Government “winning” war against tribal militia

Kenyan security forces are winning the war against the Sabaot Land Defence Force and the next month will consist of mopping up operations, police spokesman Eric Kiraithe announced yesterday.

With its 80-year-old spiritual leader in jail, top commanders killed or captured and hundreds of followers in interrogation camps, only the militia’s top leader is on the run, explained Kiraithe. The police spokesman has dismissed allegations of torture in detention camps, echoing similar denials by the country’s military brass. On Friday, Human Rights Watch released a report blaming both the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) and the security forces for arbitrary detention, killings and torture in the Mt Elgon area bordering the border with Uganda. Meanwhile, President Mwai Kibaki has said that combat operations against the SLDF will continue until the movement is crushed.

The Kenya Army and police are engaged in combat operations in the Mt Elgon area against the SLDF. The militia was founded in 2006 by local politicians to fight for land rights in a disputed settlement scheme. Families from non-indigenous ethnic groups were harassed out of the area through threats, killings and rape. Civil servants also fled the area after they were targeted for extortion by the group. During the election related violence in January and February this year, the SLDF extended its reach to the whole of Mt Elgon district and parts of Trans Nzoia. The SLDF increased its terror tactics saying that it was reclaiming ancestral land.

With political negotiations putting an end to post election violence in early February, the government directed its muscle into fighting the SLDF. Hundreds of troops backed by combat helicopters have pitched camp in Mt Elgon and imposed a blockade. Inspite of evidence of torture by security forces, majority of Kenyans support the Army’s operations in Mt Elgon.

The SLDF is believed to be linked with the area’s politics. The current Member of Parliament (MP) for Mt Elgon had been charged and later acquitted for involvement with the SLDF. Former MP, John Serut, has lost several family members in SLDF killings since he is blamed for bungling the land allocation exercise that gave birth to the SLDF. Among the top commanders of the SLDF is a politician with links to ex-president Daniel arap Moi, while Mt Elgon residents say that certain councilors in Mt Elgon County Council are sympathetic to the SLDF.

The crisis in Mt Elgon thus calls for a political settlement. In addition, residents of the area should be convinced that with population growth, there will no longer be enough land for each of them.

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2 Responses

  1. […] be addressed before internal refugees can return to their homes. Among these were a cessation of military activities against the Sabaot Land Defence Force in Mt Elgon where accusations of torture by military units are rife. The MPs want Kalenjin evicted […]

  2. […] units of the Kenya Army and paramilitary police began joint operations against the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF), human rights organizations have said that hundreds of people have been tortured in military […]

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