AFRICA/KENYA - “30 dead in clashes in Kenya arising from water dispute between sedentary farmers and nomad herdsmen rather than political manipulation” Father Ferrari, Consolata Mission and National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Kenya told Fides

Tuesday, 1 February 2005

Kenya (Fides Service)- Some 30 people have been killed in tribal clashes in various parts of Kenya over recent weeks Consolata Father Eugenio Ferrari, national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Kenya told Fides. “The violence is between sedentary farmers and nomadic herdsmen for control of water” said Father Ferrari. The most recent episode involved Masai herdsmen and Kikuyu farmers in a place about 100 km south west of the capital Nairobi.
“Fighting started when the Masai led their herds to drink at water holes near land cultivated by Kikuyu farmers. The argument ended in violence” said the Consolata missionary. “Drought in vast areas of Kenya in recent months heightened tension for control of the scarce water resources”.
“At first we thought political forces were blowing on the fire to increase violence but then it became clear that it was only a dispute between two poor communities forced to share the little nature offers at this time of the year” said Father Ferrari. “The story is as old as the hills. Even the Bible tells of disputes between sedentary farmers and nomad herdsmen. There were similar episodes in northern Kenya a short while ago with people killed and injured” the missionary recalled and added: “if at first we thought of possible political manipulation it was because in the recent past there were episodes like those a few months ago in Nairobi”.
“The situation appears now to have calmed down. The elders of the two communities came together to mediate the dispute and there was an interreligious ceremony of forgiveness and reconciliation: it is hoped they will find a way to share the water and avoid violence in the future” Father Ferrari told Fides.
In theory the land used to belong to the Masai. Later it was leased to white colonialists. But today the large farms belonging to whites have disappeared and the land has been redistributed mainly to the Kikuyu, the main ethnic group in Kenya, which took the principal power positions at the end of colonial times. Now the Masai seem to want some of the power.
In recent years Kenya has experienced cycles of violence with hundreds of dead. Recently the Catholic Bishops of Kenya issued a statement on the situation and putting forwards suggestions to curb violence and criminality.

(L.M.)(Agenzia Fides 1/2/2005 righe 36 parole 476)