Samburu herders vow to block British soldiers out
| May 11th 2015 | 2 min read
Samburu pastoralists have vowed to block entry of British army contingents set to arrive at Laresoro military training centre at Archers Post in a fortnight if they are not going to be compensated for land usage.
The herders, who staged a protest march at the centre on Saturday, are angry that the Jubilee administration entered into a deal with the United Kingdom early this month that allowed for usage of their land for military training of the British army without involving them.
The British army, under the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (Batuk), have been training in jungle maneuver at Mukogodo, Dol-Dol (Laikipia) and Laresoro, Archers Post (Samburu) from mid 1970s.
Under the secretive deal between Kenya and Britain, the Kenya Defence Force (KDF) are trained by the British soldiers at Archers Post through the Kenya Army School of Combat Engineering whose headquarters is based in neighbouring Isiolo County.
KDF also benefits from annual British military aid that includes provision of military hardware, vehicles and cash.
At Mukogodo, Batuk pays for land usage to private ranchers who are mainly British settlers in the country.
Documents seen by The Standard show that the Kenyan government, under the late President Jomo Kenyatta via Kenya Gazette notice number 3210 of October 31, 1977, extended the range area at Laresoro to include settlement areas such as the trading centres of Archers Post and Sereolipi.
The initial land usage was 83,327 acres but, according to the locals and latest map titled ‘Military Training Area’, the national government has extended the area to 113, 653.08 hectares that covers settlement areas of Archers Post and Sereolipi among others.
During the Saturday demonstration, activists who included officials of affected group ranches in Samburu East said in a joint statement:
“Over the years, we have been engaging KDF through their representative at the Department of Defense on discussion for amicable agreements, to allow the group ranch representatives to meet Batuk so as to enter into an agreement like the case of private ranchers in Lakipia County’’.
Alois Leariwala, the chairman of Losesia Group Ranch, said both KDF and the British soldiers have extended their training into private lands used by herders to graze their livestock.
He said his team wants to enter into agreement with DoD and Batuk directly for the way forward.
“We do not want to deal with proxies from Batuk and KDF like officers from 78 Tank Battalion or School of Combat Engineering all based in Isiolo. We demand to have an agreement like they reached with private ranchers in Laikipia,’’ said Mr Leariwala.
The protesters handed over their memorandum, addressed to President Uhuru Kenyatta, to the assistant county commissioner of Waso Division.
In their petition, the herders vowed that they would physically block the entry of the British soldiers if their demands are not met.
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