Give back 105 camels held by county to owners, court says

A herder milks a camel in Mwatate in Taita-Taveta County yesterday. [Renson Mnyamwezi, Standard]

The county government has been ordered to release 105 camels in its custody to their owners.

Justice Farah Amin gave the orders when he ruled on a petition by four pastoralists who claimed that the county government had illegally rounded up and detained the camels as they grazed at Teri B ranch on October 25.

“In the event that the animals are not released, they shall be held at a suitable enclosure and provided with adequate food, water and shelter to satisfy this court that they are not subjected to any unnecessary suffering,” ruled Justice Amin.

The judge further directed that the county government cater for the expenses of holding the camels if it does not release them.

Cruel treatment

The suit filed by Mohamed Bishar, Mohamed Hassan, Rahow Maalim and Kullow Ibrahim accuses the county government of mistreating the pastoralists, and arbitrarily holding their camels and subjecting them to hunger.

According to the petitioners, some of the camels had calves, which had also been subjected to cruel treatment.

Mr Bishar, in his affidavit to support the application, accused Governor Granton Samboja of sparking the dispute and driving a wedge between the pastoralist Somali and other communities in the county.

“On October 20 while addressing Mashujaa Day celebrations, the governor made a declaration that he shall be mobilising members of the county assembly and the public to drive out all camels belonging to herdsmen from the Somali community,” said Bishar.

He alleged that the governor effected his threats on October 25 when he mobilised the public, while in the company of police officers, to invade Teri B ranch and flushed out all camels grazing in the area.

Ethnic profiling

The petitioner claimed that the governor’s declaration that lead to the camels’ detention bordered on ethnic profiling and inciting the public against Somalis living in Taita Taveta.

“There have been no complaints by the ranch owners or dispute from anybody over the camels’ presence at the ranches. The governor’s utterances are therefore misguided and uncalled for,” said Bishar.

He added that the camels had been beneficial to the nearby community by providing a constant supply of milk, thereby promoting good business and offering many youths employment.

Bishar said using police to drive out their animals was illegal and intended to cripple their owners economically and render them destitute since the Somali community in Taita Taveta solely depended on camel-rearing to sustain its livelihood.

He added that if there was any dispute concerning rearing of the camels, there should have been other means to address it instead of detaining the animals.

Justice Amin allowed the petitioners to amend the case to name the county officials responsible for withholding their camels so that the court can take action against them.