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WOMEN ACCUSE HERDERS OF RAPE

Herders to be driven from Voi, agreements void

Tension high in Kirumbi village, Voi Constituency, following conflict between camel herders and farmers

In Summary

• All lease agreements between residents and herders will be terminated, no more will be signed and herders will be driven out, says Samboja.

• Residents said the herders have acquired grazing permits from senior government officials, emboldening them to defy orders to leave the area. They said some herds are owned by politicians.

Camels quench their thirst at Ndara group ranch in Taita Taveta county. /COLLINS KWEYU
Camels quench their thirst at Ndara group ranch in Taita Taveta county. /COLLINS KWEYU

Tension is running high in Kirumbi village, Voi Constituency, following conflict between camel herders and farmers.

Alex Malumba, 35, was allegedly stabbed to death by herders on Friday as he was resisting invasion by the herders. The attacker fled.

Camel owner Adan Mohamed said he lost Sh2 million animals.

On Sunday, county leaders met villagers to calm them down and persuade them not to flush out the herders.

The residents said the herders have acquired grazing permits from senior government officials, which has emboldened them to defy orders to vacate several times.

“Armed herders are grazing on our farms as we watch. We are living in fear of attacks from the herders,” Patrick Wandati of Sagalla said.

He said the heavily armed illegal herders had caused insecurity.

Rachel Luvuna, the mother of the dead farmer, said herders have taken over the area. She accused them of raping schoolgirls and assaulting residents.

Governor Granton Samboja, Senator Jones Mwaruma, Woman Representative Lydia Haika and MPs Jones Mlolwa (Voi) and Andrew Mwadime (Mwatate) joined residents in condemning the attacks.

Samboja said assistant chiefs should be interdicted for overseeing the clashes and aiding in the signing of illegal agreements.

“The provincial administration has seriously failed our people. We urged Interior CS Fred Matiang’i to immediately order a separate team to investigate his officials who have been facilitating illegal herders.

"We shall never sit and watch as our people are killed,” a visibly angry Samboja said.

All lease agreements between herders and residents will be terminated and herders driven out of the county, he said.

He warned that the clashes between the pastoralists and locals might escalate further if stern measures are not taken.

Samboja announced that the county government will not allow private landowners to enter into agreements with grazers.

Senator Jones Mwaruma blamed the Senate’s committee on security, defence and foreign relations for conducting shoddy investigations.

He said the committee failed to investigate the circumstances that enabled the camel herders to move from their home counties in Northeastern and settle in Teri B Group Ranch without the knowledge and consent of the group committee and the county.

“It is sad to say the committee did a shoddy job. With all the evidence of OB numbers we gave them, we expected an explanation for why nobody has been held accountable for over six deaths t caused by herders in Sagallla since 2014” Mwaruma said.

The committee’s vice chairman Senator Johnstone Sakaja led the investigation following a filled by Teri B Group Ranch in April.

In the petition, residents said illegal herders are believed responsible for the deaths of at least four Teri B Group Ranch members between 2012 and 2013.

Mwaruma alleged that herds of livestock are owned by senior politicians from Northeastern counties.

Taita Taveta Women Representative Lydia Haika recommended the illegal camel herders be flushed out of the county and made to pay for the time they have illegally been grazing.

Haika said the herders were posing a big threat to women who were victims of rape and sexual harassment.

However, in a past interview, herder Hared Gabow claimed that they have legally leased the ranch.

“We have a right to graze there. We have paid the members millions of shillings, if one member did not share the money with other members then we should not be held accountable. Let them compensate us if they want our camels out,” the herder said.

Teri B Group Ranch chairperson John Mngoda denied claims that ranchers had leased the area to camel herders.

“They have never signed any agreement with us. Actually, we were living in peace and tranquillity before they invaded our land. We want this o be dealt with expeditiously for the sake of Teri B Group Ranch members and residents,” Mngoda told the Star on phone.

He said the  livestock had caused overstocking of the ranch and were also damaging the environment.

Voi Sub county Deputy County Commissioner Joseph Mtile said five suspects of Somali origin had been arrested following the clashes.