Laikipia clashes per­sist as MPs, cops, barons blamed

Laikipia Sen­a­tor GG Kariuki says, ‘We are tak­ing the mat­ter se­ri­ously but I don’t re­act to ru­mours. I want to as­sure pri­vate de­vel­op­ers their in­vest­ments are safe’

The Star (Kenya) - - Counties - GIL­BERT KOECH @KoechJu­nior_1

Pas­toral­ists and ranch own­ers in Laikipia county are still fight­ing over land, as ef­forts to con­tain the vi­o­lence have failed to date.

Sen­a­tor GG Kariuki yes­ter­day said five peo­ple have been killed this week. County com­mis­sioner Chege Mwangi said four peo­ple have died. But res­i­dents say 10 peo­ple have been killed.

There are fears some conservancies might col­lapse as donors re­duce fund­ing. Will Jen­nings’ farm out­side Ru­mu­ruti was in­vaded by armed herds­men on Sun­day. They en­gaged guards in a shootout. No one was killed.

Kariuki yes­ter­day told the Star on the phone the county is “tak­ing the mat­ter se­ri­ously”.

He re­fused to com­ment on pos­si­ble with­drawal of donor fund­ing. “The per­son best placed to talk about conservancies is NCIC chair­man Fran­cis ole Ka­paro,” Kariuki said.

Mwangi de­nied pol­i­tics is to blame for the clashes.

He said 90 per cent of cat­tle have been driven out of farms and 38 peo­ple ar­rested.

“I don’t re­act to ru­mours. I want to as­sure pri­vate de­vel­op­ers their in­vest­ments are safe,” Mwangi said.

On Wed­nes­day last week, Ka­paro held a meet­ing in Ru­mu­ruti to dis­cuss se­cu­rity.

In July, res­i­dent Ge­orge Mwai was shot twice dur­ing clashes while driv­ing. He is now con­fined to a wheelchair.

Many farms have been in­vaded since Septem­ber, in­clud­ing the Lois­aba Con­ser­vancy and the 50,000-acre Segera Ranch owned by Jochen Zeitz, the for­mer CEO of global sports brand Puma.

The Ta­sia com­mu­nity ranch has also been in­vaded. A group of res­i­dents who sought anonymity said pol­i­tics is to blame.

“The vi­o­lence hit­ting Laikipia is a case of mil­i­tant Sam­buru politi­cians grab­bing land from other eth­nic groups ahead of the 2017 polls. They are us­ing vast num­bers of cat­tle as a weapon to in­vade land, hop­ing to drive out the right­ful own­ers and vot­ers from other par­ties,” a Nanyuki res­i­dent said.

“The ma­jor­ity of vic­tims are small holder farm­ers and poor peo­ple. Their maize farms have been in­vaded and their goats stolen. Guns are be­ing used to threaten peo­ple every­where. This is im­punity.”

Another res­i­dent said, “It is a myth that this is about poor pas­toral­ists who just need grass due to drought. The truth is that the ma­jor­ity of the cat­tle are owned by MPs, ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, top cops and other rich barons who hide their money in cat­tle to evade taxes.”

Laikipia is home to peo­ple from di­verse com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing the Turkana, Pokot, Kikuyu, Maasai and Sam­buru.

The Sera Con­ser­vancy, which houses black rhi­nos, was in­vaded this month.

About 125,000 cat­tle have in­vaded farms in Laikipia from Sam­buru coun­ties in re­cent months.

/ ELIUD WAITHAKA

Long’or Lowasa, a com­mu­nity leader from Laikipia North con­stituency, ad­dresses the press at Segera Ranch yes­ter­day

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