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At least 14 killed in clashes over water

At least 14 people were killed and another
2,000 displaced from their homes in the Mai Mahiu area of Nakuru district
in western Kenya following violent clashes between two ethnic communities
over water, government sources said on Monday.
25 January 2005 - IRIN, 24 January (This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations)
Source: Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN)

The violence erupted on Friday when members of the Maasai community, who
are mainly pastoralists, vandalised water pipes belonging to a member of
the Kikuyu group, the sources said. The Maasai had complained that Kikuyu
farmers were drawing water from the Ewaso Kedong River to irrigate their
farms, leaving them without water for their cattle.

According to residents contacted by telephone, the Kikuyu farmers
retaliated by attacking Maasai herdsmen, triggering fierce fighting
between the two communities, and forcing hundreds of people to flee the

Many of those displaced by the violence moved to makeshift shelters in the
Mai Mahiu trading centre, Longonot, Suswa and Naivasha town. Others went
to stay with their relatives in safer areas of the district, sources said.

"We have confirmed 14 dead, but the situation is now back to normal," a
police source told IRIN. "Police patrols have been increased," he added.

According to the police, the Narok-Mai Mahiu road was reopened to normal
traffic on Monday. Motorists were avoiding the road after gangs armed with
machetes, spears, or bows and arrows attacked passengers of public
transport vehicles.

A resident of the area, Kimei Kirwa, told IRIN that the conflict was
caused by disputes over water and pasture. Maasai pastoralists were moving
from the southern rangelands, including Kajiado district, where pastures
have dwindled as a result of inadequate rain, to less arid areas.

"The dry spell is forcing the Maasai to move their cattle from Kajiado and
Narok towards Nakuru, Mai Mahiu and Nyahururu and that is causing tension
between communities," Kirwa said. "People are fleeing as we speak."

Last week, the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS Net)
expressed concern over continued poor rainfall in Kajiado district, saying
the district had received less than 20 percent of normal rainfall for the
entire 2004/05 short rains season.

"Water shortages have increased and livestock are trekking extended
distances to find water," FEWS Net reported in its latest update on Kenya
released on 18 January.

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