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Land dispute leads to killing of 52 in Kenya

By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times –

JOHANNESBURG — Men armed with machetes, bows and arrows, spears and guns attacked a rival village in southeast Kenya in a dispute over land on Wednesday, killing 52 people — most of them women and children, police said.

Those found dead at the scene included 31 women, 11 children and six men, many of whom were hacked to death, or barricaded in their huts and burned to death. Another four people died in a hospital, Kenya’s Standard newspaper said.

Tensions over land between pastoralists and farmers in isolated rural communities go back centuries in Africa. and persist in Kenya. In many other countries, particularly in the Sahel and Horn of Africa, it often is exacerbated by neglect by central governments.

Long-running tensions over land use were an undercurrent in the Darfur conflict in western Sudan. In central Nigeria, clashes between nomadic herders and farmers sometimes leaving dozens dead.

Ready access to guns across the region has worsened the effect of tribal clashes.

Police said Wednesday’s clashes between the Pokomo and Orma people in the Tana Delta region grew out of long-standing disputes over grazing land and water.

News agencies quoted police and survivors as saying the attackers were from the majority Pokomo group, who attacked rival Ormas with a variety of various weapons. Sixty cattle also were reportedly slashed to death and thrown in the river.

The Pokomos cultivate land on the Tana River flood plain. Ormas are pastoralists who rely on cattle herding to survive.

Police characterized it as a revenge for an attack by Ormas on a Pokomo village last week in which three people died. Orma cattle also destroyed Pokomo crops, according to local news reports.

Similar outbreaks of ethnic violence have been reported in northern Kenya in recent weeks.

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