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Take drastic steps to end Laikipia mess

Wednesday April 26 2017

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Laikipia County has been the epicentre of violence for several weeks now, pitting large-scale ranchers against herders.

Last month, one of the most prominent ranchers was shot dead by raiders. This week, renowned conservationist Kuki Gallmann was shot and injured in a conflict that is increasingly taking on a much more dangerous trend.

The British High Commission has expressed outrage at the deaths targeting their nationals as the violence escalates without an end in sight.

Last month, Deputy President William Ruto convened a meeting in Laikipia and issued a directive to the security agencies to rein in the bandits.

He promised enhanced security operations to end the violence. But all that has not worked.



Initially, the conflict was framed as a contest over grazing land.

The pastoralists who occupy parts of the county apparently invaded the vast private ranches during the drought in search of pasture and water for their animals.

However, the raids have continued even after the onset of rains and subsequent growth of grass. Clearly, the attacks underscore deep-rooted problem that must be tackled.

As we have said before and must repeat now, the problem in Laikipia is not just about grazing fields.

Rather, it is a social and political problem. It brings to the fore the inequalities in land ownership.


The herders are incited by some politicians to invade the ranches with the belief that the land belonged to their forefathers and was forcibly taken away from them by the colonial administration.

With talks of some of the leases coming to an end after the 99-year lease expiry date, gangs are easily excited to create chaos to force out settlers with the mistaken notion that they can take over the properties.

Land ownership is a powder keg and requires just a trigger to explode.

This is the reason the government must come out forcefully to apprehend those behind the raids and punish them severely to end the mayhem.

Unless drastic action is taken, the situation may deteriorate the Zimbabwe-style and with far-reaching social and economic consequences.