The Merille militia are suspected to have kidnapped and killed an estimated 11 Turkana men in less than two weeks. It all started with 4 fishermen who were kidnapped on the 1st of August and their bodies later dumped in the lake. These fishermen doubling up as reservists, were allegedly fishing on the Todonyang' border point when the incident occured. These attacks have been linked to competition for natural resources,specifically fishing areas that the respective tribes are dependent on.
For the past two years residents of the Todonyang' area near the Kenya-Ethiopia border have been forced to find refuge elsewhere in a bid to avoid the constant attacks. With ongoing projects such as the Gibe III dam and the planned irrigation projects to follow threatening the very existence of the lake, it begs the question. How much is the government doing to protect its citizens and the resources they are dependent on?
Recent reports have brought attention to the fact that a number of GSU officers have been sent to protect the border points. Marines have also been deployed in the area, according to a statement by the Turkana North DC,Eric Wanyonyi.
The Turkana and Merille tribes reside on their respective sides of the borders and share Lake Turkana,as a common source of food and water. However, the attacks are being made on Kenyan property. Lake Turkana,aside from being the World's largest dessert lake, is also home to nutritious and abundant fish stocks.
Additionally, three deltas around the Lake,which are considered Kenyan territory, have been occupied by armed raiders in a case similar to the Migingo islands. The Kenyan fishermen have been displaced as a result. The waters around these deltas are key breeding sites for fish giving the Merille militiamen an upper hand at access to the fish. The Kenyan government is making efforts to reoccupy the land according to Erick Wanyonyi.
This is just the beginning of what the two governments will be dealing with in the coming years, considering the many threats to both the natural resources and the functions that they play for the people. The killings are a very sensitive issue that needs to be handled with urgency and tact from both the Kenyan and Ethiopian governments.
It is not only a competition for resources but major issues like security and coexistence are affected. If it is not handled with the utmost care, the repercussions could be severe to say the least. In many countries around the world,natural resources go beyond the border points of states and sometimes the lines are blurred but solutions are found to suit both parties and encourage peaceful and mutually beneficial coexistence.
The Ethiopian government,through the Omorate DO Chumere Yerar promised to be committed to addressing the conflict between the Turkana and Merille along the common borders. The Ethiopian authorities stated that they found the boat stolen by the militia. The militia are yet to be captured by the authorities and more effort needs to be put in this cause so as to make an example of the perpetrators and discourage further incidents of this nature.
The Kenyan government,on its part should take this very seriously as a security threat and apply the necessary measures to protect its countrymen. There has been very little security in the area in light of the fact that this is not the first time the Turkana are being killed by a community from accross the border. Security is a vital step in the conservation and proper equitable use of natural resources that transcend physical borders.
Efforts aimed at communication between the two countries through both the elders and other authoritative figures are said to be underway. The relationship between Kenya and Ethiopia is under strain as a result of the killings and solutions should be found sooner than later, in ensuring peaceful coexistence between the two communities in conflict.