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Kenya

Drought worsens insecurity in Kenya's Rift Valley

The ongoing drought in Kenya's Rift valley has intensfied the struggle for resources among pastoralists. The Red Cross suspended food aid in the area after being attacked by armed men.

Fighting over resources is nothing new among Kenyan pastoralists. Two ethnic communities, the Pokot and the Tugen, have often clashed over water and pasture. 

But the motive for the recent killing of two politicians Fredrick Cheretei and Simon Pepee, both from the Pokot ethnic group in Baringo County in Kenya's Rift Valley, may be more complex. A purportedly ethnic clash may have been instigated for political reasons.

Baringo is the home of former Kenyan president Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi and no stranger to fierce political loyalties and tensions.  

The killings have evidently unnerved local officials. William Kamket, Baringo County spokesman told the culprits, who have not yet been caught or identified, "we are giving you only two days. If the killers are not named, no one will be safe."

The deteriorating security situation in Baringo county has also prompted Deputy President William Ruto to issue a shoot-to-kill order to police.  

Shoot-to-kill order

Local media say the order was to be used against bandits who recently killed at least ten people and forced thousands to flee their homes.

The media outlet East African (Nairobi) reported that Ruto had ordered "police officers to shoot anyone stealing livestock, whether in possession of a firearm or not, and also anyone found with an illegal firearm will be shot on sight."

Peter Ndungu, Baringo County Commissioner, told local residents that they would be safe. "We would like to assure residents that their security is guaranteed and assure them that the government has the capacity to protect them wherever they are," he said. 

Kenia William Ruto (picture alliance / Kyodo)

Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto has issued a "shoot-to-kill" order

  

The insecurity is making the deprivation caused by the prolonged drought even worse. Aid workers are pulling out of the region. The Kenyan Red Cross suspended all operations after local people allegedly harassed its staff and looted relief food.

The drought, which has ravaged the areas since December, has killed thousands of head of cattle and left people with little or no food at all. The population has become dependent on the Red Cross and other relief agencies for their food.

Farmers have been selling their livestock at rock-bottom prices. But even that can be a gamble as livestock trader Shamo Tanda told DW. "Over 40 cattle died along the way while we were looking for water. Sometimes when we are transporting them to Nairobi many of them die on the way."

Baringo County is just over 200 kilometers (135 miles) from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.    

The Kenyan government has declared the current drought a national disaster.  Under a relief program, $2 million (1.8 million euros) will be disbursed to 12,000 pastoral households hit by the drought. Each household will receive about $170.     

Alfred Kiti in Nairobi contributed to this report 

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