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20 killed in renewed clashes in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp

November 1, 2014 (NAIROBI) – At least 20 more people have been killed in a renewed fighting over the weekend between various communities in Kakuma refugee camp in western part of Kenya of Turkana district, sources said.

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South Sudanese refugees at Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, on 17 February 2014 (ST)

“Clashes occurred again on Friday and Saturday between the Nuer community and the communities of Great Lakes region who have forged an artificial alliance with the Dinka community,” Gai Duop, leader of the Nuer community in Kakuma refugee camp, told Sudan Tribune on phone on Saturday.

The clashes, he said, followed last week’s incident between Dinka and Nuer communities in which 8 Dinka members were reportedly beaten to death by angry Nuer youth after a Dinka man raped a 9-year old Nuer girl-child, leaving her in coma.

The refugees used sticks and machetes during the fighting which involved thousands from rival sides.

Sources from the United Nations, however, downplayed the number of casualties from the last week’s violence, reporting only one person who died in hospital.

However, the Nuer community leader accused the Dinka community of mobilising refugee communities from Congo, Burundi, Rwanda as their allies from the Great Lakes region, inciting yet another fierce clash over the weekend which he said left 4 Nuer members dead. Among the 4 one was shot dead by the Kenyan police, he explained.

11 others were also killed on the side of the Great Lakes and Dinka communities, he added.

“On our side we have lost 4 people. On the side of the Dinka and Great Lakes communities they have lost 11,” Duop said, adding that many more were also wounded on both sides.

He further added that 3 members of Turkana were allegedly killed by the Dinka community who attempted to blame it on the Nuer.

“The Dinka also went and killed three members of the Turkana community. I think their intention was to involve the Turkana community in the fighting by trying to turn them against the Nuer community too,” he claimed.

He however added that their initial contact on Saturday with elders from the Turkana community indicated that the Turkana elders accused the Dinka community in a camp section called Hong Kong, which is predominantly populated by the Dinka, of murdering their members.

United Nations officials in the camp were not reachable for comment on these tribal clashes.

Duop said calm has however returned to the refugee camp after police intervention.

He further said they have already accepted the approach by elders of the Great Lakes region to make peace with the Nuer community and that the Kenyan police had already communicated to the Nuer elders the immediate need for reconciliation.

“Our community has accepted the offer for reconciliation with communities from the Great Lakes region and the Dinka,” he said, adding that the latest clashes started when a motorist from Congolese community overran a Nuer child with a motorbike, an incident which he said was explicitly a provocative move to start the fight.

He however lamented that dozens from the Nuer community were arrested by the Kenyan police and taken to different prisons, calling on the United Nations and Kenyan authorities to release them.

Sudan Tribune could not reach leaders of the rival Dinka and Great Lakes region for comments.

Last week, officials said one person died and over eight others were seriously injured when South Sudanese rival communities clashed at the camp in western Kenya.

The clash between Nuer and Dinka communities, the largest and belligerent ethnic groups in South Sudan reportedly occurred when a 9-year old Nuer girl-child was allegedly raped by a Dinka man, leaving her in critical condition.

Kenyan police arrested the suspect, but later released him, stirring widespread anger among the Nuer youth who went to forcefully capture the freed man. This sparked off clashes between the two rival communities.

A spokesperson for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Kenya confirmed last week’s clashes, saying it was in retaliation to alleged raped of a nine year-old girl in the camp.

“One person was killed [but] we are still trying to find out from the community,” said Emmanuel Nyabera, adding “eight others were injured”.

Kakuma camp is the biggest habitat for refugees hosting 180,000 people from different nations. There are about 90,000 South Sudanese living in the camp.