Kenya Minister Charged With Inciting Tana River Violence, Death Toll Rises

nairoBi, Kenya

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki on September 13 announced the firing of Livestock and Development Assistant Minister Dhadho Godhana for inciting violence in the Tana River Delta. Later the same day, the minister was arrested and charged with incitement.

“Following investigations that have linked Dhadho Godhana with violence that has rocked the Tana River Delta, I have today in consultations with Prime Minister Honorable Raila Odinga relieved Honorable Dhadho Godhana of his duties as Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Livestock Development,” the president said in statement.

Shortly after the release of the statement, Godhana was arrested and now faces two counts of incitement of violence. He has denied the charges, and was released on bail.

Violent conflicts between pastoral and farming communities along the Tana River Delta have taken the lives of an estimated 112 people, including women, children and police officers over the past month. The local Pokomo and Orma communities have a long-standing rivalry over access to the river’s resources.

They are currently fighting over water access and grazing land, with the Pokomo farming community accusing Orma pastoralists of encroaching on their land, while the Orma accuse the Pokomo of unfairly using the river’s water and trying to deny them access to it.

In his statement, the Kenyan president also said some “extra security forces have been mobilized to act against the senseless loss of lives.”

"We will deal firmly and decisively against those behind the skirmishes,” the BBC quoted Kibaki as saying.

The Kenyan Parliament has also gotten involved. MP Danson Mungatana introduced a motion to deploy military to the region because the local police were not taking enough action to stop the violence.

A dusk-to-dawn curfew was also implemented on September 10. However, there have been three deaths despite this effort.

Meanwhile, the United States Department of State released a statement on September 12 condemning the violence.

“The United States condemns the deadly cycle of recent attacks and reprisals in Kenya's Tana River Delta that has left more than 100 people dead. Our sympathy goes out to the families who have lost loved ones in the violence.

“We urge community leaders and the Kenyan Government to intensify efforts to bring opposing factions together to end the violence and establish peaceful mechanisms to address disputes in the future. It is also important that those who have committed crimes are held accountable through transparent, fair, and thorough investigations and trials,” the statement said.