WARNING: CONTAINS GRAPHIC CONTENT
Garsen, Tana Delta, Kenya
By Siegfried Modola
When I got into photography and started my career as a freelance documentary photojournalist at the age of 29, I had to decide to either move from Kenya, the country where I lived and grew up for most of my life, or to stay.
I believe the latter choice has made an important difference in the way I perceive, follow and conceptualize the stories that I work on. Kenya feels like home. I know the region and speak the language. I feel an intimate connection with the country that comes with having a history with the place, years of building relationships and having enough time to go in-depth in my work.
As one of the most important elections of the country’s history is approaching on March 4, 2013, with the outcome determining Kenya’s path for years to come, I decided to cover the inter-communal violence that seems to be intensifying in some regions.
This led me to travel repeatedly to the Tana Delta District in the Coast Province, where a quiet and lethal war between two communities has been escalating since August 2012. Some 160 people have been killed in ferocious tit-for-tat retaliatory attacks between the Orma pastoralists and the settled Pokomo farmers. Many of the victims have been women and children; unprepared, vulnerable and too slow to flee the sudden raids that have occurred, almost always at dawn.
Animosity between the two communities has been an underlying factor in the region for decades. The Pokomo, living on the land they farm, usually always close to the lifeline of this place, the river Tana; and the Ormas, needing grazing land and a free passage to bring their cattle to drink at the very same river. In times of drought these two different ways of living have predictably, but sadly, clashed over the natural resources and the rights of passage.