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Kenya: Never ending war between Turkana and Sudanese

Posted by African Press International on October 24, 2009

Turkana (Kenya) – The Nadapal Belt is considered one of the most volatile yet very productive regions in East and Central Africa. But peace in the area has remained elusive.

The Kenyan and Southern Sudanese security forces have in the recent past engaged each other in hide and seek and threats as they try to secure the green belt considered the lifeline of pastoralists from the two communities.

Scores of people have been killed and undetermined number of animals have perished in renewed hostilities that have derailed peace on the Nadapal Belt occupied by Toposa community from southern Sudan and Kenyas Turkana. The attack is the latest in a series of hostilities between the two communities related to persistent drought that has resulted in shortage of pasture and water.

But there are other factors which the two governments should address to find a lasting solution to elusive peace, said councillor Paul Laurien of Lokichoggio ward. Nadapal has always had a security problem dating back to the struggle for liberation of Southern Sudan spearheaded by General John Garang.

The locals have endured harassment and terror that are a concern among security forces from the two countries as they try to make the communities related by blood live harmoniously. Nadapal has remained a deserted area. It is an area described as where the world ends but a new frontier for business in the Southern Sudan where commerce strives, explains councillor Laurien.

But the recurrent attacks and drought are threatening the lives of the more than 2,000 families in the area. The violence has forced them to move to safer areas. Security forces from the two countries have kept vigil in the past week following renewed clashes after Toposa pastoralists attacked the Turkana in an attempt to reclaim the contested pasture land and water points. Its a hide and seek game as the Toposa hit our people but we are determined to make the area secure, said Turkana West police boss Ndungu wa Ikonya.

A contingent of General Service Unit, Administration and regular police were last week deployed to the area following an incursion by the Toposa. Security teams from the two countries have denied claims that 16 Kenyan officers were killed. The Toposa militias, allegedly backed by SPLA forces, have taken over an area running 10 kilometres into the Kenyan territory, denying the Turkana their rightful grazing land.

Nadapal is occupied mainly by the Southern Sudanese forces where they set up military bases. In fact the SPLA forces occupy one of the executive hotels in Lokichoggio town 30 kilometres from the border point.These two communities have for long enjoyed harmonious relationship which is likely to be strained by the renewed fighting, said a security officer who requested not to be named.

For Nadapal people life is getting tough each day as drought and cattle rustling force the community to rely on relief food. It is hunger everywhere. Animals are dying and the attacks are threatening to wipe us out, said Mr Eliman Ekutan, a resident of Kaddu West in the Nadapal belt. The locals said the Toposa were welcomed to the area by Kenyans during the liberation struggle but are now claiming the territory as their own.

Now that peace has returned to Southern Sudan, these people should return to their land and leave us alone, said Mr Shadrack Elipetot from Mogilla. Independent sources said more than 20 people have been killed and 60,000 animals stolen in the last three months in renewed clashes between Toposa and Turkana. Other sources say the attacks are a revenge by the Toposa who claim Kenyans mistreated them during their war of liberation.

These people had vowed to revenge once they get liberated due mistreatment meted on them by our security forces. Maybe that is why they are attacking us, said Mr Emoja Laurien from Mogilla. The Toposa are opposed to a move by the Kenyan Government to establish a military base at Nadapal and reclaim its territorial borders.

All that we want is peace. Our counterparts should not abuse our hospitality by attacking us now that they are liberated, said Mr Lelimo Pelekch. Security forces from the two countries are keeping vigil on border points to avert a full fledged war between the two pastoral communities.

This is an unnecessary humanitarian and man-made crisis which should be urgently addressed. All that we need is peace and not war, said Mr John Emorupus. Most people here depend on relief food for their survival although livestock is their main source of income.

The attacks have come at a time when most of the humanitarian organisations that have been assisting us are facing financial crises and the majority of them have in fact left the area. This will be a major blow to us, added Mr Emorupus.

Independent sources from Southern Sudan said the Toposas feel insecure under the governance of Eastern Equatorial where they are considered a minority. This community wants autonomy and that is why they want to claim part of our land, complained Mr Elipetot.

Some of the clans wielding political power in Southern Sudan include the Dinka and the Nuer. The Toposa are regarded as traitors due to claims they supported the Khartoum government during the liberation struggle. That is why they now feel insecure and want to move to part of Kenyan territory.

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