At least 10 people were killed in Kenya’s volatile Tana River delta. The clashes between the Pokomo and Orma ethnic groups occurred despite the presence of a paramilitary force.
A senior Kenyan police officer told DW that several people had been killed, others wounded and houses burnt in the latest outbreak of violence in Tana River delta in southeastern Kenya. In an exclusive interview, the Coast Provincial Police Officer (PPO) Aggrey Adoli said he believed the attack was politically motivated.
“This is only election politics that is playing out, we know that there are a few people who are trying to incite people against each other just because of political expediency,” Adoli said.
Those killed include members of both the Orma and Pokomo ethnic groups.
Kenya's Red Cross confirmed the attacks, adding that it had sent teams to Nduru village, an isolated settlement in the Tana River region. .
'Hit and run'
Mohammed Bashir, one of the survivors in Nduru, told DW correspondent Eric Ponda how lucky he felt to be alive.
“They just stormed the village. It was a hit and run kind of an attack, killing people indiscriminately,” Bashir said.
Ibrahim Shamako, a retired chief from one locality in the Tana River delta, told DW he was sure the attackers were obeying orders from above.
“Don't beat about the bush, this is political, these people are under a direct command,” Shamako said. He described events in Tana River delta as ethnic cleansing.
Police stand by
The fresh clashes occurred despite a strong paramilitary presence. Nduru village is situated about one kilometer (0.62 miles) from a police post.
In September 2012, President Mwai Kibaki sent 1,000 police officers to halt the deadly cycle of violence between the two rival communities.
Violence in the region broke out in August last year, pitting the Pokomo (who are traditionally farmers) against their Orma pastoralist neighbors. That attack led to a series of vicious reprisal killings.
It is the scale and intensity of recent killings which has shocked many. In some cases women and children have been hacked to death or torched in their huts.
Some locals have accused politicians of fuelling the recent spate of attacks, and rights groups have criticized local leaders for stirring up tensions between the communities.
The Pokomos and Ormas have a history of fighting each other over water and grazing rights.
According to Kenya's Red Cross, more than 40 people were killed in Kipao village in the Tana delta region in a single attack in December, 2012.
The recurring inter-tribal violence and a secessionist movement in Kenya's coastal region have raised concerns over security in volatile areas ahead of elections due on March 4.
The east African country is still reeling from the deadly 2007-2008 post-election violence which claimed more than 1,000 lives and shattered Kenya's image as a beacon of regional stability.