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Deadly clashes erupt in Moyale

BUSINESS
By | May 19th 2011

Ally Jamah

An alleged gang rape of a 17-year-old-girl in Moyale has paralysed the town and set off deadly clashes between two communities, sparking fears of the conflict spinning out of control.

The girl, who hails from the Borana community, was allegedly assaulted on Saturday afternoon by four men from the Burji community, who were together with two women colleagues.

Reports indicated that her private parts were violated with blunt objects, before she was left for dead. All suspects are now being held at Moyale Police Station.

On Thursday, business premises belonging to the Burjis remained closed in Moyale while their lorries laden with goods were barred from entering the town by Borana youth manning the main road leading to the town.

Most of the lorries camped at Turbi, about 50km away. Some drivers had wounds sustained from attacks at the "checkpoints".

"We have been stuck here for the past five days without food and water. All roads are blocked. How can this happen when we are supposed to have a functioning government?" lamented a victim Haji Shanqo.

Attempts by the media to enter Moyale town to cover the story were blocked by hundreds of people who had camped at the Airstrip.

The crowds sought to lynch a Burji activist and politicians who were on the same plane with journalists. The plane was forced to make a quick ‘U-turn’ to Nairobi. Tension has remained high in the town.

It was an emotional moment Thursday when another plane carrying the assaulted girl arrived at Nairobi’s Wilson Airport accompanied by Moyale MP Mohammud Ali, who is also the Assistant Minister for Special Programmes.

Hundreds of incensed community members were at the airport to receive the girl while others waited at the Nairobi Women’s Hospital, where she was booked for treatment.

Since Sunday, business activities in the busy Moyale border town have largely been halted. Police and military personnel have been patrolling the area. So far one person has lost his life in the clashes. The Burjis, who are a minority, have been restricted to their homes in Manyatta Burji, Moyale.

The two communities harbour political and economic rivalries, with most of the businesses in Moyale being owned by Burjis.

Chairman of the Moyale County Council Goliche Galgalo accused the police of being compromised to cover up the crime by charging the suspects with common assault instead of rape.

"This conflict would not have come if the police had done their work. They only arrested the suspects when they saw matters were going out of hand," he said

Councillor Galgalo accused elders of the Burji community of not showing interest in resolving the matter amicably.

"They should have approached us and expressed remorse. But until now, no one has attempted to contact us. That is a big insult," he added.

Hassan Ali, an NGO official in Moyale expressed concern that evidence of the rape may have been compromised due to delay in securing proper treatment in Nairobi.

Moyale OCPD Willy Lugusa said they were still working to bring the elders of the two communities together.

"We urge political leaders to end the incitement of their communities and work towards restoring normalcy in the town and allow the courts and police to do their work," he said.

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