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Page last updated at 12:51 GMT, Wednesday, 13 July 2005 13:51 UK

Kenya's wild north: Hostile area, hostile groups

Woman having a bullet removed from her face  (Pic: The Standard)
This woman was shot in the face (Pic: The Standard)
The region of north-eastern Kenya where at least 61 people were killed on Tuesday is one of the country's most hostile and remote terrains, where rival groups often clash.

Most people still live as they have done for thousands of years, by moving their cattle around looking for pasture.

The region is semi-desert and the nomads who live in the area mostly survive from their cattle, rather than farming, or any other activity.

In the absence of banks, cattle are many people's main store of wealth and cattle-raids are common, often leading to a vicious round of raid and counter-raid.

The area is one of the least developed in Kenya. Most roads in the area are made from dirt and turn to mud when it rains.

The BBC's Gray Phombeah in Nairobi says that local officials have long complained that central government neglects the area.

The insecurity which has steadily built up over the past year has worsened the situation, with schools closed and people too afraid to travel along the few roads.

Survivors of the massacre in Turbi had to travel 150km to reach the nearest hospital, which only has one doctor.

One of the few signs of development is the gun, which the nomads are quick to use to protect their cattle.

Beheaded

Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper reports that the Gabra language is the same as that of the Boranas, accused of carrying out the slaughter.

The two groups have long joined forces to steal the livestock of their neighbours, the paper says.


Two other groups inhabit the region - the Rendilles and Turkanas - and they are also involved in a complex cycle of long-standing feuds.

But now, the Gabras seem to be unhappy that increasing numbers of Boranas are crossing from Ethiopia to join their cousins in Kenya.

As their numbers have increased, some have abandoned the life of nomadic cattle-herders for settled farming, leading to clashes over land with the Gabras, especially in the Huri Hills, one of the region's most fertile areas.

A Daily Nation correspondent writes that after Gabras were accused of stealing some 200 cattle and 500 goats in June, there were fears that every Gabra-owned house would be attacked even in the region's main town of Marsabit.

The Boranas had set up road-blocks and attacked any Gabras they could find.

A Gabra police reservist was beheaded, the reporter says.



SEE ALSO
'Protecting land can avert war'
16 Dec 04 |  Africa
Thousands flee Kenyan clan raid
16 Mar 05 |  Africa
Country profile: Kenya
07 Jan 05 |  Country profiles

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