Community conservancies in Isiolo County have castigated Governor Mohamed Kuti for linking them to insecurity in the region.
Members of eight community conservancies in the county held a peaceful demonstration in Isiolo town and marched to the office of County Commissioner John Ondego to demand an explanation on why they were being linked to insecurity.
The conservancies in Isiolo include Biliqo Bulesa, Nakuprat-Gotu, Nasuulu, Leparua, Oldonyiro Narupa, Oldonyiro Nanapicho, Oldonyiro Naapu and Oldonyiro Nannapa.
Governor Kuti and Isiolo Woman Rep Rehema Jaldesa recently blamed insecurity experienced in Chari ward on the firearms held by the conservancies and called for the scrapping of the wildlife sanctuaries.
They pointed fingers at the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), an organisation that facilitates the running of community conservancies.
“In my last 18 years in leadership, I have maintained that NRT is causing animosity through the conservancies. They give people vehicles, guns and communication gadgets which cause insecurity,” Governor Kuti said.
He claimed that there was an armoury at the Lewa Conservancy, which hosts the NRT headquarters, from where community conservancies are supplied with firearms.
But Mr Ondego, who addressed the protesters, said there was no armoury in the private conservancy.
“NRT does not own any guns. The rangers are given the firearms by the government under the National Police Reservists. We engage them when we need reinforcement and air surveillance,” Mr Ondego said.
The conservancy members led by Biliqo Bulesa chairperson Habiba Tadicha accused the leaders of making statements without consulting locals who run the facilities.
Ms Tadicha said they get many benefits from conservancies due to improved economic activities from tourism.
“Our leaders announced that they would do away with the conservancies without consulting us. Community conservancies have created employment for hundreds of locals, improved livelihoods and security both for human beings and wildlife. We are now giving bursaries to the needy students through income from the conservancy,” Ms Tadicha said.
Turkana Council of Elders chairman Albena Ekitela said the conservancies are playing a key role in creating harmony among communities in Isiolo.
“I urge the governor and other leaders to engage us on what they believe is the problem before calling for abolition of conservancies,” said Mr Rashid Maalim.
Mr Maalim said locals have benefited immensely, with more than 200 youth having been engaged in wildlife conservation.
“These youth were previously engaged in criminal activities but they are now taking part in building our economy. At Nasulu conservancy, women groups get Sh5 million every year. Several schools have been supported by the conservancies. We want more conservancies in Isiolo for more people to benefit,” Mr Maalim said.
The protesters said abolishing conservancies will stall development in the arid areas.
NRT facilitates the running of 39 community conservancies across 10 counties in northern Kenya and at the Coast.