Leaders from Laikipia, Samburu, Baringo and Isiolo counties have urged the government to give migrant herders a safe passage as their return to their counties. This is after security forces in Laikipia County on Wednesday mounted an operation to flush out the illegal herders, cattle rustlers and bandits suspected to be from neighboring Isiolo, Baringo and Samburu counties. The operation follows the lapsing of a seven day ultimatum that was issued by Interior CS Fred Matiang’I for the illegal herders who had invaded private farms in the county to leave. But speaking in a meeting at Ol Moran Township in Laikipia County during a consultative meeting that had brought together MCAs from the Amaya triangle counties, the leaders pleaded with the government to give the herders a safe passage as they return to their respective counties.

Though during the meeting a section of MCAs from Isiolo county were opposed to the ongoing security operation and pleaded with the government to give the migrant herders more time to return to return to their counties, their counterparts from Laikipia led by Peter Thomi (Githiga), Jacob Endung (Sossian) and George Karuiru (Ol Moran) maintained that the operation must continue as stated by the government. The MCAs who spoke during a joint press conference said that they had resorted to supporting the government in restoring peace in the peace torn region. Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya on Wednesday said, after the lapsing of the 7 day ultimatum, the government, if necessary will not hesitate to use force on herders who were still in the county with a view to protecting the lives and private property bearing the brunt of invasions.

However, Samburu county’s Suguta Marmar MCA Shadrack Lesoipa and Baringo’s Muchongoi Ward MCA Kipruto Kimosop urged the government not to use excessive force on migrants herders who were ready and willing to move out of  the county but only give them a safe passage. Mr Kimosop on his part condemned the ongoing cattle rustling and killings of innocent people by armed bandits and called on the government to ensure that people owning firearms illegally have been disarmed. Amaya Triangle Initiative Acting CEO Nyaguthii Wahome said the Initiative aims at adopting a sustainable policy approach towards addressing the common development challenges particularly on insecurity, resource conflicts, food insecurity, environmental issues, drought emergencies, natural resource management and livelihood. She said that they were also going to engage community elders with a view to help end perennial cattle rustling and banditry in the region.

The migrant herders have been illegally invading private farms, ranches and conservancies in search of pasture while armed bandits have been stealing livestock, killing and maiming people. While confirming the kicking off of the operation, Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya on Wednesday said that additional contingents of General Service Unit (GSU), Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU) and Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) have been dispatched to the county to immediately commence the operation. He warned that the crackdown will be ruthless and merciless. The latest flare-ups of violence had forced the closure of several public schools in Laikipia West, and the killing of a senior GSU officer and a civilian within a week. The Regional Coordinator while speaking at Wangwachi Primary school that had been shut down due to incessant banditry attacks and livestock thefts in the area ordered Chiefs to ensure that every child had returned to school.

He promised that the government will deploy security officers to increase regular patrols around schools where parents were feeling that their children were not safe. Speaking at the Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) camp in Naibor in Laikipia North on Wednesday last week, Dr Matiang’i blamed illegal herders for violent clashes that affected local farmers, owners of private ranches and conservancies. The CS who was accompanied by the Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai, senior security officers and local leaders led by Governor Ndiritu Muriithi also announced an immediate takeover by security teams of the 80,000- acre Kilmon farm that is owned by the government and that has been a battle ground between armed herders from Laikipia and the neighboring counties.

The CS further ordered private ranchers and pastoralists to register agreements on access to pastures with the county government beginning this month to enable the government to enforce the pacts and arbitrate bloody disputes around their implementation. Dr Matiang’i further announced that the Kenya Meat Commission (KMC), which is under the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF), will begin buying around 1,000 livestock weekly in an off-take deal brokered by the Government to help pastoralists in the county ease the pressure on grazing pastures and water points.