CONFLICT OVER PASTURE

Police poured in Laikipia to evict herders from private ranches

A General Service Unit officer was killed on July 31 in the Ol Moran area.

In Summary
  • So far, five schools have been closed after parents withdrew their children for fear of the rising insecurity.
  • The government gave herders who have invaded private farms in Laikipia seven days to move out.
Interior CS Fred Matiang'i during a security meeting in Naibor, Laikipia, county on July 28, 2021
Interior CS Fred Matiang'i during a security meeting in Naibor, Laikipia, county on July 28, 2021
Image: HNDOUT

More security personnel have been sent to Laikipia following Saturday’s killing of a General Service Unit officer at Ol Moran.

This brings to three the number of people killed in the escalating conflict over resources in the area.

The officer was part of a team patrolling the Laikipia-Baringo border in the wake of the attacks.

The new team, led by a senior GSU commander, has instructions to drive out herders who have invaded private ranches in the area, officials aware of the plans said.

The attack on July 31 happened a day after armed bandits raided Wangwaci village and killed one person before more than 50 cows were stolen, causing further tension and anxiety among residents.

On July 29, parents withdrew their children from Kabati, Mihango and Wangwaci primary schools in Ol Moran.

So far, five schools have been closed after parents withdrew their children for fear of the rising insecurity.

The residents of Ol Moran, Wangwaci and Matuiku areas have since fled to the nearby Kinamba town.

On July 28, the government gave herders who have invaded private farms in Laikipia seven days to move out or face eviction. August 4 marks the deadline.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i warned the herders a crackdown would follow and urged them to leave within the window.

Speaking at the Anti-Stock Theft Unit camp in Naibor in Laikipia county, Matiang'i blamed the encroaching herders for violent clashes with local farmers and owners of private ranches and conservancies.

“We are preparing a serious crackdown. It’ll be ruthless and merciless, and I plead with all illegal herders to move out within the period,” the CS said, adding the government would not hesitate to use force, if necessary, with a view to protecting the lives and private property.

The CS was accompanied by Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai, senior security officers and local leaders led by Governor Ndiritu Muriithi.

Matiang’i also announced an immediate takeover by security teams of the 80,000-acre Kilmon farm that is owned by the government and that has been a theatre of deadly clashes between armed herders from Laikipia and the neighbouring counties.

A GSU camp will be established on the parcel to create a buffer zone between the two warring sides.

The CS further ordered private ranchers and pastoralists to register agreements on access to pasture with the county government beginning next month to enable the government to enforce the pacts and arbitrate disputes around their implementation.

“If you have an agreement with ranchers, that’s OK. But for the government to be able to provide security, we want such agreements recorded and the terms registered with the county government to help resolve disputes around them,” he said.

To help pastoralists in the county ease the pressure on grazing pastures and water points, Matiang'i further announced that the Kenya Meat Commission, which is under the Kenya Defence Forces, will begin buying around 1,000 livestock weekly from next week in an off-take deal brokered by the government.

The programme will complement a similar one being implemented by the Laikipia county government.

He said the government will begin recruiting chiefs and assistant chiefs for new administrative units in the area, a move that will not only help contain the sponsored evictions but also decentralize security services.

“We must put an end to this balkanization. We will not allow wananchi to be hurt because of political positions. We will immediately arrest those encouraging election rearrangements through forced movements,” he said.

Leaders present blamed insecurity for the decline in tourism and the closure of hotels and lodges in the area, which have led to the loss of jobs and revenue for the county.

Laikipia North MP Sarah Korere regretted that the latest flare-ups of violence had forced the closure of at least one public school in the area.