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Drought to blame for invasion of ranches in Laikipia – Nkaissery

Nkaissery addresses the press outside the Kenya Red Cross headquarters on Tuesday/JEREMIAH WAKAYA

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 7 – Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery has attributed the crisis between herders and owners of private ranches in Laikipia County to the ongoing drought.

The CS says most pastoralists are just in search of water and food for their animals, which they risk losing if the current situation continues, but he says police have moved in to restore law and order.

“We actually removed animals from all the ranches. This is a problem of the drought,” he said. “It is the one making people move from the natural habitats to private land but we are handling that.”

Owners of the ranches through the Laikipia Farmers Association have however linked the current dispute to local politics saying a series of armed attacks on private property in the area has cost investors billions of shillings and risks ruining businesses and livelihoods in one of Kenya’s most economically buoyant regions.

The association also cautions that wildlife in the thousands of acres, owned by some 65 investors mostly Kenyans of British origin, may be killed by the herders, as the scramble for the meager resources continues.

Five of Laikipia’s approximately 30 tourism enterprises have closed temporarily, including Suyian but the rest remain fully operational.

“The Anti-Stock Theft Unit deployed to Suyian were unable to keep the situation under control, as has been the case for security units during altercations on other private properties, despite their best efforts,” the farmers said.

Among the worst affected are Laikipia’s smallholder farmers whose livestock has been looted or their crops destroyed.

This has led the Laikipia Farmers’ Association to call for more urgent National and County Government intervention to stop the crisis escalating, and to ease the pressures that caused it.

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Among their demands include that the “DPP and Chief Justice establish a special prosecution unit and mobile court for speedy legal action against illegal trespassers, those with illegal weapons, those who maliciously damage property, and those who illegally move livestock.”

The County Government of Laikipia, working with neighbouring counties has been asked to urgently convene a high-level stakeholders’ dialogue to agree on a grazing plan for Laikipia and its surrounding regions, so that the current crisis never happens again.

Martin Evans, the chairman of the association and Managing Director at Ol Maisor Farm says “there has been an escalation in insecurity in Laikipia that has resulted in the loss of life, damage to property, business losses, and harm to wildlife.”

“This is despite our efforts to encourage dialogue between everyone involved, and the efforts of both the county and national Governments to keep the rule of law.”

President Uhuru Kenyatta has since directed the removal of cattle grazing illegally in Laikipia.

“The fact that so far action has been inadequate means that we need more resources and more attention from the authorities on this,” Evans said.

“We are private investors running businesses worth four billion shillings annually to the Kenyan economy, and paying Sh800 million a year in salaries to our 5,000 employees, and we are sure that the government has no intention of seeing us fall into ruin.”

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