The Times- will cripple economy, warn Kenyan farmers

From The UK Times online

Marauding nomads will cripple economy, warn Kenyan farmers

Jerome Starkey, Africa Correspondent
February 2 2017, 5:00pm,
The Times…/marauding-nomads-are-ruining-ke…

Kenyan farmers have blamed politicians for a series of deadly land invasions that could cripple the economy and called for urgent reinforcements to protect their ranches from heavily armed bands of marauding nomads.

At least three people have been killed and dozens more have been injured in a series of clashes between cattle herders and police who guard vast, privately owned farms on Kenya’s Laikipia plateau.

Hundreds of animals have also been killed, including cattle, antelope and six critically endangered elephants, since the raids escalated last month.

Four tourist lodges were shut and a fifth was burnt down in two raids on Sunday and Monday nights.

Politicians claim that the raids are driven by desperation as herders seek pasture for their cows to survive a looming drought. Landowners have accused the politicians of inciting the pastoralists — who have community grazing areas — to break onto private land as a ploy to win votes.

“Many of the recent series of invasions of private property are driven by the agendas of politicians facing difficult re-election bids in August, who seek to win support by suggesting that people will face no action if they force their livestock onto private land,” said Laikipia Farmers’ Association, which represents investors, land owners and property managers.

The raids risk “ruining businesses and livelihoods in one of Kenya’s most economically buoyant regions”, the association added.

Britain updated its travel advice on Tuesday to warn of “armed incursions onto private farms and wildlife conservation areas” in Laikipia, where the army keeps a training garrison.

Martin Evans, the LFA’s chairman, said that Kenya’s reputation was at stake.

“We are ready to help the government however they need us but it’s their responsibility to enforce the rule of law that keeps Kenya as East Africa’s number one destination for private investment and tourism,” he said. “We can’t believe that those who lead us would want to throw that away.”

Most of the large ranches in Laikipia, which include Lewa Downs where Prince William has stayed, are owned by white Kenyans, large corporations or wealthy Europeans. Dozens of Kenyan smallholders have also been affected in a conflict that pits settled agriculturists against the nomadic tribes and their warriors who are behind the violent attacks.

Paul Njoroge, 53, a community leader in Kamwenje village, on the western edge of Laikipia County, said that people had been forcibly evicted “from all the villages along the county boundary”.

He added: “Almost every home has been affected.” According to his records more than 100 people had been displaced from seven neighbouring communities.

The warning comes after Britain’s High Commissioner to Kenya, Nic Hailey, warned that the land invasions would send investors fleeing.

“Where the security of legally acquired land tenure is called into question, investors hear a clear message: that they should take their business elsewhere,” he said in a speech to the county assembly last year. “Tourists contemplating a holiday in this beautiful place may start to reconsider their options.”

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