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Kenya: Deadly Violence Threatens to Polarize Country

A recent outbreak of deadly violence pitting police officers and soldiers against civilians has claimed the lives of dozens of Kenyans and sparked debate over the increasing insecurity in the region.

Cattle bandits ambushed police in Baragoi Area of Samburu county on 10 November, 2012, leaving 42 officers dead and others wounded in what has become the worst attack on Kenyan law enforcement officers by civilians in the country's history. Journalist Joseph Kariuki reported:

Bodies of the more than 40 Kenya police officers killed in an ambush in Baragoi on Saturday are rotting in the open after the police helicopter that went to pick them developed a mechanical problem. Due to the heat the bodies had started to decompose before a few of then were taken to Baragoi District Hospital mortuary which has no capacity for such a massacre. By yesterday night 17 bodies were still scattered in the Suguta Valley slaughter field.

A screenshot from NTV video on YouTube showing police and medical personnel carrying a dead body of a police officer resulting from the Baragoi killings.
Photo by: NTV Kenya

Police Spokesman Erick Kiraithe said as he was being interviewed for the position of Inspector General of Police,  as shown in a Youtube video by NTV Kenya, that the policemen had been tactless in pursuing the Turkana cattle raiders:

The massacre of police officers was shortly followed by an incident in which a traffic police officer in Kisumu shot and injured a matatu [public transport vehicle] driver on 24 November, 2012, sparking protest from motorists and the public along the busy Kisumu-Busia road. Capital FM News wrote on their blog:

Following the shooting, motorists joined members of the public who witnessed the shooting to block the road forcing other motorists to find alternative routes. Most vehicles were pelted with stones as the demonstrators barricaded the road using rocks. Police later managed to contain the situation and normalize transport along the road.

KTN Kenya analyzed the degenerating state of security in Kenya through their Youtube channel:

The incidents of violence in Kenya are increasing, as KenyaForum reported. In Garissa Town, Kenya Defence Force soldiers became the target:

There are initial media reports of three Kenya Defence Force (KDF) soldiers being shot dead in Garissa Town today, Monday 19 November, 2012. The attack comes a day after seven people were killed in an attack on a matatu [public transport vehicle] in the Eastleigh district of Nairobi, although the two events may not be connected.

The attack on the soldiers led to Army officers going on rampage in Garissa town. NTV Kenya posted a graphic video showing the Army opening fire on citizens. In the video, the Minister of State for Defense responded by simply stating that “it is very serious” if the raid was carried out by the Army.

Some have blamed Kenya Defence Forces for creating tension in the town by harassing residents and burning property while in pursuit of the attackers. Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the government will compensate residents whose property was destroyed. However, Special Programmes Minister Esther Murugi said her ministry has no money to compensate victims of the Garissa chaos.

This state of affairs has sparked heated debate on Kenyan television and radio shows as to whether the extrajudicial killings are justifiable in the wake of such violence against law enforcement.

A number of Kenyans on Twitter have joined in on the discussion, lamenting the country's insecurity and pointing fingers at police:

@ahmedsalims: #Kenya insecurity is at it’s peak…. Every other night someone somewhere is being attacked if not shot dead by thugs. What is happening?

@nmmata: it was MRC, then the Baragoi massacre, then the Eastleigh and Garissa violence, now this #matatustrike nonsense…is Kenya dying?

@momanyibernard: Lack of proper command of the #police to blame for rampant insecurity, including blasts experienced in #Kenya.

@brizztolife: BREAKING NEWS: SANTA CLAUSE declines to come to kenya due to insecurity

@mirajmiskiz: Time to Get Out from#Kenya , Insecurity everywhere, Hello #Zanzibar #AmOnMyWay

In2EastAfrica Reporter wrote on his blog that the rising insecurity threatens to polarize the country:

With memories of the 2008 post-election violence still ringing in the minds of Kenyans, the eruption of violence, killings, destruction and displacement of people is a cause for concern……..Last Sunday, an explosion ripped a minibus carrying passengers in Nairobi’s sprawling Eastleigh suburb, leaving nine people dead and scores injured.

Recently, violent clashes erupted in Tana River Delta pitting Pokomo and Orma communities leaving more than 120 people dead and thousands displaced. While a major security operation was mounted in the area and some suspects were arrested and charged in court, the matter is yet to be satisfactorily resolved, although a commission of inquiry is now completing its work. Then there is the violence and insecurity associated with Mombasa Republican Council, which grounds its case on historical injustices and has threatened to disrupt voter registration in the Coast region.

There are also militia groups like the Mungiki in Nairobi and Central Kenya, Sungu Sungu and Chinkororo in Kisii and Nyamira counties and illegal gangs that have sprung up in Kisumu.What is happening? Has Kenya’s security been compromised? Where is the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS) that seems to have been caught off guard by all these happenings? These are the questions that Kenyans are asking. Internal Security Minister Katoo ole Metito has linked fatal incidents of violence and insecurity to politics. He says politicians may be inciting groups to cause violence for political gain by causing displacement and instilling fear to gain control of newly created electoral units. “We haven’t ruled out political incitement to these incidents of insecurity. Some of these animosities can’t be delinked from political incitement. Politicians take advantage of animosity to gain mileage,” the minister told a news conference.

On the lookout for the next possible conflict, the National Steering Committee (NSC) on Peace Building has released a map that identifies issues, such as disputes about land, boundaries, and ethnicity, that can potentially ignite in all the 47 counties in Garissa.

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