A flare-up in inter-ethnic fighting between communities in the northern Kenyan region of Isiolo over pasture and water has left at least 14 people dead and affected learning as schools closed amid rising insecurity, say officials.
Borana and Turkana pastoralists clashed several times between 13 and 18 October, according to UN reports.
On 14 October, for example, seven people were shot dead in Tractor village, Ngaremara Division, Isiolo. According to local media reports, they included two 12-year-old children, who were dragged out of their huts and shot as their parents watched.
According to Dominic Opee, the Isiolo District Education Officer, the insecurity in Ngaremara has led to the closure of at least six schools. “We are concerned that innocent children are losing a very important opportunity to access education,” said Opee.
An estimated 3,000 children in the Ngaremara and Central divisions are affected – even as pupils countrywide prepare for the main primary school leaving exams in November.
“We regret these unfortunate incidents. [Some] parents and two pupils have been killed,” said Dade Boru, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) Isiolo Branch Executive Secretary, adding that some of the teachers had received death threats too.
“Teachers must not be considered as enemies even if they belong to a community which is perceived as a rival group; this perception adversely affects equitable distribution of teachers, performance and heightens animosity amongst the warring communities and wrecks the minds of our children,” said Boru.
KNUT has advised affected teachers to remain at home and requested transfers for those who have been threatened.
The teachers in Isiolo are predominantly from the Borana, Somali and Meru communities.
Ekwam Terru, a local Turkana leader, said: “[The] Turkana have suffered a series of raids. We have been killed, thousands of our livestock stolen, we no longer have enough land for grazing our few animals.
“This is not normal banditry or cattle rustling, it’s a scheme to uproot us from our grazing land,” said Terru.
Josephine Ekiru, also a Turkana, said women were not able to access Isiolo Town for medical care and to buy food. “Some families have slept hungry some days. They have been unable to get into town to buy food; most of them sell charcoal to buy food [but] it’s risky and some have been attacked,” she said.
An Isiolo leader, Joseph Samal, said families were abandoning the good grazing areas in Gottu, Attan and Daaba to congregate in areas around Ngaremara, which lacks adequate pasture.
The insecurity has also affected the trade in livestock and related products from areas farther north, such as Marsabit and Moyale, to Nairobi after a truck driver was killed in a revenge attack.
A camel milk vendor, Marian Maalim, told IRIN that the movement of camel herds away from Isiolo Town, due to a fear of raids, had affected business. Maalim sells the milk to customers in Nairobi’s Eastleigh Estate.
In response, the government has deployed hundreds of security officers to the area and was pursuing the attackers, said the Upper Eastern Regional commissioner Isaiah Nakoru.
“We have police officers in all the affected villages and grazing areas; no attack has occurred since Monday [17 October],” he said.
“Tension remains high in Isiolo due to a general fear of retaliatory attacks,” says the UN, adding that the activities of some UN agencies operating in the region had been affected due to restrictions on movement.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions