2012–13 Tana River District clashes

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2012 Tana River District clashes
The violence occurred in the Tana River District of Coast Province, Kenya.
LocationTana River District
Coordinates1°30′S 40°0′E / 1.500°S 40.000°E / -1.500; 40.000Coordinates: 1°30′S 40°0′E / 1.500°S 40.000°E / -1.500; 40.000
Date22 August 2012
TargetOrma people
Attack type
Ethnic-communal clashes between Orma and Pokomo people
WeaponsMachetes, bows and arrows, spears, handguns
PerpetratorsPokomo people

In August 2012, a series of ethnic clashes between the Orma and Pokomo peoples of Kenya's Tana River District resulted in the deaths of at least fifty-two people. The violence was the worst of its kind in Kenya since the country's 2007–08 crisis, which left 118 people dead and more than 13,500 displaced - over 50% of the 13,500 were children, women and the elderly.[3]


The major ethnic groups of the Tana River District are the Pokomo, many of whom are farmers along the Tana River, and the Orma, who are predominantly a cattle-herding nomadic people.[4] The district is generally dry and prone to drought, with erratic rainfall during the March–May and October–December rainy seasons. The climate has sparked numerous clashes between farmers and nomadic peoples over access to water.[5]

Approximately ten days before the ethnic clash on 22 August 2012, three Pokomo people were killed by members of the Orma community. In retaliation, the Pokomo people raided Orma villages and burned more than one hundred houses.[6]


22 August incident[edit]

On 22 August 2012, in the worst violent incident in Kenya since 2007, at least 52 people were killed in ethnic violence in the Tana River District between the Orma and Pokomo groups.[2][6] The violence occurred in southeast Kenya, in the Reketa area of Tarassa, near the coast and approximately 300 kilometres (190 mi) from the capital, Nairobi.[6]

The ethnic violence was the result of a dispute over land rights for the tribes' chickens. Police believe that the attack was carried out by the Pokomo people, who attacked the Orma,[7][8] following an Orma invasion of farms belonging to the Pokomo.[9]

The attackers were armed with machetes, bows and arrows, spears and handguns.[10] Thirty-one women, eleven children, and six men were killed during the violence.[7][8] Of these, thirty-four people were hacked to death with machetes, while fourteen people were burned to death.[7] Four other Kenyans later died from injuries sustained during the attack.[11] In addition, the Pokomo captured approximately two hundred cattle belonging to the Orma.[9]

September incident[edit]

On 7 September, at around 3 a.m., 12 people were killed by the Orma. The Capital FM stated that[12] police and the Kenya Red Cross said the attacks occurred at Tarasaa where houses were burnt, in what is believed to be retaliatory attacks by the Orma people against the Pokomos.

Kenya Red Cross stated that over 300 cattle and 400 goats were raided, and houses torched.[13]

On 10 September, 38 people were killed by the Pokomo, including 9 police officers. The deceased include 16 men, five women, nine police officers and eight children. The officers included five GSU, two Administration Police and two regular police officers. The violence occurred at Kilelengwani Village.[14]

On the next morning, 11 September, three people were killed by the Orma at Semikaro, Laini, Nduru and Shirikisho villages of Tana Delta.[15]

On 13 September, more than 1300 paramilitary police officers were sent to quell unrest in Tana River.[16]

On 17 September, at around 5.45 a.m., 67 houses were torched at Ozi Village - there were no casualties reported. The next day, MP Mungatana claimed that the houses were torched by GSU, sent there earlier from Nairobi to quell the violence.[17]

The same day police found a suspected mass grave. Police were issued with a court order to dig up the suspected grave, but found nothing apart from part of a human leg. A member of Red Cross reported a strong stench from the area.[18]

December incident[edit]

On Friday, 21 December 2012, renewed fighting ensued, with initial reports indicating the deaths of over 27 people. The brutal raid was carried out in the small hours of the morning.[19] Subsequent reports confirmed that thirty-nine people were killed.[20]

Among the dead were assailants whose corpses were burnt in anger by residents. Police also arrested over 65 suspects in the aftermath of the killings.[21]



On 9 January 2013, 11 people were killed in fresh fighting when Suspected Pokomo raiders attacked Nduru Village killing six Ormas. Villagers countered the attackers, killing two raiders on the spot, and two more as they pursued them. Another assailant died from injuries while fleeing.[22]

Dawn attacks on 10 January 2013 resulted in the death of 11 people at the Pokomo community Village of Kibusu.[23] The dead included three women, three men[citation needed] and five children.[23] The attack also resulted in the burning of 19 homes in the village, which is approximately 20 km from Nduru village which had been attacked a day earlier.[24] The Kenya Red Cross also indicated that over 112,000 people had been displaced since the fighting begun despite deployment of 2,000 law enforcement officers.[25]

State reaction[edit]

