Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki. (Photo: AP/ Sayyid Azim)
Hundreds of armed tribesmen staged fresh raids on villages in southeastern Kenya Tuesday, torching homes and killing four as the deadly vendetta between herders and farmers further escalated.
The violence between the two rival communities near the Indian Ocean coast has left more than 100 dead since last month and conjured up the spectre of renewed tribal unrest six months ahead of tense general polls.
"We have managed to contain the situation and our officers are on the ground pursuing the attackers. From this morning's attack, four people were killed," local police chief Aggrey Adoli told AFP.
At least six people were also wounded in the attacks and 246 houses were burned according to police officers and the Red Cross, with the violence stemming from a dispute between two communities.
"The humanitarian situation is becoming more and more dire," the Kenya Red Cross said, adding that the latest attacks targeted the Semikaro, Laini, Nduru and Shirikisho villages in the Tana River delta.
"Police have been outnumbered and have retreated and are waiting for reinforcements," said Caleb Kilunde, a Red Cross official in the area.
The fresh violence erupted despite Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki ordering a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the area after tribesmen on Monday attacked a village, torched homes and sparked clashes that killed 38 people.
Kibaki also ordered the deployment of additional security personnel to the area where more than 100 people have died in the ethnic violence that first flared last month.
"The government will get to the bottom of the matter... local leaders must also take a proactive role and preach peace among area residents," Kibaki said in a statement.
On Monday at least 300 Pokomo tribesmen stormed Kilelengwani, a village near some of the east African country's most idyllic beaches, and attacked members of the rival Orma community.
A Red Cross official said nine policemen were among those killed.
The vendetta between the Pokomo farming community and their Orma pastoralist neighbours already left 52 dead last month in Kenya's worst tribal killings in years.
Last month Kenya Red Cross chief Abbas Gullet said that more than 200 Kenyans had been killed countrywide in ethnic clashes since January.
Many of the attacks -- often small-scale tit-for-tat raids between rival ethnic groups in remote and impoverished rural regions -- generate little attention.
They are often blamed on tensions between communities sparked by land, grazing or water resources, not politics.
But the latest pattern of violence has raised the spectre of the large-scale ethnic violence that erupted in the aftermath of disputed 2007 polls.
The bloodletting at the time revealed the fragility of a country that had long been considered a rock of stability in the region and some observers fear a surge in violence ahead of a fresh election.