NAIROBI – Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s president, has ordered troops to be deployed to quell a wave of deadly violence that locals claim is being fomented by politicians seeking to gain advantage ahead of elections in August.
Mr Kenyatta, who is seeking re-election, said the soldiers were needed to “restore security and deal with those who continue to threaten the lives of Kenyans”.
Dozens of people have been killed in Kenya’s Rift Valley region in recent weeks following clashes blamed on land invasions as nomadic herders have driven their livestock on to farmers’ lands. Four women and five children, who took refuge in a church in Baringo county, were among 11 people killed this week.
Many of those caught perpetrating the violence have said they were searching for grazing for their livestock as east Africa’s dominant economy endures a severe drought. But local MPs and activists say the unrest is being caused by politicians seeking to drive away their opponents’ supporters, appease their own voters and make money from stealing animals.
Kenya has a history of violence surrounding elections. More than 1,200 people were killed during and after a disputed 2007 poll.
The army will be deployed to Baringo, Laikipia, Elgeyo-Marakwet and West Pokot, four areas most affected by the violence. Human rights activists estimate there are tens of thousands of illegal firearms in the counties, which account for about 5 per cent of the country’s population.
A presidential statement said anyone who did not surrender illegally held weapons “are enemies of the state and will be dealt with accordingly”.
Some people in Baringo have accused the police of attacking their village and burning houses.
Amina Mohamed, the foreign minister, said the situation was not out of control despite the police’s failure to quell the unrest.
“This [army deployment] is to ensure that return to normalcy is speeded up,” she said.
©Alleastafrica and FT