In Summary
  • Mr Mokku thinks the current problem has been exacerbated by the government’s marginalisation of pastoralism.
  • Wildlife conservancies and ranches in much of Laikipia, for example, occupy land that was open to migrating herders.

The gunshots may have gone quiet for now in Laikipia but experts warn that unless the government brings all interested parties to the negotiating table and figures out a solution to the crisis, the clashes could start all over again when the current rains stop.

Persistent drought, population growth, land issues and negative ethnicity have all been part of a slow-burning cauldron of problems in the county, only exploding this year due to political goading and a long dry period.

“The herders are currently heading home as pasture has grown with the current rains.

"But come the next dry season, they will be back. If the current friction is not dealt with decisively, there is nothing to stop violence from breaking out again,” Dr Mordecai Ogada, an ecologist, said.

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He added that although politicians may be inciting violence by dangling various promises on land to the herders, this is made worse by the fact that the herders’ way of life is under threat.

For decades, Laikipia has been part of traditional migratory routes for pastoralists, emerging as a major livestock market that connected the rangelands to the rest of the country.

“Herders from Samburu, Baringo, Marsabit and Isiolo would drive their animals to Laikipia and sell them to middlemen, who would then transport them to Nairobi for slaughter.

"There were known routes and holding grounds to allow these movements. These routes have now been fenced off and are inaccessible to pastoralists,” Dr Ogada explained.

PASTORALISM
Mr Jarso Mokku of the Drylands Learning and Capacity Building Initiative, thinks the current problem has been exacerbated by the government’s marginalisation of pastoralism, and the prevailing perception that it is not as valuable an economic activity as crop farming.

“There has been no national policy to support pastoralists. What we have seen instead is pastoralism land being used for other purposes, which interferes with movement of animals,” he said.

Wildlife conservancies and ranches in much of Laikipia, for example, occupy land that was open to migrating herders.

The conservancies are now fenced off, re-purposed for wildlife, and marketed as ecotourism lodges.

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