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Monday, 11 December, 2000, 19:30 GMT
Cattle clashes in Tanzania

By Roger Dean in Dar es Salaam

More than 400 people have fled their homes in Morogoro region, Tanzania, after clashes between farmers and pastoralists at the weekend left 31 people dead.

Arrests have been made and weapons confiscated, as police and government ministers scramble to head off further violence.

The clashes were sparked off when Luguru farmers confiscated cows belonging to Masaai herdsmen.

The cattle, they said, were damaging crops on their farms in Kilosa district near the central Tanzanian town of Morogoro.

Of the 31 deaths in the ensuing two days of violence, most were reported to be women and children.

Twenty-seven people have also been injured, and more than 60 houses burned.

Arrests

The Field Force Unit, Tanzania's elite paramilitary police, are now deployed in the region and are maintaining order.

Twenty-nine people have been arrested and eight firearms and a quantity of ammunition confiscated.

Tanzania's Prime Minister, the Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister for Regional Administration all visited the area at the weekend.

Tanzania is very proud of its record of national unity.

Home Affairs Minister Mohamed Khatibu said on Monday that he "wouldn't describe it as a fight between Masaai and Waluguru. That would be tribalism. This is a land issue."

The government, he said, would establish which areas would be set aside for farming and which for cattle grazing, and the herdsmen are to be encouraged to settle and provided with agricultutal facilities.

The root cause of the violence is pressure on agricultural land, and after a year of very low rainfall clashes become more likely as cattle move from area to area.

Similar clashes involving nomadic Masaai herdsmen were reported in 1997, also a very dry year.

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