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January 19, 2019

Anarchy fears as Samburu, Pokot gunmen surround Laikipia farms

A bullet found after a raid by Samburu and Pokot gunment on a farm in Laikipia county, January 13, 2016. /COURTESY
A bullet found after a raid by Samburu and Pokot gunment on a farm in Laikipia county, January 13, 2016. /COURTESY

Invasions in Laikipia county have intensified over the past several days, with Samburu and Pokot gunmen surrounding farms in the area.

It was reported that the attackers numbering between 15 and 20 fired into buildings at Kituku and other farms, sending owners into hiding.

They have also destroyed walls and fences, stolen and either killed or injured livestock worth millions of shillings, and raided and stolen from homes.

This is happening within 16 kilometers of Rumuruti which is the headquarters of Governor Joshua Irungu's county.

Read: Laikipia headquarters to be moved to Rumuruti

Property destroyed during a raid by Samburu and Pokot gunmen on a farm in Laikipia county, January 13, 2016. /COURTESY

Many people and animals have been killed and injured since the invasions began more than a year ago.

As the number of cases increases, politicians have pointed fingers at each other while residents have accused the government of taking no action.

Farmer George Mwai was shot twice while driving home in July last year and is now in a wheelchair.

Multiple farms were invaded in November and December, including the Loisaba conservancy established to benefit surrounding communities through conservation and the 50,000-acre Segera ranch owned by Jochen Zeitz, former CEO of global sports brand Puma. The Tasia community Maasai ranch has also been disrupted.

More on this: Laikipia farm invasions continue

Read: Laikipia clashes persist as MPs, cops, barons blamed

An animal wounded during a raid by Samburu and Pokot gunmen on a farm in Laikipia county, January 13, 2016. /COURTESY

Witnesses have said the attacks are politically motivated and may lead to a state of anarchy.

Bizarre incidents over the last few weeksby suspected Pokot herdsmen on Mugie conservancy and other parts of Laikipa, left several wild animals dead  during raids 

A witness said property was stolen from houses and workshops on the 42,000-acre private property in the Friday incident.

"The entire property is being invaded by large numbers of armed people, overrunning it with cattle, sheep and goats. They have destroyed kilometres of fences, cut and stolen wires and dug out posts,' said the witness.

"Things become really bad yesterday. It is as if someone has been been paid to cut wire and pull out posts everywhere. We are getting reports from all parts of Laikipia that cattle are heading our way."

Read: Laikipia conservancy cancels Sh600 million investment after violence

A source said some embassies were considering issuing travel advisories as the violence affected tourists during the holidays.

The county is the last stronghold of wildlife outside Kenya's national parks and reserves, and is home to 6,000 elephants and other animals including lions and the rare Grevy's zebra.

It also has the richest biodiversity of large mammals anywhere in Kenya other than the Maasai Mara.

"The attacks have led to destruction of property and the invasions are destroying the county's economy, jobs and investment," noted the source.

He said roads were becoming impassable as the attackers waylay motorists and were killing many wild animals.

"The raiders are killing all the wildlife in Mugie conservancy, which is among the last protected areas for rare species in  the world," he added.

"In the lawless vacuum created by this absence of action by the government, gangs of armed criminals are holding sway. This in the heart of Kenya today, a few months ahead of elections."

Property destroyed during a raid by Samburu and Pokot gunmen on a farm in Laikipia county, January 13, 2016. /COURTESY

Read: Dutch tourists escape unhurt as youths stone their vehicle in Laikipia

Also read: Pokot gunmen invade Laikipia conservancy, kill wild animals

KWS rangers and Anti Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) have retreated under the force of the huge assault, which resembles recent attacks on other farms and conservancies across Laikipia.

The government seems powerless to protect landowners, both large and small, from the armed invaders. The economic consequences for Kenya are potentially disastrous. 

Read: These land invasions must be stopped

Also read: British High Commissioner makes passionate appeal for peace in Laikipia

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