Nairobi: At least 39 people were killed when farmers raided a village of herders in southeastern Kenya early on Friday in renewed fighting between two communities with a history of violent animosity, a police official said.
Thirteen children, six women, 11 men and nine attackers were killed said police official Anthony Kamitu. Forty-five houses were set on fire during the attack, Kenya Red Cross spokeswoman Nelly Muluka said.
Kamitu who is leading police operations to prevent attacks in the region, said that the Pokomo tribe of farmers raided a village of the semi-nomadic Orma herding community at dawn in the Tana River Delta. He said the raiders were armed with spears and AK-47 rifles.
At least 110 people were killed in clashes between the Pokomo and Orma in August and September.
The tit-for-tat cycle of killings may be related to a redrawing of political boundaries and next year`s general elections, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Kenya, Aeneas C Chuma, said late August. However, on the surface the violence seems driven by competition for water, pasture and other resources, he said.
Dhadho Godana, a member of parliament from the region and Defence Minister Yusuf Hajji have been accusing each other of involvement in the fighting. The two have testified before a commission of inquiry led by a High Court judge investigating the clashes
Political tensions and tribal animosities have increased due to competition among potential candidates in the March election.
Violence after Kenya`s last general election, in late 2007, killed more than 1,000 people. Officials are working to avoid a repeat during March`s presidential election, but episodes of violence around the country are raising fears that pockets of the country will see violence during the voting period.
The Tana River area is about 690 kilometers from the capital, Nairobi.
The utilisation of the Tana River water has been at the middle of a conflict pitting the Pokomo against the Orma, according to research by the Institute of Security Studies in 2004, following clashes in the Tana River area in 2000 to 2002.
The Pokomo claim the land along the river and the Orma claim the waters of the river, said the research by Taya Weiss, titled "Guns in the Borderlands Reducing the Demand for Small Arms." At least 108 people died in the 2000-2002 clashes, according to the parliamentary record.