‘Military-style’ tribal fight in Enga

National, Normal

The National, Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A MAN was gunned down, while another was blown to pieces using a military issue hand grenade in what Enga police described as “full scale military-style” tribal warfare in Laiagam district.
More than 3,000 warriors armed with high-powered military firearms fought each on Sunday and yesterday over a piece of state land.
Provincial police commander Supt Martin Lakari said the inter-tribal fight erupted on Sunday at Mamale village, near Laiagam High School over state land (portion 67).
Lakari said there had been a dispute over the land between two tribesmen – Chris Akuni and Kasi Kuima – who took the matter to court.
He said the national court had ruled in favour of Akuni last February but that did not go down well with Kuima who mobilised his clansmen and destroyed millions of kina worth of properties belonging to Akuni.
The Porgera-based police mobile squad arrested and charged Kuima two weeks ago for breaching a national court warrant. He is at Baisu jail in the Western Highlands.
Lakari said as a result, the fight turned into a full scale tribal fight and triggered other tribesmen from the headwaters towards Kandep to take sides with Akuni’s clansmen.
He said they chased away Kuima’s clan, destroyed their properties and occupied the land.
He said the under construction West Enga Technical High School was at risk as it was next to the battlefield, while Laiagam primary school and Laiagam Appropriate Technology, 100m from the battlefield, were being affected as well.
Lakari personally went to the battlefield and ordered warriors to cease fire.
He said if the warriors disobeyed, their community leaders and village councillors would face the law.
Lakari expressed concern that high-powered military firearms had replaced bows and arrows during tribal warfare.
He said the use of hand grenades was an alarming new trend.
He said the hand grenade was powerful and could have killed many within a 500m range when released, but was obstructed by a tree and landed at the edge of cliff, which blew the man to pieces.
Lakari said even though people agreed to stop fighting, more police had been deployed and would be stationed at the newly built high school.
He said that the fight was the continuation of a previous “guerilla” fight that had so far claimed seven lives.