Lodge closed after herders invade ranch in Laikipia

Tuesday January 31 2017

A herder walks home with his camels in Loglogo,

A herder walks home with his camels in Loglogo, Samburu County on January 25, 2017 after walking kilometres in search of pasture and water. Herders believed to be from Samburu Sunday invaded Suyian Ranch in Laikipia and destroyed a lodge forcing its closure. PHOTO | PHOEBE OKALL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By STEVE NJUGUNA
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A lodge situated in Suyian Ranch in Laikipia North has been closed indefinitely following an invasion by herders on Sunday.

The herders said to be from the Samburu community reportedly forced themselves into the ranch with their livestock in search of pasture and burnt down the lodge and the main gate.

According to an anti-stock theft police officer who is among five officers deployed to the area, after destroying the lodge, the herders who were brandishing guns and other crude weapons proceeded to stores and garages where they started looting.

The officer said that the herders also tried to harass visitors and shot at elephants in the ranch, prompting a fierce fire exchange between them and the police.

One of the herders was shot dead during the fire exchange prompting more aggression.

“They vandalised everything at the ranch and also tried to harass visitors. This prompted us to open fire at the herders who were [many]. We managed to evacuate all visitors and no one was injured,” said the officer who sought anonymity.

LARGEST WILDLIFE CONCENTRATION

The 44,000-acre ranch is home to the largest concentrations of wildlife in the Laikipia ecosystem and is owned by Mr Gilfred Powys, the chairman of Laikipia ranchers.

The ranch is one of the biggest in the county.

The lodge that was burnt down belonged to Mr Powys’ daughter, Ms Anne Powys.

A worker, only identified as Johnson, said that they have since closed down the ranch as the lodge that was burnt down served as the main hotel.

"We are not operating as the attackers burned down the main tourist lodge where we accommodate our visitors. They also looted our stores and garages,” he said.

LEADERS CONDEMN INVASION

Leaders from the county led by Women Rep Jane Apollos condemned the attack and appealed to the government to deploy more security officers to keep off herders from invading private land.

“The government should deploy more security officers to this area to [prevent] such kind of the attacks. Now the lodge has been closed down and this means that our people who have been working (there) will lose their jobs,” noted Ms Apollos.

In his recent tour of Laikipia and Samburu counties, President Uhuru Kenyatta warned pastoralists against invading private ranches.

The President directed regional administrators to evict herders who have invaded private land.

Many herders from Samburu, Isiolo, Baringo and West Pokot counties have invaded Laikipia in search of pasture and water as drought continue to ravage most parts of the country.