme land
allocations, politics has also been linked to the problem.
Local MP, Mr John Serut, has been on record blaming his political
rivals in the district for being behind the clashes.
The Government is making efforts to contain further clashes, but
it remains uncertain as to when peace would be restored in the
The land title deeds of about 1,700 beneficiaries of the Chebyuk
scheme were nullified by the Government.
Western PC Mr Abdul Mwasserah, while announcing the nullification
of the title deeds, had indicated the move would help end the
The future of pupils in 104 primary schools and 25 secondary
schools in the district remains uncertain.
Even more worrying is how the Kenya Certificate of Primary
Education and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education candidates
would be prepared to sit for their examinations later in the year.
Clashes over the Chebyuk settlement scheme have over the last six
months left 150 people dead and about 40,000 others displaced,
with most economic activities grinding to a halt.
The Kenya National Union of Teachers Mt Elgon Branch Executive
Secretary, Mr Willy Songi Masai, says 104 primary schools and 25
secondary schools were closed due to violence.
"Last September, the problem of schools closing due to the clashes
started in Emia zone of Kopsiro division but by last January, it
spread to other parts of the district. At the end of first term,
no school was in session," says Masai. The Reverend Maritim arap
Rirei, the head of Anglican Church of Kenya Kitale Dioceses and
Development Awareness Programme in Eldoret, says the Government
should address general insecurity in the North-Rift seriously.
Rirei says some children had crossed over from Mt Elgon to Uganda,
where they are living as refugees.
"ACK and other humanitarian organisations can only offer relief
supplies at best, as there is nothing else that can be done
without the Government pacifying the fighting groups," adds Rirei.
The National Council of Churches of Kenya national chairman,
Bishop Eliud Wabukala, says the council would come up with
assistance to children and other vulnerable members of society.