A battle for livestock between Ethiopian and Kenyan nomads has left 38 people dead in drought-stricken northern Kenya, officials and aid workers said Thursday.
Dongiro warriors crossed into Kenya from Ethiopia Friday and attacked Turkana herdsmen to steal their animals, said Njenga Miiri, district commissioner for Turkana. The fighting killed 30 of the raiders and eight Kenyan women and children.
The clashes took place in the remote village of Lokamarinyang along the Kenya-Ethiopia border, about 260 miles north of the regional capital of Lodwar, said Lucas Ariong, an aid worker in the area.
News of the battle only reached Lodwar Thursday morning.
Millions are at risk of famine in eastern Africa because of drought. Preliminary assessments show those affected include an estimated 3.5 million in Kenya, 1.75 million in Ethiopia, 1.4 million in Somalia and 60,000 in Djibouti.
Cattle rustling by nomadic tribes in the semiarid region is common and tribes in the area frequently do not respect national borders. Aid workers have expressed concern that as water sources dry up and livestock continue to die, such attacks will become more common.
Miiri said the attackers were from the Naita area of southern Ethiopia and were carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles. He said they were apparently trying to raid the Turkana settlement to steal 300 cows and goats.
Kenyan police and soldiers have been dispatched to the area, he added.
Efforts to help the region’s hungry have also been troubled in Ethiopia by a low-level conflict between the army and separatist rebels in the eastern part of the country. In recent months, trucks carrying food aid have been attacked and burned.
Violent clan disputes, a spillover from the feuding warlords in neighboring Somalia, have deterred aid workers and the U.N. from entering the region.