Laikipia farmers decry 'forceful eviction' of their workers ahead of polls


Pokot herders with their animals amidst elephants at Mugie in Laikipia on February 03, 2017. Photo/Suleiman Mbatiah

Hundreds of people have fled Ol Moran in Laikipia West following a massive crackdown on illegal grazers.

Hundreds of manyattas erected by the illegal herders were burnt down yesterday, forcing them to flee the area.

Bandits killed six police officers at Matwiku last week. Those killed included Kenya Defence Forces soldiers and officers from the Anti-Stock-Theft Unit of the Kenya Police Service. They had been deployed along the Baringo-Laikipia border to weed out bandits.

Locals said the manyattas were destroyed in an exchange of fire between the grazers and the police at night.

"After some of their manyattas were burnt down on Monday, the illegal grazers retaliated by opening fire on security officers. The fighting happened deep inside the Laikipia Nature and Conservancy, where the herders have been hiding," said Nicholas Ndirangu, a resident.

He said hundreds of residents had fled the area for fear of being attacked.

"People are living in fear of being attacked and that is why most of them have fled the region. A local market that normally opens today failed after traders and buyers failed to turn up," he said.

Learning has also been affected as pupils kept off schools.

"Parents kept their children away from school because of the night-long exchange of fire between herders and security officers. That is why the schools are deserted," said Ndirangu.

More than 300 police officers and soldiers have been deployed in Matwiku, Kamwenje and Ol Moran.

Nyahururu OCPD Ezekiel Chepkwony said the police would not allow illegal grazers to invade private land.

"We have to deal with this menace once and for all. We shall not allow outsiders to live here illegally. They are causing chaos in the region," he said.

Governorship aspirant Ndiritu Muriithi has welcomed the police operation. "This is the only way to end this menace. The operation will wipe the bandits out," said Mr Murithi.

This came as farmers and conservationists called for deployment of more security officers and election monitors to guard against electoral fraud.

In a statement, Laikipia Farmers Association (LFA) said: "Those who incited herders to invade private farms are out to evict voters ahead of polls."

LFA represents private investors, ranchers, land owners, property managers and businesses operating 58 enterprises in the county.

"In the current environment of lawlessness, it will be difficult to hold free and fair elections in affected parts of Laikipia," the statement reads further.