Officials of a ranch in Taita Taveta County have raised alarm following a spate of attacks by youths who steal and destroy their property with impunity.
The managers of Wushumbu Ranch put their losses at more than Sh15 million, adding that their employees were also targeted in the night attacks.
Ranch chairman Jimmy Mwamidi said members cannot access the property without the help of the police, which was frustrating investment in the region.
“We have recorded a total of seven incidents in the Occurrence Books at the Rukanga and Voi police stations. We have also identified well-known suspects to law enforcement officers, but in vain. A security operation should be done to rid the area of the terrifying gang that is causing anarchy,” he said yesterday.
Mwamidi was addressing the Press at the ranch, which is located in Kasigau area. Also present was a team of police officers led by Officer Commanding Station Mwaraisi Zani.
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“Last week, the gang raided the ranch and beat up workers, torched staff houses and destroyed a borehole used by livestock and wildlife besides vandalising solar panels among other properties,” said Mwamidi.
He continued: The ranch has in the recent past seen 95 head of cattle worth more Sh4.7 million stolen by the gang that is also subdividing and allocating itself ranch land.”
The official also claimed that the ranch has been invaded by illegal herders, miners and charcoal burners who present a security threat.
Mwamidi said they have spent more than Sh5 million on security, adding that the money would have been better invested for the benefit of the ranch’s nearly 1,000 shareholders.
The chairman, who was accompanied by ranch secretary James Kinusa and his assistant Mercy Mwazuna, said they have lined up a number of income-generating activities like sorghum farming, bee keeping, fattening livestock for export, and hay production, among other activities, to help transform members’ lives.
“It is unfortunate that we have to be escorted by the police to access our registered facility. We are asking Interior CS Fred Matiang’i and Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai to intervene.
“The local security officials are doing little to protect the property of registered ranches that is why we are appealing to higher authorities to save the situation before it gets out of hand,” said Mwamidi.
The rancher’s sentiments echoed frustrations expressed by residents that a hostile group numbering nearly 200 individuals was seizing and subdividing land with the full knowledge of security officers.
Two residents found demarcating land claimed that the land in question belongs to the local community.
“Our land was illegally allocated to non-indigenous people and we have nowhere to farm. We decided to sub-divide the land to not only improve food security, but also transform our lives,” said the men who were identified as squatters.
The men claimed their actions had the blessings of village elders. “The land belongs to us and we have not broken any law. Those people saying that we have encroached on their property are wrong.”
But Mwamidi said there is a clear boundary demarcating the ranch and community land. “The gang is causing anarchy yet the country has a government. It is as if we are living in a banana republic.”
The chairman said they had given the names of nine suspects to the police, but no action had been taken.
“It is heartbreaking that nobody has been arrested and prosecuted in connection with the invasion and malicious damage to property. We have been denied justice. The suspects have been emboldened because they have been left free to conduct their illegal activities with impunity.”
Chief Johana Mwambuso said investigations into the criminal activities committed in the ranch are still going on. His office, he added, was compiling a report to be submitted to his superiors for action.
“We have witnessed torching of property and charcoal burning. A suspected charcoal burner was arrested by police and later released. There is lawlessness in the ranch and the government is doing everything possible to contain the situation,” said Mwambuso.
Mwamidi disclosed that the ranchers had met with the sub-county security committee chaired by Deputy County Commissioner Joseph Lewa, but little had come out of the meeting.
Lewa has convened another stakeholders’ meeting today to help find a lasting solution to the invasions.
“We have been invited to attend the meeting at the administrator’s offices in Voi town,” confirmed Kinusa.