Bishop asks government to ease tribal clashes in northwestern Kenya
Catholic News Service photo
A woman prays during a service at a church in late September for victims of the attack by Somali's al-Shabaab militia group at the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Bishop Giorgio Bertin of Djibouti, who also serves as apostolic administrator of Mogadishu , Somalia, said foreign intervention in the fight against al-Shabaab is necessary though not an absolute requirement.
Catholic News Service
NAIROBI, Kenya — A Kenyan bishop urged government officials to step in to ease a resurgence of violence among clashing tribes in the country's northwestern region.
Violence between the Turkana and Pokot communities has flared over land and natural resources in recent months, fueled by an 2012 announcement of the discovery of oil in the region.
Bishop Dominic Kimengich of Lodwar, Kenya, said it would be difficult to rule out the "discovered oil" as reason for the renewed conflicts.
"This conflict is being fuelled by shrinking pasture lands, water, cattle rustling and now the discovery of natural resources including oil and lime," he said during a Nov. 27 press conference. "The communities also have a dispute over the ownership of the Turkwell power generating station, based in the locality and disputed by the two communities over the generated revenue."
While the two communities have a long history of conflict, clergy and other leaders guided efforts in recent years to reduce clashes. But prolonged drought and uncertainty over territorial borders as both communities eye revenues from anticipated oil production led to renewed violence.
Press reports indicated that 900 villagers had been surrounded by an unidentified armed militia in remote Turkana. Local officials said the armed group left after two days of talks between the Turkana and Pokot communities.
In an interview earlier this year, Bishop Kimengich expressed concern that violence would arise in northwestern Kenya as it did in the Delta Region of Nigeria, another rich oil producing region.
The National Council of Churches of Kenya said in a press statement also called upon the government to take steps to ease tensions in the region.
The council questioned why it took the government days to help reach a negotiated settlement between the two communities and "only confirms the government's lethargy in tackling insecurity."
"We demand that the government puts in place measures to conclusively deal with crime, which should include educating Kenyans on the role they can play in ensuring security. The root causes of the rising insecurity should also be resolved," the statement said.