Tana River leaders have blamed Kenya Wildlife Chairman Richard Leakey of the conflict between the game wardens and pastoralists along the Tana River-Voi border.
Speaking in Asa-Kone, Tana Delta, during the ground breaking ceremony for a police post, Garsen MP Ali Guyo accused Mr. Leakey of running the affairs of KWS like a military camp.
The MP said the conservationist was behind the arrest of “innocent pastoralists” and confiscation of a huge number of livestock that were grazing on protected areas.
“Mr. Leakey is the biggest problem to the pastoralist communities in Tana River County. He is the man behind the pain and losses the pastoralists are going through in this county,” said Mr Guyo.
His sentiments were echoed by Tana River Senator Juma Wario, who said that Mr. Leakey had become a thorn in the flesh of the pastoralists, especially those who live near game reserves and conservation areas.
Mr Wario said the drought that had hit the county and led to a shortage of pasture was sufficient reason for herdsmen to graze their livestock in the safe parts of the forest, but many of them have been arrested and detained in Voi.
“Do not worry about this Leakey guy, we will deal with him come next year. If you offend the pastoralist communities in Tana River, you have offended Juma Wario, and so far, this cock has crowed beyond salvation,” said the senator.
Mr Wario said he opposes the Galana conservation project, which he said would not be of significance to the communities around that area and would only bring another rift between the communities and the authorities in charge.
He also accused KDF officers in Asa-Kone of harassing pastoralists by always demanding they show their identification.
“These are pastoralists, all they do is graze cattle. They are not Al-Shabaab that you have to enforce the ancient Kipande system on them. Let them have their peace,” said Mr Wario.
The senator urged Governor Dhadho Godhana to address the matter of grazing and harassment of pastoralists.
Mr Godhana also condemned the arrest of Tana River pastoralists and their detention in Voi, Taita Taveta County.
The governor said that all criminals arrested within the borders of Tana River should be detained in the county.
Mr. Godhana presided over the ground breaking ceremony of a police post in Asa-Kone, which would see all criminals arrested within the county by external security authorities detained and prosecuted by courts within the county.
The governor also demanded that Mr. Leakey acquire conservation licences from the Tana River County and pay taxes to the county for his Kora Game Reserve and any other conservation projects he has in the county.
NOT AT FAULT
The county leaders, however, urged residents to live in harmony with the game wardens, asking them not to be part of any poaching as that would amount to serious penalties.
Reached for comment, Tana River Senior Warden John Wambua said Mr. Leakey was not to blame for pastoralists’ woes. He said the law prohibits people from grazing their domestic animals in game reserves.
Mr Wambua said domestic animals and herders are not safe in the forests as they are vulnerable to attacks by wild animals. But the herders are also a danger to wildlife as they injure or kill the animals when attacked.
“We have had incidences where these same individuals invaded the wild territory and were killed by the wild game. Some of their animals were killed and they later came to claim compensation, which is not fair to us,” said Mr Wambua.
He urged residents to stay away from game reserves as the KWS would not compensate them for any such losses.