At least 15 schools have been closed in Narok South following ongoing inter ethnic skirmishes between the Maasai and Kipsigis communities. Several trading centres also remain deserted in the area where four people have been killed so far. More than 35 people have been injured and 29 suspects arrested and hundreds of families displaced in the clashes.
The affected institutions are; Enakishomi,Triangle,Olkaria,Osongorot,Olorwasi,Ololopangi,Olarakwei,Nkoben,Osotwo,Endebes,Olmosokwi,Olososhwa,Olmekenyu,Esimendwa,Oleretwet,Tirita,Oloiserr,Entere and Nadupa primary schools.
“The worst affected are Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) candidates who have fled the area along with their parents and teachers following the clashes,” said Mr Hillary Langat, a teacher.
Most of the schools have been turned into camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) as those whose houses were burnt seek refuge with the few items they were able to salvage. “We have left our cattle and farms unattended following the attacks” Mrs Ann Towett said at Ololoipangi primary school.
Trading centers including Sokam, Oleshapani, Naiurur, Olmekenyu, wholesale, Simendwa, Ololaipangi, Torokiat, Lesuswa, Nkoben and Center One were deserted as traders closed their shops in fear of attack. Security officers deployed to quell clashes in the area have been accused of taking sides favoring their respective communities and jeopardizing government efforts to restore peace in the area. Politicians have come under the spotlight for allegedly fanning the violence and hiding under cattle rustling incidents.
Eviction of families settled along the Mau forest, careless utterances, incitement and hate speech are the main underlying factors that have fueled the skirmishes.
While, on the surface, the skirmishes are alleged to have been caused by a cattle rustling incident resulting in the killing of a herdsman at Nkoben area, it has emerged that politicians are behind the violence.
Before the clashes hit the area, tensions had been building up following the eviction of illegal settlers from the Maasai Mau Forest by the national government.
So far, 9,000 settlers have been kicked out of their former farms around Mau Forest with another 40,000 earmarked for evictions in the second phase of the exercise, which Narok county commissioner George Natembeya says is an inevitable eventuality.
Belgut Member of Parliament, Mr Nelson Koech, and his Bomet Central counterpart, Mr Ronald Tonui, separately warned Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina against making statements that could aggravate the violence in the region. Mr Tonui blamed the violence on careless utterances by local politicians. Maasai leaders, on several occasions, have threatened to mobilise their community to invade Mau Forest and occupy it if the government did not evict those who have encroached the forest.
“There is no way the Maasai can accept another destruction of the Mau forest. We are giving the government 14 days, to kick out squatters,” the leaders stated during a meeting at Nkareta last month, a meeting that many settlers affected by the clashes point out was the source of tensions in the area.