The Galole Legislator and an Assistant Livestock Minister Dhadho Godhana was arrested and charged with incitement, but was released with a cash bail of Kshs. 500,000.00.[26]

The same day Kenyan parliament passed a motion urging the executive to send Kenyan defence forces to Tana River. The motion was introduced by Garsen MP Danson Mungatana.[27]

Judicial inquiry[edit]

On 22 September, the government set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Tana River clashes, chaired by High Court judge Grace Nzioka.[28] The full membership of the commission appointed by President Mwai Kibaki is:

  • Lady Justice Grace Nzioka - Chair
  • Chief Magistrate Emily Ominde
  • Principal Magistrate Abdulqadir Lorot Ramadhan

Assisting counsel are:[29]

Among the witnesses who have testified are:[30]

  • Defence minister Yusuf Haji
  • Coast Provincial Commissioner Samuel Kilele
  • Provincial police boss Aggrey Adoli
  • Lands Commissioner Zablon Mabea

Casualties statistics[edit]

The following is a table of casualties as captured by Kenya Red Cross as at 12 September 2012.[1]

Date Village Deaths Casualties Property lost Households Population
Male Female Child Total House Cattle Goat
14 August Kau 2 1 0 3 7 110 198 0 324 1,924
22 August Reketa 6 34 13 53 22 78 60 0 383 2,298
1 September Semikaro 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 200 0 0
7 September Chamwanamuma 15 13 1 17 10 94 200 400 1,094 6,564
10 September Kilelengwani 25 5 8 38 8 167 0 0 200 1,200
11 September Laini 0 0 0 0 0 20 0 0 0 0
11 September Sirikisho 0 0 0 0 0 109 0 0 0 0
11 September Semikaro 4 0 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 0
11 September Nduru 0 0 0 0 0 90 0 0 0 0
Total 51 43 22 116 49 668 458 600 2,001 12,006

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Kenya Red Cross". Archived from the original on 6 February 2017. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Dozens killed in Kenya clashes". Al Jazeera. 22 August 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  3. ^ a b "Kenya Red Cross". Archived from the original on 20 December 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  4. ^ Weiss, Taya. Guns in the Borderlands (PDF). pp. 89–93. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 September 2006. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  5. ^ "Tana River District: a showcase of conflict over natural resources". Practical Action. September 2004. Archived from the original on 29 July 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  6. ^ a b c "Over 50 Kenyans hacked, burned to death: police". Yahoo News. Agence France-Presse. 22 August 2012. Archived from the original on 25 August 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  7. ^ a b c Hanrahan, Mark (22 August 2012). "Kenya Killings: Clashes in Tana River District Kill at Least 48 People". HuffPost. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  8. ^ a b "Kenya clashes kill at least 48 in Coast Province". BBC. 22 August 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  9. ^ a b Leposo, Lillian (22 August 2012). "52 killed in Kenya territory clash, officials say". CNN. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  10. ^ Dixon, Robyn (22 August 2012). "In Kenya, ethnic clash over land kills 52". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  11. ^ "Over 50 Kenyans hacked, burned to death: police". Agence France-Presse. 22 August 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  12. ^ 12 Kenyans killed in fresh Tana River violence http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2012/09/11-kenyans-killed-in-fresh-tana-river-violence/
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 January 2018. Retrieved 11 September 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ Cyrus Ombati (10 September 2012). "Standard Digital News - Kenya : Police officers among 38 killed in Tana River". Standard Digital News. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  15. ^ "Three killed in fresh Tana violence". Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  16. ^ Standard Digital News. "Standard Digital News - Kenya : Slideshow - GSU officers off to clash torn Tana River". Standard Digital News. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  17. ^ "MP claims GSU officers razed village in Tana". Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  18. ^ "No bodies found in suspected mass grave in Kenya". Capital News. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  19. ^ "39 killed in fresh Tana Delta clashes". Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  20. ^ "Kenya: Tana River clashes leave dozens dead". BBC News. 21 December 2012.
  21. ^ - (23 December 2012). "Standard Digital News - Kenya : Tana villagers burn up slain attackers' bodies". Standard Digital News. Retrieved 13 December 2014.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ "11 killed in fresh fighting in Tana Delta as DO flees villagers' attack". Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  23. ^ a b Nyassy, Daniel (10 January 2013). "11 killed in Tana revenge attack". Daily Nation. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  24. ^ "Deadly reprisal raid in Kenya's Tana delta". Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  25. ^ "UN condemns 'inhumane' Tana violence". Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  26. ^ "Minister Godhana arrested over Tana clashes". Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  27. ^ "House passes motion to deploy KDF to Tana Delta". Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  28. ^ "Kibaki appoints commission to probe Tana clashes". Capital News. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  29. ^ - (2 October 2012). "Standard Digital News - Kenya : Tana inquiry team commences task". Standard Digital News. Retrieved 13 December 2014.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  30. ^ "I had no role in Tana clashes, says minister". Retrieved 13 December 2014.