State should stop private land attacks in Laikipia County

Herders inside Mugie Ranch in Laikipia in February. FILE PHOTO | NMG

What you need to know:

  • There has been needless loss and destruction of property, and even loss of lives.
  • Tracking and stopping the raiders hasn’t been easy.

Some ranchers and smallholder farmers in Laikipia County have taken a terrible beating over the years. Herders have moved animals into their ranches without permission. And armed raiders have often forced their way into the farms and ranches, destroying crops, and taking away animals.

There has been needless loss and destruction of property, and even loss of lives. Tracking and stopping the raiders hasn’t been easy. The terrain limits. It’s vast, hot, rugged and punishing.

Laikipia County is the confluence of pastoral and agrarian communities. The pastoral counties of Isiolo, Samburu and Baringo lie to its North and North-West, while Meru, Nyeri, Nyandarua and Nakuru, all dominantly agrarian, take up the rest of its perimeter.

Before the doctrine of private land rights was visited on us, pastoral communities grazed their animals within this swathe. But as our country moved on, classifying land into private, public and community then titling it, matters changed.

The Constitution and laws protect every category of land, with anyone free to acquire and own land anywhere within the Republic, individually or in association.

Pastoral communities have, therefore, had to graze within their communal lands, or, where pasture is available in private ranches, negotiate suitable grazing agreements.

Our security and judicial organs are expected to protect these tenure arrangements.

Therefore, all legitimate land owners should be able to enjoy their preferred land uses without fear of encroachment, invasion or eviction. This order can only be subverted where the government is absent, or dysfunctional.

Kenya must, therefore, protect the right to property at all times if it has to maintain its place among the civilised nations of this century. This is why, regardless of the issues, the Laikipia land invasions must be stopped, and permanently.

As discussed in previous contributions, the raft of reforms done in Kenya in the last two decades provide legal mechanisms for any legitimate historical land claims to be identified and redressed.

Land or boundary disputes can also be resolved through our courts. Stealing or destroying property, unauthorised entry into private land and the use of force to evict people from their land is, therefore, callous and criminal.

The government, through its organs, must stem such practices. This is why recent measures by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to create a sub-county to enhance security, and the establishment of an elite police training unit to permanently keep out invaders in Laikipia, are spot on.

Indeed, the government should go further and conduct a land audit in areas that have suffered forced evictions and revert the subject land to its legitimate owners.

This will dissuade devious characters from trying to alter local demographics for political gain through raids or evictions from private property. Such firm measures will restore confidence in the right to property, and further serve as incentives to local and foreign investments in Kenya.

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