Tana clashes: What happens when we fail to uphold human dignity

tana clashes 5 A school girl was found shot in the face near her school; A seventy five year old was burnt to death with her two year-old grandsons in their house after it was locked from the outside by raiders.

These are some of the shocking, gruesome murders Kenyans woke up to hear about on the 9th and 10th of January 2013 as part of the ongoing Tana River clashes. tana clashes 4

According to the World Youth Alliance Declaration on Responsible Stewardship, “each human being is called to recognize his or her responsibility to be an effective steward of the natural environment that all of us share. That responsibility springs from the intrinsic value and inherent dignity of each human person from conception to natural death. Responsible stewardship is the personal commitment to care for both earth and neighbor.” But in the Tana River Delta this is not being lived out as various communities carry out retaliatory attacks against each other. The majority of the victims in the January attacks were innocent children and women. The attackers from both communities were armed with machetes, poisoned bows and arrows, spears and handguns. Not only were people killed but houses were torched and cattle and goats stolen, thus resulting in the loss of livelihoods and human life.

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The Tana River District ethnic clashes began last year in August between the Orma and Pokomo tribes of Kenya.  Conflicts over resources have resulted in similar clashes pitting farmers against pastoralists and between communities and investors. The continued existence of these conflicts points to a failure by government institutions to address land use issues in the Tana Delta, which are the basis of the tensions and attacks. According to the WYA Declaration on Good Governance, “leaders bear a particular responsibility to uphold the dignity of the human person in their governance.” It also states that “good governance entails the just use of power to create conditions for unity and trust and to inspire in the governed the desire to contribute to the common good.”tana clashes 1

Up to this point, the government solution seems to be to allow the warring groups to resolve their own disputes. The Tana Delta residents have pointed to the fact that the Kenyan police are fearful to respond to attacks, leading to a growing suspicion that police are reluctant to intervene as the attackers are using poisoned tipped arrows and also that junior officers are sabotaging security operations due to lack of salaries and allowances. As the government fails to facilitate dialogue between the tribes, we see that the dignity of the person continues to be violated in the Tana Delta. By Regina Kirim.regina1