- Associated Press - Thursday, August 23, 2012

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s government will conduct a countrywide operation to disarm all communities with illegal weapons, it announced Thursday, a day after at least 52 people were killed in southeast Kenya when hundreds of farmers attacked cattle herders.

In addition to the dead, the Kenya Red Cross said that at least 50 people are missing from the attack by Pokomo tribe farmers on the Orma people, who are largely seminomadic livestock herders.

Some Orma people were fatally burned in their houses, while others were fatally hacked or fatally shot with arrows, and livestock was stolen in the dawn attack on Wednesday, witnesses said.

Eleven children were among those who died, officials said.

The missing may have drowned or were burned to ashes during the attack at Riketa village in Tana River district, said Sadik Kakai, head of disaster operations for the Kenya Red Cross.

The government disarmament will reinforce security in affected areas, said acting Internal Security Minister Yusuf Haji.

“The government will conduct an operation to disarm all communities illegally armed in the country and ensure security in the affected areas,” he said.

However, he declined to say when the exercise would begin and how long it would take.

Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere led a high-level delegation to the Tana River district to boost security in the region and prevent retaliation between the two groups.

Wednesday’s attack was retaliation for the killing of two Pokomo farmers last week, said officials. The conflict started with accusations that the Orma graze their livestock on Pokomo farms.

The Tana River area is about 430 miles from the capital.

Mr. Kakai, of the Red Cross, said at least 700 people were displaced from their homes by the attack and urgently need aid.

The use of the waters of the Tana River has been in the middle of a conflict pitting the Pokomo against the Orma, according to research by the Institute of Security Studies in 2004, following clashes in the Tana River area from 2000 to 2002.

The Pokomo claim the land along the river, and the Orma claim the waters of the river, said the research by Taya Weiss, titled “Guns in the Borderlands Reducing the Demand for Small Arms.”

At least 108 people died in the 2000-2002 clashes, according to the parliamentary record.

The long-standing conflict between the two tribes previously had resulted in relatively low casualties, but the increased availability of guns has caused the casualties to escalate and more property to be destroyed, the report said.

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