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Tension high in Taita-Taveta as camels invade farms

Tension is high in parts of Taita-Taveta County following the invasion of farms by illegal herders. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Tension is high in parts of Taita-Taveta County following the invasion of farms by illegal herders.

Members of the County Assembly yesterday told the House that the herders had invaded farms in search of pasture and water, a situation that was compromising security in the region.

The matter came up in the county assembly where the MCAs asked the county and national governments to flush out the herders at Chakaleri in Mwatate Sub-county and Marungu in Voi Sub-county.

Bertina Mwaiseghe, a nominated MCA, told the assembly Speaker Meshack Maganga that the herders were sexually harassing women found fetching water and firewood in the forest.

“The herders are employed by politicians and well-connected individuals. They are invading farms and harassing locals,” said Mwaiseghe.

Ngolia MCA Jones Mghanga and nominated MCA Christopher Mwambingu said the herders are operating with impunity and had in the past killed dozens of farmers in the area.

But Marungu MCA Paul Waweru noted that the herders had leased farms from locals to feed their animals.

“And in the process of going to these farms, they destroy food crops. Farmers whose crops have been destroyed should seek compensation,” he said.

Kaloleni Ward Rep Ahmed Omar said the local farmers should report the matter to the police for action. “Those claiming to have been assaulted by the herders should report to the police.” 

Wundanwi-Mbale MCA Stephen Mcharo told the House that it was the herders who are committing the crimes and not their employers.

He asked the county administration to implement the livestock policy to regulate illegal herding and uncontrolled movement of livestock in the region.

"Some of the illegal herders are said to be armed,” said Mcharo.

Speaker Maganga directed the Agriculture Department, through the assembly Livestock committee, to table a comprehensive report on the matter next Tuesday.

Mwaate Sub-county Police Commander Ahmed Abdille urged the residents to report the cases to the police for action.

“Nobody has complained to us that he or she has been harassed by the herders. We will only act based on reports made at the police station,” he said.

In the recent past, scores of herders have been killed and others seriously injured in an apparent retaliatory attack by hostile residents of Sagala, Voi Sub-county.

The herders were attacked at Majengo by youths mourning their colleague who was allegedly killed by the herders.

Alex Mlambo, a peasant farmer, is said to have been killed at his farm in Sagala by the herders who invaded his farm.

In retaliation, residents slaughtered over 60 camels valued at over Sh9 million belonging to the illegal herders. The residents also attacked and critically injured two herders.

In another incident, two herders suspected to have killed a boda boda rider were attacked by an angry mob in Marungu.

Recently, the government conducted a security operation and drove the herders out of people’s settlement areas. But residents claimed the herders had brought back their animals.

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