Court declines to hold state to account for banditry, floods

A man cleans his shoes at River Kandisi where five people were swept away by a flash flood in Rongai Kajiado County. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The High Court has dismissed a case that sought to hold the government to account for banditry menace, flood havoc, and lakes swelling due to climate change.

Justice Anthony Mrima, in his judgment, said that 91 petitioners who were representing the Ilchamus Community did not give evidence that the government had failed to end banditry in the region and had failed to intervene during floods and lake swelling.

Ilchamus Community is a Maa-speaking sub-tribe of Maasai living mainly in South East of Lake Baringo within Baringo County.

The case involved about 40,000 Ilchamus community members and was about displacements and loss of property.

In the case, the group led by John Leoko argued that the government had neglected the Illchamus owing to its small numerical strength.

They asserted that the government had left the community to deal with perennial floods and banditry.

However, Justice Mrima found that there was no proof that the government had slept in its job.

In addition, he said, the government can only take gradual steps to achieve some aspirations that Kenyans want based on its financial muscle.

He said that in some instances, the aftermath is more devastating than what the government can handle.

“A case at hand is the current flooding hitting the country. Despite the Weatherman having warned of such heavy rains, and the Government has put necessary interventions in place, still the resultant rains were so heavy such that massive destruction of property and life were visited on the country,” said Justice Mrima.

In the case, the court heard that the Pokot, a neighbouring community have conducted raids and banditry on them since the year 2005, often with devastating consequences and the Government has not done much.

The Ilchamus accused the government of responding ‘symptomatically’ without ending the menace.

At the same time, they claimed that the swelling of Lake Baringo and floods have rendered the community destitute by submerging houses and destroying properties.

It was their case that the disaster complained about could not be cited as an Act of God, since the swelling of Lake Baringo was a fact that was foreseeable for a long time.

The community asserted that climate change is not a novel idea and its aftermath on the people is well within the knowledge of the Government.

The court heard that it was not enough for the government to order the community to relocate without considering that banditry had rendered them poor.

 They accused the government of turning a blind eye to disasters that could render the Ilchamus extinct.

The community had sued the Attorney General, Interior Ministry, Education Ministry and Devolution Ministry.

In response, the government urged the court to dismiss the case. It asserted that floods are an act of God.

At the same time, it asserted that the Ilchamus were part of Kenya adding that they are treated equally as other Kenyans.

It also urged the court to find that it cannot be forced to perform its duties in a particular way.

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