• They say KWS charge them at least Sh1,000 to release a detained cow.
• The farmers also claim being mocked and beaten up by the wardens.
Livestock farmers living along the disputed Kerio Valley border of Baringo and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties on Sunday decried frequent harassment by Kenya Wildlife Service officers.
They blamed their tribulations on the unresolved land dispute within Lake Kamnarok and Rimoi Game Reserves.
"KWS wardens manning the conservancies are now taking advantage to harass us, confiscate our cows, locking them up in temporary sheds in Keiyo, and end up charging us Sh1,000 per head to release them,” Kamnarok Farmers Group chairman Joseph Kiptala said in Kabarnet town, Baringo.
Contacted for comment, however, Baringo KWS deputy warden David Cheruiyot said he was not aware of any community land dispute with the conservancies. He said he will need some time to find out to give the way forward on resolving any problem that might exist.
Kiptala said the officers also beat up unarmed cattle owners, accusing them of letting free their livestock into the protected sites.
"We are lovers of tourism and more so wildlife conservation, but the government should not take advantage of our humility on the game conservation to mistreat us,” he said.
They also hit out at the KWS for being more concerned with wildlife than they are with human life. They said victims of human-wildlife conflicts are not compensated, citing a teacher who was recently killed by a wild animal.
Kiptala was backed by among others Zephaniah Chepkong’a, Wilson Kangogo, Johana Chelanga and Evelyn Chelimo. He said more than 10,000 affected farmers are from Kuikui, Kaptilomwo, Barwessa, Konoo, Keturwo, Katibel and Muchukwo sublocations in Baringo North.
The agitated farmers accused the government of taking too long to map and demarcate the game reserve.
“Due to lack of money, we are sometimes forced to sell our goats in an emergency to have our cattle freed. Otherwise, they would starve to death at the hands of the merciless KWS wardens,” Kiptala said.
"Our hands are tied. We can't cultivate our farms or graze our livestock freely."
He said the animosity has been going on for the past 15 years, yet the government has kept turning a deaf hear on their grievances.
The areas are currently inhabited by more than 500 elephants, which are being guarded jealously by the well-armed KWS officers.
Kiptala said Lake Kamrarok Conservancy was registered in 1983 by the defunct county council of Baringo before the landmark seasonal Kerio River later changed its course.
"The river curved away our large parcel, about three to seven kilometres, off the bordering Elgeyo-Marakwet," he said.
He said the government promised to compensate but that has yet to be fulfilled.
They lashed out at the KWS for relying on the river to dictate the conservancy boundaries in disregard for their land registration numbers.
The farmers are not aware that the Elgeyo-Marakwet assembly had passed a bill that allows confiscation of livestock found grazing near or within the Rimoi Conservancy.
Chepkong’a urged Baringo Governor Stanley Kiptis and his Elgeyo-Marakwet counterpart Alex Tologs to convene a meeting with the elders from both sides to discuss and address the boundary issues.
"We don’t want to engage in physical fights because our forefathers signed an agreement to maintain peace with our neighbours," he said.
(Edited by F'Orieny)