Violence flares in northern Kenya

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Kenya Chief Eipa Choro (74) remembers when battles were fought with knives and spears. Now newcomers with far more firepower are taking lives in his region at the remote northern edge of the Rift Valley.

Instability in neighbouring Ethiopia and South Sudan is spilling into the disputed territory known as the Ilemi Triangle, residents said. A growing population, changing weather patterns and displacement caused by conflict crowd more people and livestock into the arid scrublands.

That intensifying conflict may be repeated in unstable regions across the world, said Murithi Mutiga, deputy project director at the International Crisis Group, a think-tank based in Brussels.

“This is going to become an increasingly difficult problem, not just in the Horn of Africa, but in other places where changing weather patterns and a slowness to adapt to more modern forms of cultural thinking — places like Chad, Nigeria, and Sudan,” Mutiga said.

Traditional fighting and livestock raids used to claim perhaps one life in Choro’s area every six months, the chief said. He estimates almost 20 people were killed in the last two months.

“These attacks are becoming too much,” he told Reuters. “There’s no proper communication, no radio, the network signal is weak. If we are attacked we can’t send out a message for rescue.”

His village, Maisa, is about 7km from the border with Ethiopia, where ethnic violence displaced around three million people and 50 km from South Sudan, whose five-year civil war ended with a fragile September peace deal.

Two armed police reservists live in Choro’s community and the nearest police station is more than 20 km away — more than an hour by car across rutted, trackless land.

Edward Mwamburi, police commander for the Rift Valley region, was not aware of the violence.

“I have not heard of any deaths of people,” he said.

Choro said there had been an influx of people from the Dassenach ethnic group in Ethiopia’s Omo riverlands.

Armed men from the Nyangatom ethnic group in South Sudan, who speak a similar language to the Turkana, Choro’s own ethnic group, occupied an area called Soya near his village since November 2018, he said.

Clashes between the groups are not new, but he said the level of fatalities is unprecedented.

“They’ve been attacking for a long time,” Choro said. “Now they have better weapons, more ammunition and more organised than traditional warriors.”

Last month a group of more than 200 attackers from Nyangatom killed four Turkana men, he said. Three Nyangatom were also killed.

Akiru Losuru (33) confirmed to Reuters Nyangatom killed four men from her area on March 17.