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Pastoralism & Ranching Under Threat in Kenya's Arid North

Updated on April 20, 2017

British Rangers are the Soft Target in Laikipia Conflict

The answer to Laikipia's problems is to revisit the TJRC report on historical injustices. It is an acknowledged fact that the Maa people were duped into vacating what is now Laikipia, Nyahururu, Nyandarua and most of Nakuru Counties so that white settlers could take up residence. After independence a new form of injustice was committed when no one in government had the decency to address the plight of pastoralists in general and the Maa in particular. Selfish individuals within and outside government took advantage of availability of cash to buy up white owned ranches (some of which remain unused and unoccupied to date) due to a skewed land transfer policy based on willing seller willing buyer. This model of land transfer subsumed that all Kenyans were sedentary agriculturists (loaded with cash) ignoring the fact that 75% of Kenya is arid and semiarid and is fit only for either wildlife or pastoralism. The Good God above there made pastoralists, nomads, city dwellers, hunter gatherers and agriculturists etc. But the way Kenyans demonize all excepts city dwellers and agriculturists you'd think that God either made a mistake or He is some kind of idiot, It is too bad for Kenya that God neither makes mistakes nor is He an idiot. A responsible government ought to ensure that every citizen, irrespective of his way of making an honest living, is accorded sufficient resources and space to do so. Living in denial negates the very raison d'etre for all that fighting the Mau Mau is said to have engaged in. What the heck were they fighting for if not the return of land their community had been disenfranchised from by Colonial Britain? Are the Maa and other pastoralists a lesser breed of Kenya? So why dont we take time and have a genuine and sincere look at their plight. The mess in Laikipia is only a symptom and government should move with speed and address the plight of these people once and for all. Wishing the problem away and apportioning blame is neither here nor there. The same can be said of the problem in Baringo. It is a conflict between pastoralists and agriculturists over water and pasture. One group is sedentary and lives on registered freehold parcels of land. The other is nomadic (not by choice but by imperative) and must follow the little precipitation that allows transient desert grasses and herbaceous plants to flourish. Is it their fault? No! And going to Garissa, Tana River, Marsabit, Wajir, Turkana etc the problem is the same if not worse. The fact that bigoted politicians, cattle rustlers, land grabbers and nondescript criminals have taken advantage of the situation for political and monetary gain is unfortunate and should be confronted at the earliest opportunity. But government must be cognisant of and address the underlying issues and not be comforted by the simplistics of driving away rustlers and thieves.

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