AFP – Kenyan gunmen killed at least 12 people in a revenge attack following a massacre last month in which 52 people were killed in the remote southeastern Tana region, Red Cross officials said Friday.
“Eight men, two women and a child died in the attacks,” Kenya Red Cross spokesperson Nelly Muluka said, adding that one person later died “from gunshot injuries on his way to hospital”.
“There is a lot of tension in the area following the attack by the gunmen,” she added. “These are revenge attacks.”
Following the killings last month — in which at least 52 mainly women and children were hacked or burnt to death in the worst ethnic massacre for several years — police brokered meetings between the two rival communities.
However, tensions have remained high, and one person was killed in the area last week.
Despite police promising to boost security in the area, local leaders say security forces are failing to prevent the violence.
“They always have information about impending attacks and do nothing,” said local member of parliament Danson Mungatana. “If the killings had occurred in Nairobi, then the response from the government would have been different.”
The two communities — the Pokomo and the Orma — have clashed before over the use of land and water resources.
The Pokomo are a largely settled farming people, planting crops along the Tana River, while the Orma are mainly cattle-herding pastoralists.
The attack happened in the Reketa area of Tarassa in Kenya’s southeast, close to the coast and some 300 kilometres (185 miles) from the capital Nairobi.
Regional police chief Aggrey Adoli said teams had been sent to the area.
“We are headed there … it is an unfortunate incident,” he said.
Last month’s attack led to the questioning of local lawmaker Dhado Godhana, after Kenya’s internal security minister accused him of fanning violence in the region, claims he has denied.
The violence follows warnings last month by Abbas Gullet, Kenya Red Cross Secretary General, that over 200 Kenyans have been killed in ethnic clashes since January in a pattern of violence seen ahead of previous elections.
Many of the attacks — often small-scale tit-for-tat raids between rival ethnic groups in remote and impoverished rural regions — generate little attention.
They are often blamed on tensions between communities sparked by land, grazing or water resources, not politics.
Kenya is gearing up for a March general election, the first since late 2007, when the country spiralled into violence that killed some 1,200 people and displaced 600,000 others after contested elections that pitted candidates from different ethnic groups against each other.
Two presidential hopefuls, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former minister William Ruto, face trial in April in the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity over the post-election killings, charges they deny.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a visit to Kenya last month, warned leaders of the need for fair elections to avoid a repeat of the last polls.
The violence on Friday is separate from deadly riots last week in Kenya’s port city of Mombasa, which was sparked by the assassination of a radical Muslim cleric.