Kenyan police say they are planning to set up peace talks between two rival pastoral communities, after at least 52 people, mostly women and children, were killed in one of the country’s worst massacres in years.
The statement was issued after the Pokomo, an ethnic group, used weapons ranging from guns to machetes to attack the Orma, another farming community, in the rural Tana River district over land and water disputes on Wednesday.
“We want to bring together these warring communities,” Joseph Kitur, a regional deputy police chief, said on Thursday.
The raid appeared to have been launched in revenge for an attack carried out last week by the Orma.
Joseph Kavoo, Tana river district police chief, said Wednesday’s violence saw people burnt in their houses, hacked to death, or shot with arrows.
“They [attackers] were armed with crude weapons: machetes, bows and arrows and spears. Some had guns. As a result we have lost 31 women, 11 children and six men, all totalling to 48. Sixty cattle were also killed,” Robert Kitur, the deputy police chief of the coastal region, told Reuters news agency by telephone.
Wednesday’s clashes in the Reketa area of Tarassa, 300km from the capital Nairobi, mark the worst single attack since deadly post-election violence four years ago, police said.
The two communities have clashed before over the use of land and water resources, but the scale and intensity of the killings were unprecedented.
Al Jazeera’s Peter Greste, reporting from Nairobi, said the attack took place in a region with a “very complicated mix of ethnicity, politics, land and resource” issues.
Said Mgeni, an area resident, told Associated Press news agency that the attacks began at dawn when a group of about 200 people belonging to the farming Pokomo ethnic group raided a village in the Riketa area and torched all the houses belonging to the Orma, a pastoralist community.
Cattle rustling and clashes over grazing and farming land and water are relatively common among pastoralist communities in the arid patches of east Africa and often escalate into revenge attacks.