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Seven killed after row over grazing rights in Meru takes nasty turn

By Phares Mutembei | Jan 7th 2022 | 3 min read


A section of residents barricade the Muriri-Isiolo road at Mwerokimenyi in Tigania East in Meru, after herders from Isiolo were blamed for seven deaths in the area. [George Kaimenyi, Standard]

At least seven people were killed over grazing land conflict in Tigania East, Meru County on Wednesday night.

Raiders who were armed with guns and other weapons went on a shooting spree in Mweronkoro, Lokichi, Matabithi, and Johanna villages in the semi-arid area, where large chunks of land are yet to be adjudicated and titled.

The attackers from the neighbouring county were angered after residents on the Meru side protested after the former refused to drive out their livestock.

Yesterday when County Commissioner Karuku Ngumo and Tigania East OCOD Peter Karanja led a large security operation in the areas near the border, bereaved families and residents wailed for the dead.

Charles Kamuibua who chairs the Meru community peace and conflict resolution committee said it was regrettable that the conflict pitting herders from outside Meru and residents had resulted in the deaths.

“During dry seasons herders bring large herds of camels and other livestock into grazing land and farms. It is raining now and the locals have planted and wanted the herders to drive their camels out,” said Mr Kamuibua.

But asked to leave, the herders refused to drive out their livestock forcing the residents to take matters into their own hands and forcefully remove the camels out of their area.

“The herders returned with a vengeance and shot dead the victims in different places,” he said.

Two were shot dead at Lokichi and others at Matabithi and Johana areas. According to Kamuibua eight more people from local community remained missing, and locals fear the worst. Stephen Mucheke, a community elder, said the people feared venturing into the field to look for the missing ones.

They fear raiders are out there laying in wait, he said. Angry residents barricaded the Isiolo-Muriri road in protest against the insecurity which they said had compromised livelihoods.

The first shot was fired around at dusk on Wednesday while subsequent deaths happened as the attackers went on a shooting rampage in large areas. Yesterday in the afternoon County Commissioner Karuku Ngumo, Tigania East OCPD Peter Karanja and other security bosses and representatives of the communities were holed up in a meeting to quell the tension that gripped the area.

Ngumo yesterday only confirmed that five bodies had been recovered. Karuku said he was on his way to speak to his Isiolo counterpart and his security committee over the issue. Ngumo appealed for calm to allow police to deal with the issue and assured residents the herders who were in Meru without permission will be driven out.

“I have directed more police officers be stationed at Matabithi. The communities should dialogue because the problem is on grazing land.”

Meru Parliamentary Group Chairman Kathuri Murungi (South Imenti) said MPs in Meru will discuss the issue on Monday as the conflict pitting communities along the border had consistently led to the loss of lives and livelihoods.

“The conflict which did not start yesterday has led to deaths and loss of livelihoods. There have been killings, but no arrests,” lamented the MP.

He added: “There must be a solution and the State should beef up security in areas near the border.

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