George Natembeya (pictured), the newly appointed Rift Valley Regional Coordinator, has his work cut out for him as he takes over at the regional headquarters in Nakuru.
Mr Natembeya, a career civil servant, is well aware of the task ahead of him as he takes over a bigger administrative role in an expansive region known for frequent incidents of cattle rustling, negative ethnicity, high octane politics and encroachment of forests and key water catchment areas.
He takes over from Mongo Chimwaga, who has been appointed secretary, national administration, in the Ministry of Interior. His elevation has been met with mixed reactions from leaders, locals and security experts.
“Natembeya might be an experienced administrator who has addressed some serious issues like encroachment in the Maasai Mau forest, but he is now walking into a minefield,” said Simiyu Werunga, a security expert.
But Natembeya’s record as an administrator speaks for itself. He has succeeded where many have failed. While working as Narok County Commissioner, Natembeya led the eviction of forest settlers with a gusto that earned him friends and foes in equal measure.
He won accolades from conservation groups and enemies from the political class, especially those representing the communities evicted.
Now, his elevation has taken him straight into a security situation. Reports from Samburu County indicate that some politicians have been arming bandits to engage in cattle rustling
Police are investigating the claims, but Natembeya may have to find a way of immediately mopping up illegal firearms and bringing the communities to the table.
He successfully mopped up illegal firearms in violatile Trans Mara where more than 100 illegal guns were surrendered resulting to lasting peace in the area.
Natembeya faces the daunting task of stopping violent conflicts in a region characterised by frequent incidents of cattle rustling.
Over the years, Baringo, Turkana, West Pokot, Samburu and Elgeyo Marakwet have been experiencing sporadic incidents of banditry. Just two weeks ago, former Kapyego MCA Benson Kiptire was kidnapped and murdered in cold blood and his body dumped in a forest in West Pokot County.
When taking over from Mongo in Nakuru, Natembeya acknowledged that the region was facing numerous challenges in terms of security, negative ethnicity and conservation issues.
He said violent conflicts have become widespread and increasingly severe due to illegal weapons. “I am well aware of the challenges in the region and I am equall to the task. I will crush cattle rustling,” he vowed.
On the top of his in-tray, Natembeya will find a demand by the Ogiek community that wants the National Land Commission (NLC) to issue it with a communal title deed for 21 blocs of the Mau forest.
The Ogiek, a minority group that stakes claim to the Mau forest won a big victory at the African Court in Tanzania three years ago.
The Arusha-based court ruled that the government had infringed on the Ogiek’s rights as the forest has been the community’s ancestral land for decades.
Natembaya has risen through the ranks to become a county commissioner in a distinguished civil service career. He came to the public limelight when he served former Internal Security Minister John Michuki as his personal assistant.
After winning the former powerful minister’s trust, he was promoted to a district commissioner in Murang’a where he took over from Kenneth Lusaka, now the Senate Speaker.
His main task in Murang’a was to deal with the Mungiki menace.
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