Nakuru residents join displaced camp in their own town as violence erupts

Nakuru residents made up most of the new arrivals at the town's showground camp set up for people fleeing post-election violence in neighbouring districts, according to a local aid official. The camp holds 5,900 people, according to coordinator Jesse Njoroge who said most of the 696 new arrivals were from Nakuru itself.

Violence continued in Nakuru for a third day on Saturday (26 January 2008). In the central Rift Valley town, police fired in the air to disperse large groups of angry youths from the town centre. An overnight curfew and army deployment had not fully quelled the communal violence and houses were still seen burning.

“Seven people were hacked to death in Kaptenbwa where I live” Kefa Magenyi internally displaced people (IDP) coordinator for the National Council of Churches of Kenya told IRIN. “Many houses and businesses were torched and many more people were injured,” he added. Magenyi said his own house in Kaptenbwa was torched on Friday afternoon.

Hospital sources in Nakuru said 156 people were treated for violence-related injuries and nine had died by midnight. Many were suffering machete wounds.

“We are not certain of the death toll but even as I did my rounds this morning [Saturday], two young men died in the casualty department”, said George Mugenya, medical superintendent of the hospital.

The hospital’s casualty department was a grisly scene with several young men bleeding profusely from machete wounds. One young man had been set on fire after being doused in petrol. A Médecins Sans Frontières team of nurses and clinical officers had arrived to reinforce hospital staff and a Red Cross team was also expected, hospital sources said.

The fighting was primarily between youths from the Kikuyu ethnic community and the Kalenjin group. Houses were burnt, people attacked on the street or at road blocks and others were being targeted after the name on their identity card revealed their ethnic affiliation. IRIN saw a man being pelted with huge rocks on the road who was later admitted to hospital.

Residents said members of the Luo and Luhya communities were also being evicted from their homes in the town; many of them sought refuge at the local police station on Friday night.

Spillover effect

Until Thursday Nakuru town had escaped the post-election violence that has seen more than 600 people killed across the country. But the Rift Valley has been particularly hit by the violence.

“This could be a spillover of the violence from neighbouring areas of Molo and Kuresoi”, Magenyi said.

Violence in those districts has led to an escalation in the numbers of displaced people arriving in Nakuru. Their accounts in turn fuel anger in Nakuru.

Some human rights groups and analysts say that at least part of the post-election violence has been planned and orchestrated by politicians and community leaders.

Some 1,880 displaced people arrived at the local IDP camp at Nakuru showground on Thursday, 991 of them from Molo. “This is the largest number we have received in a single day - the camp is overwhelmed” said Jesse Njoroge, camp coordinator.

Njoroge said most of the 696 new arrivals at the camp as of Saturday were from the town itself, and that the camp's population had grown to 5,900. Njoroge said camp residents had experienced threats from local youths and IDP youths had been arrested trying to torch local property.

Throughout Friday 400 IDP youths stood sentry around the camp as the police, overwhelmed by the local violence, only managed to provide six officers to protect the IDPs. By evening, however, reinforcements had arrived from Nairobi, and the camp had over 50 policemen to boost security.

Nakuru is a town of about 300,000 with a large proportion being of the Kikuyu community. However the Rift Valley is historically dominated by the Kalenjin and land clashes in the province have broken out over the last two decades.

The violence comes despite a symbolic meeting meeting on 24 January between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga in Nairobi, brokered by African Union mediator Kofi Annan.

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IRIN full coverage: Kenya's post-election crisis