Disputed dam fuels Ethiopia-Kenya border attacks

09:31, January 27, 2010      

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Six Kenyans have been killed and over 2,000 villagers forced to flee home in Lokitaung district in attacks by Ethiopian militia, a Kenyan official said on Tuesday.

Merrile militia attacked Todonyang, a remote Kenyan village near the Ethiopia border, last Friday and shot death two police officers and a civilian.

Lokitaung District Commissioner Jack Obuo said the Ethiopians stole two rifles from the slain officers and abducted three local fishermen.

The bodies of the abducted fishermen were on Monday discovered floating in Lake Turkana and the organs missing.

"Their bodies were found floating in Lake Turkana and their organs such as ears, toes and noses were missing," said Obuo. The official said he was negotiating with Ethiopian authorities to return the rifles lost to the militia.

"I'm headed to Omorate in Ethiopia with my district security team to launch an official complain over the attack and also negotiate the recovery of the rifles," Obuo told Xinhua from Lokitaung.

Tension has heightened at the border as Kenyans flee the area over escalating insecurity fueled by fishing territory and scarce pasture.

Todonyang Catholic Church Priest Fr. Steven Ochieng said the villagers have sought refugee status in the church compound where they are being fed and given medical care.

The priest said 60 people have been killed in the area by armed Merrile militia in the past 10 months.

"We have buried more than 60 people here killed by Ethiopians and we regret that the government is doing nothing to stop these attacks," said Ochieng.

A humanitarian worker Sam Akale said the attacks have increased in the recent past following protest from the Kenyan side over the construction of a dam on River Omo by Ethiopia to generate power.

"There is rising insecurity at the border after local fishermen protested against the dam on river Omo, the main tributary to Lake Turkana," said Akale.

Residents backed by environmentalists have opposed the dam, nearly one third completed, saying it poses a threat to the survival of Lake Turkana.

Kenyan renowned environmentalist Dr. Richard Leakey warned that the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Kenyans around Lake Turkana, the world's largest desert lake, will be wrecked by the Ethiopian dam.

"The Ethiopian dam project is going to bring nothing but tragedy and harm to Kenya," warned Ikal Angelei, conservationist and the founder of friends of Lake Turkana.

During the two years it will take to fill the dam reservoir, Lake Turkana will recede, increasing its salinity, damaging the local economy, degrading biodiversity and increasing the risk of cross-border conflicts, Leakey warned.

Hundreds of residents of Turkana district staged four peaceful demonstrations to express their disappointment that their government has failed to stop the project, posing a serious threat to the Lake Turkana.

Source: Xinhua
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