Central Kenya Residents Worried Ahead Of Polls
Machete in hand, Kenyan villager John Kamau stalked the rim of Rift Valley, protecting his farm from pastoralists and raiders that he says have been emboldened by upcoming elections.
Six policemen were killed in Kamau’s village in July, the latest in a string of deadly attacks in Laikipia county, which has been hit by violence in recent months.
“On 12th of this month (July) that was the worst, they committed the worst crime by killing our officers from ASTU (anti stock theft unit) Gilgil including the deputy commandant, who had come to visit officers who are attached at Matweku,” the officer commanding the police division, Ezekiel Chepkwoni, said.
Armed cattle-herders searching for dwindling grazing land as a drought worsens have driven tens of thousands of cattle onto private farms and ranches, fuelling the violence.
Between 40 and 75 percent of Laikipia – the country’s second most important wildlife area after the Maasai Mara – is owned by cattle ranches and wildlife conservancies of up to about 100,000 acres.
Now, Laikipia residents say local politicians are encouraging herders to invade private land to win support ahead of August elections and displace those who might vote against them.
A resident, Anne Njoki, said, “When they (the herders) came to my house, they broke all the doors with their guns, three forced themselves to my bedroom while holding their guns, eight naked people followed those with guns. They were asking where they would find us but we were hiding under our beds and they did not find us. The only thing they did is assault my daughter and my sons. They were all beaten.”
Laikipia rancher, Maria Dodds, said, “This is home; we don’t have anywhere else to go. We’re Kenyans, I’m born here, my husband is born here, I have a Kenyan passport. I don’t have anywhere else to go.
“This is home and people have said to us – ‘well, why don’t you leave, how did you, how did you put up with getting shot at every single day for three and a half weeks?
“Well, when you don’t have an option. And also, why should it be taken by force? You know there’s, you know if you want it, there is a way of, you know, dealing with that. You can’t take it by force, that’s not the way to do it.”
Laikipia North’s local member of parliament, Mathew Lempurkell, was charged at the chief magistrate’s court in Nairobi on Thursday (July 27) with racial contempt and inciting violence against white farmers and other Kenyan communities in the area. Lempurkell pleaded not guilty.
Kenya goes to the polls on August 8.