Residents of Likia and Mauche in Njoro, Nakuru County have decried the government’s move to ban grazing and farming activities in Logoman Forest.
The ban came to effect over the weekend following rampant cases of cattle rustling.
Njoro Deputy County Commissioner Kennedy Lunalo told the Nation that Logoman, which forms part of the Mau Forest complex, had been turned into a hideout for criminals.
“There are about three communities who stay around Logoman and, for years, they have had freedom to use the forest to graze livestock and practice farming activities for their own benefits but close to a period of one year, they have suddenly turned the forest into battle field for resources,” he said.
But the affected residents said they had planted vegetables, maize and potatoes, among other crops, but currently they cannot access the farms following the ban.
“Most of us preferred the forest land to grow our crops because the area receives regular rainfall throughout the year. We are worried because for now do not know about tomorrow and what our children will feed on,” narrated Mr Karanja Njue, a resident at Mauche village.
Another resident, Ms Pauline Chepkoech, said she is opposed to the ban, adding that the police should have gone for those behind cattle rustling.
“The people behind these cases are few and it is not the entire community. We have been forced to carry the culprits’ burden while the police would have carried out a search to identify and arrest them,” she lamented.
At the same time, herders said they have been left to seek other alternatives for their animals after police were instructed to flush out everyone from the vicinity of the forest.
On Friday Last week, officers from the Anti-Stock Theft Unit arrested four suspected cattle rustlers and recovered three cows.
Since February, close to five lives have been lost in battles as residents pursue their stolen livestock.
The most recent death occurred a week ago when a man was attacked and killed while on a mission to track his stolen sheep.
John Kiprotich Koech was found murdered inside the forest a day after he had left his home in Likia.
Nakuru County Commissioner Erastus Mbui said several peace meetings held to reconcile various ethnic communities in the area have not borne fruit.
“Personally I have been in the fore front to reunite these people and even called others and talked to them one on one to try and identify the core reasons behind the battles but it has not been successful,” said Mr Mbui.
He added that long-standing hostilities between the three communities in the region have been attributed to the rampant theft of cows, sheep and goats.
“Anyone found defying the government rules will be arrested and charged in court,” he said.