Leaders say land speculators fueling insecurity in Lapsset corridor

Construction of the Kenol-Marua dual carriageway project, October 7, 2020. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

For years cattle rustlers from neighbouring counties have made away with livestock, leaving a trail of death and destruction in Meru.

While at a casual glance, it may appear as if these are cattle thieves, it is now believed the raids are an attempt to grab un-adjudicated land along the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor in Nyambene.

Elders, leaders, and experts believe the conflict over pasture is just a smokescreen for the wider scheme to grab land.

Many locals in Meru vacated their homes near the Isiolo border because of persistent clashes with herders and cattle rustlers.

“A cartel of rich people are out to deprive locals of their land and are behind the insecurity incidents in Nyambene, in a bid to drive out locals from their land. The aim is to have the land registered in their names when adjudication starts, because of expected development in Nyambene area neighbouring the Isiolo border,” said George Murithi, an elder at Muthara, Tigania East.

With the vast land along the Lapsset corridor lacking title deeds, Meru leaders have warned that land speculators have invaded the area.

“They fund cattle rustling, farm invasions, and other insecurity incidents,” Dennis Kimathi, an elder, claimed.

Kimathi and Igembe North MP Julius Taitumu have called for an operation to recover stolen livestock and illegal firearms in the hands of rustlers and herders.

Taitumu regretted that cattle rustling has impoverished residents of Nyambene who mainly rely on livestock for sustenance.

On December 15, Interior and National Government Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki presided over the graduation of 140 police reservists who were deployed in various sub-counties hit by insecurity.

“In the one year we have been in office as the Kenya Kwanza administration we have made gains and put in place measures which will eliminate cattle rustling,” Prof Kindiki said.

Security expert Dr Kirimi Arimi said it was important to explore the circumstances fueling crime in the region.

“All I know is if weak security systems and a conducive place are serving as a hideout for criminals (rustlers), or even the proliferation of illegal arms may facilitate cattle rustling, apart from the cultural factor. To understand the real motive, it is prudent to explore the circumstances surrounding the crime in the region, including how often this occurs,” said Dr Arimi.

“Every crime has a motive, commercial, political gain, strategic displacement of the inhabitants of the area under attack. It is also good to explore the possibility of collaborators from the target area. This and structured security can boost the fight. Rustling, just like terrorism does not only  threaten the lives of the inhabitants but also impoverishes the entire community," he added.