Boris Johnson visits Kenya amid friction over Laikipia ranch clashes


British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The United Kingdom’s top diplomat Boris Johnson will be in Kenya on Friday for talks amid concerns raised by Britain over the skirmishes in Laikipia County ranches and conservancies.

Foreign Affairs ministry officials say Mr Johnson will hold bilateral talks with his Kenyan counterpart, Amina Mohamed, on what the government calls critical matters of mutual interests.

The visit is overshadowed by the skirmishes in the large ranches of Laikipia, majority owned by Britons, which have seen the UK rebuke Kenya.

“Mr Johnson will push for an assurance that the events of Laikipia are incidental as opposed to being an orchestrated pattern (against British citizens in Kenya),” said international relations expert Macharia Munene.

The UK has been pushing the Kenyan government to restore law and order in Laikipia County. British citizen Tristan Voorspuy’s killing early this month highlighted the escalation of a crisis which has been simmering for months.

“Kenya and the UK enjoy long standing historical ties with close cooperation in key sectors of education, trade and investment.

‘‘The UK is the largest European foreign investor in Kenya, the largest source market for Kenya’s tourism and the third most important export destination. Kenya mainly exports tea, coffee and horticultural products to the UK,” said Kenya’s Foreign Affairs ministry. Pastoralists’ invasion of the ranches and conservancies has caused diplomatic friction between Kenya and the UK.

The armed herders have been accused of setting buildings in the ranches on fire and looting property, forcing business to close indefinitely.

British ranchers had earlier blamed Kenyan authorities for a lukewarm response to the skirmishes which have caused destruction of property worth millions of shillings.

The Laikipia Farmers’ Association, which represents large landowners, said the invasions had resulted in closure of five tourism resorts.

Top officials will brief the Press at Ministry of Foreign Affairs offices after the talks.

The British High Commission in Nairobi had earlier said the Laikipia attacks by pastoralists from neighbouring Turkana and Samburu communities “were worrying’’ and urged Kenyan authorities ‘‘to bring them to an immediate end.”

Mr Johhnson made a surprise visit to Somalia early this week where the Kenyan military is battling Al-Shabaab militants.

His is later scheduled to visit Ethiopia to discuss regional security.