Kenyan Catholic Bishop Peter Kihara of Marsabit is leading efforts to end violence in his diocese, where clashes over water and pasture have left at least 14 people dead.
The violence has forced the closure of about 16 schools in the area where such clashes among pastoralist communities are frequent. The latest flare-up has pitted the Borana and Gabra, two nomadic community.
“We shall not stand on the side-lines and watch lives being lost, property being destroyed and our people being displaced,” Kihara said.
On 22 October, two Members of Parliament from Marsabit County were held in police custody over the ongoing ethnic clashes. Saku MP Dido Rasso and his North Horr counterpart Chachu Nganya were picked up from Marsabit town yesterday by detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and driven to Nairobi where they were held overnight ahead of a planned hearing in court. Both MPs deny the charges.
Last week, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi has warned that stern action will be taken against politicians fuelling violence in Marsabit.
"The government has been monitoring the security situation in Marsabit County very closely. Based on our intelligence reports, we have observed with dismay, the political interference resulting in continued skirmishes in the area," he said.
Violent conflicts involving pastoralists have become widespread and increasingly severe in the North Rift and North Eastern regions of Kenya. Thought to largely stem from competition over control and access to natural resources such as pasture and water, the conflicts are also fuelled by political incitements, ethnocentrism, increasing levels of poverty and a proliferation of illicit arms.
A struggle over pasture last year in the nearby Laikipia County saw herdsmen invade white-owned conservancies in the region in search of water and pasture.