Leaders call for arrest of herders in Meru killings

ODM leader Raila Odinga, Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi and other leaders at the requiem mass for seven people killed by suspected camel herders from Isiolo last Wednesday. [George Kaimenyi, Standard]

Communities living on the troubled border of Meru and Isiolo counties want the government to compensate families of seven people killed in a night of skirmishes in the area.

The community issued a raft of demands they want the national and county governments to address, as a Mass for the seven was held at Mweronkoro in Tigania East yesterday.

It was a burial attended by opposition leader Raila Odinga, Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, Governor Kiraitu Murungi, Siaya Senator James Orengo and six local MPs including the national assembly deputy chief whip Maore Maoka.

Raila said it was unacceptable for Kenyans to be killed senselessly and called for swift police action.

"What is needed is to hunt them and take them to through the legal procedures. It is the duty of police to arrest perpetrators. If no action is taken, the perpetrators will be bold enough to repeat it another day," Raila said.

Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi who issued an order to have livestock brought into the county by herders from Isiolo be driven back said the firearms taken from reservists and 22 rangers deployed by Agriculture CS Peter Munya when he served as governor should be returned.

At the same time Kiraitu said he was ready to provide a patrol vehicle for the rangers if the guns are restored to secure the Nyambene region where cattle raiders have attacked before.

"We want them vetted and rearmed. If it happens I will take them back to camp and give them a vehicle," Kiraitu said who also called for speeding up of land adjudication in the area.

Munya who brought president Uhuru Kenyatta condolences said the killings was not about ethnic or border dispute with Isiolo but an act of crime.

"What has happened here is people going into people's farms and killing. It should be dealt with as such," Munya said.

Maore said the land on which the seven were killed was both grazing land and farmlands, adding that herders from outside should stay in their county in view of what had happened before.

He asked county assembly to pass a law prohibiting the entrance of livestock from outside.

Senator James Orengo vouched for a special sitting for police to tell the National Assembly what transpired.

Deputy Inspector General Edward Mbugua said the police were ready to vet and arm individuals approved by chiefs, Njuri Ncheke and other members of the community.

Two of the slain men were felled by bullets at the grounds where the joint prayers were conducted.

The residents said they had suffered for long with armed raiders crossing over from the neighbouring county and making away with large numbers of livestock, the mainstay in the arid region.

A team of lawyers led by Mugambi Laichena from Tigania West said in addition to ensuring the government took measures to adequately enhance security in the areas near the border where land disputes have contributed to past clashes, they wanted land officers who had served for long to be moved as residents had lost confidence in them.

Mr Laichena who was in the team that drew the residents' memorandum read at the event, said the frequent cattle raids and violent clashes over pasture needed to be addressed as livelihoods were at risk.

"The top issue the community want is for security to be beefed up, to protect lives and property. We want the border to be protected," Laichena added.

But the lawyer said the aggrieved residents who had lost breadwinners should be compensated and the killers arrested for justice to be done by the courts.

"We want our people compensated and perpetrators brought to book," Laichena said.

He added: "Where the people were killed is our grazing land which sustains livelihoods for the mainly livestock dependent community. We want to be given protection."

Tigania West MP John Mutunga said the security situation in his area was lax, and he wants personnel increased to enhance it.

"I do not have enough police officers in Tigania West, because I have only 105 officers. Out of those there are those not at work. Yet there are 136, 000 residents. The ratio of one police officer to residents of 1,295, is not right," Mr Mutunga said.

Mr Mutunga said despite putting up police stations in the area, some remained unmanned.

"We are terribly understaffed, yet we have put up officers housing.My people graze in Tigania East and when something happens they suffer. We need special forces there and our reservists to be re-armed," Mutunga added.

Eala MP Mpuru Aburi said in 2016, reservists had 51 guns which government repossessed.

"Our people tend to livestock with sticks yet the raiders have guns" said Aburi.

Former National Cohesion and Integration Commission member Prof Gitile Naituli said.

Jackson Ng'ang'a who spoke on behalf of the bereaved families said they were both angry and sad, because it was not the first time they were burying their own from such killings in the area.

Ng'ang'a said innocent lives were lost and demanded the government takes action.

"We are both angry and sad. In normal circumstances we are not supposed to be angry but the manner these innocent souls died we have questions. When there is a problem it is the government that is supposed to answer us," said Ng'ang'a.

 National Cohesion and Integration Commission Chairman Dr Samuel Kobia said the commission was planning to roll out a peace and reconciliation process in the areas, and a programe to reach out to the affected families.

"We have agreed we will have a programme for peace, healing and reconciliation with all, including with youth and women," said Kobia.

He said the commission had engaged the Meru and Isiolo County commissioners in a bid to restore peace and cohesion.

Former commissioner Prof Gitile Naituli said they had no problem with their neighbours in Isiolo but the criminal elements.

"A simillar thing happened in Ntonyiri last year and MP Maoka Maore was able to bring GSU to the ground," said Naituli.

Njuri Ncheke Council of elders Secretary General Josphat Murungi said as elders they castigated the incident, noting it was recurrent.

"I am announcing here that we will not sit and watch our people getting killed. It's an era to leave wherever you want in Kenya but we do not want to be conducting burials," Murangiri said.

He said the community had been generous by welcoming others and said the trust land belonging to community will not be touched.

He said Njuri will deliberate on the issue and recommend ways of resolving the long lasting conflict.

He asked for clear boundaries to be done and asked for removal of land adjudication officers in the region.

It was a call reinforced by Meru Assembly Majority leader Victor Kariithi who said the Njuri had given an ultimatum of two weeks for the land adjudication officers to be removed to pave way for proper processes, as residents had lost land to Invaders.

Central Imenti MP Moses Kirima and Igembe Central's Kubai Kiringo regretted reservists on Meru side had their guns taken and they were not able to protect themselves.

"We want guns to protect ourselves. We do not have guns yet others have guns," Kirima said.