Thousands displaced by violence in northern Kenya

Publié: 13 février 2012 11:00 CET

By Alexander Matheou

The houses are empty in Moyale on the northern Kenyan border.  The shops are shut, schools are closed, and the streets are like those of a ghost towns. Over 40,000 have fled, squeezing into the huts of neighbouring villagers, or sleeping out in the open across the border in southern Ethiopia. 

They have fled from a series of raids between two tribes that have resulted in burnt out schools and homes, and destroyed livelihoods and water points.

The Kenya Red Cross, the only agency with access to the displaced communities, is providing non-food items and medical support to 30,000 affected people.

Violent clashes between the Borana and the Gabra tribes are not new, but they have reached new levels of intensity in 2012. In the past, rivalry tended to be sparked by disputes around access to water points and grazing, but now tensions are heightened as both tribes seek greater influence in the new regional bodies emerging as part of the country’s new constitution which aims to decentralise control of budgets and resources.

One Borana community leader said he would return to his village when it was safe to do so. “It won’t be safe while people come in the night and burn our homes,” he said. “Some of us have found people to stay with. Most of us are sleeping out in the open. We eat whatever people are willing to share.”
Gabra representatives made similar comments.

In the local hospital, most of the wounded are teenagers: with bullet wounds in their arms and legs. Only one of the tribes feels safe to use the hospital. The other remains untreated or crosses over the border to Ethiopia for care. ICRC is providing surgical, medical supplies and water assistance to the hospital.    

As the security has deteriorated, the few NGOs present have had to close their operations. However, the Kenya Red Cross Society continues to have access to the affected communities. The organization is also being invited to mediate in peace negotiations with the two parties. Only a concerted effort at conflict resolution from neutral organizations can help resolve this crisis.

An IFRC’s Disaster Response Emergency Fund of 320,779 Swiss Francs has been released to support ongoing humanitarian action by the Kenya Red Cross to respond to this crisis. This fund is a source of un-earmarked money created by the Federation in 1985 to ensure that immediate financial support is available for Red Cross and Red Crescent emergency response. Donations to replenish the fund are always welcomed.