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Kenyan forces accused of blocking aid

afrol News, 21 July - An international humanitarian agency has accused Kenyan security forces today for blocking aid workers in the country's remote Mt Elgon district, where conflict between armed forces and militia has severely affected civilians.

The western region has been marred by series of terror by militia that murdered and mutilated its opponents in a fight between two ethnic groups over highly disputed land in the remote part of the country.

Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) operations coordinator, Mr David Michalski said thousands of people have no medical care after soldiers began refusing to let MSF workers through roadblocks into western Mt Elgon area three weeks ago.

"We were helping thousands of civilians until a few weeks ago and are extremely concerned for them. Some have contacted us in great despair," he told reporters in the capital Nairobi, saying authorities are silent while civilians are prone to harsh and cold living conditions.

The army which intervened in the region in March to stop a reign of terror by militia, has been accused by several human rights groups of torturing thousands of people since their operations began in March, but army have denied the charges.

Mr Michalski said MSF is receiving reports of attacks, including of a torched MSF clinic, shelters and food storage nine days ago in Chebongweny villages, which was catering for more than 300 patients a week, displaced by violence.

Mr Michalski said local people also reported that police stole and destroyed their blankets and clothes. "A lot of these children are in rags and it gets below freezing on the mountain at night," he said.

The organisation said it has carried out over 35,000 medical consultations together with the health ministry since MSF started providing free medical care to people affected directly or indirectly by the conflict in Mt Elgon in April 2007.

Chairman of Mt Elgon county council Benson Chesikak, confirmed that MSF operations in the region had been halted by government on suspicion that the charity had evidence of Kenyan soldiers torturing civilians, saying an order came from above though he could not confirm whether it was from provincial or national level.

About 600 people have died around Mount Elgon and 60,000 more been uprooted since the Sabaot Defence Land Force (SDLF) took up arms in 2006 to fight for territory it says was stolen from the local Soy community.

Mt Elgon conflict began years before post-election clashes that claimed more than 1 000 lives earlier this year. But activists say in both cases the violence was fanned by politicians who exploit ethnic grievances over land.

Kenya is still recovering from post election violence that left at least 1,500 people dead and displaced hundreds of thousands.

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