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MRG condemns spate of attacks on Kenyans and calls on the government to exercise restraint to avoid escalation of violence

20 November 2012

As the country waits for answers as to what and who is behind the  ambush that claimed the lives of over 50 policemen in the hills and ridges of Baragoi, deep in Samburu county, north western Kenya, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) urges the government of Kenya to exercise restraint.

The unfortunate incident in Baragoi on 10 September 2012 has been billed the worst attack on police in Kenyan history. This, along with a spate of other attacks in different parts of Kenya including the most recent weekend incident when a suspected bomb ravaged* a mini-bus killing at least seven and injuring 33, clearly show that Kenya is facing very real security problems.

Under such circumstances, it is understandable if Kenyans are feeling insecure and are growing impatient with the government’s perceived slow motion response to these attacks. The temptation is high for security forces to use whatever force is available to avenge the deaths of servicemen.

Even before the arrival of the security forces late last week in north western Kenya to find the perpetrators behind the Baragoi killings, there were media reports* that pastoralists from the local Turkana and Samburu communities had started leaving for fear of the government’s use of excessive force.

To be fair, the attacks have partly to do with Kenya’s role in the geo-politics of the East Africa and Great Lakes regions, but at the same time they are also related to the thorny issue of historical and institutionalized marginalization that has divided Kenya along dangerous ethnic fault lines, causing tension and, sometimes, an escalation of violence.

MRG, therefore, encourages the government of Kenya, building on the enabling environment created by its progressive constitution, to address social inequalities through appropriate legal and institutional reforms in order to reduce marginalization and ease tensions.

‘The continent is awash with resource-based conflicts in form of clashes over water, grazing and farm land,’ says Chris Chapman, MRG’s Head of Conflict Prevention.

‘This is undermining the stability of many countries unless their governments act swiftly but sensibly to dialogue with warring groups, and promote inclusive participation and equitable access to land and natural resource for all communities, Kenya is no exception.’ he adds.

According to Jane Meriwas, who works with a local Samburu women’s organisation, whereas the incident is highly regrettable, it points to the government’s neglect and dismissive attitude that often leaves pastoralist areas without adequate security.

‘Government officers often watch on as pastoralists attack each other in retaliatory cattle raids, and their view seems to be that, as long as pastoralists are killing each other, there is no problem, Meriwas says.

To illustrate this Meriwas says, Samburu and Turkana communities have been involved in retaliatory attacks since early October, and the response from local authorities has been lackluster.

Meriwas cautions that instead of the rushed and often selective disarmament response to the recent killings, the government needs a long term plan including protecting Kenya’s porous borders – the source of the illegal guns – and cracking down on the thriving and lucrative black market both within Kenya and more generally in the East African region.

‘Security forces should desist from using excessive force, being unfriendly in the course of mopping up the area of illegal guns,” Meriwas says, adding, ‘Guns should not be removed from one group and not the other. Whatever solution the government comes up with, it should be friendly to all warring communities.’

Notes to the Editor

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact:

Mohamed Matovu
MRG Africa Regional Information Officer, Kampala, Uganda
T: +256 782 748 189, E: [email protected]

*As of October 2020, the news article linked to this information seems to have been permanently removed.