Kenya: Senators Probe Police Link to Deadly Farmers, Herders Clash in Kitui

Nairobi — Residents of Kitui South Constituency have linked police in the area to the ongoing conflict involving farmers and herders who have been fighting over camels grazing land.

The residents who are mainly farmers have claimed that police officers at Mutha Police Station and members of the provincial administration are key masterminds of the conflict which has been ongoing since Mid-September after receiving bribes from herders.

“It is an open secret that the herders’ first port of call is the Mutha Police station where they bribe the officers in return for protection. The camels are then driven to the police station where they are protected and guarded by the officers ,” said Daniel Mutinda, an area resident.

The confessions were made during a town hall meeting between the committee on National Security, Defence and Foreign Relations of the Senate.

Mutinda whose comments were supported by the local community, revealed how the police had delegated their duties in the area and now turned to herders.

“We all know it is the police who advice the herders where to graze the animals with the assistant chief playing as the intermediary,” he said.

“Once the camels exhaust pasture in one area, the assistant chief identified another area and where the camels are moved to with police escort,” he stated with the support of senator Enoch Wambua and area MCA Dominic Mwambisi.

The resident told the committee which is chaired by Baringo senator William Cheptumo that the police vehicles have been used to ferry food to the herders in the jungles of Kitui south Game reserve where the herders hide.

“When we are struggling to get support from the police, we see their vehicles ferrying food to the herders,” Mutinda said amid cheers from the residents who attended the meeting.

The senate committee was on a fact-finding visit to asses the security situation in the area after Senator Wambua demanded a statement from the Ministry of Interior on the cause of the conflict.

He further urged committee to visit the area to ascertain the level of response by the security apparatus at both county and national Government following a month of conflict between the farmers and camel herders in Mutha that has left three people dead and two others injured.

“The Inspector General of Police must conduct thorough investigations into the matter with a view of ascertaining the veracity of the allegations,” said Cheptumo.

Senator Wambua said the conflict has festered because the local security team has failed to act, thereby emboldening the herders who took action in their own hands.

“The police and the provincial administration are not innocent bystanders in this conflict,” Kitui Senator said, “they are accomplices but we ask them to do what is expected of them,” he added

Kitui County commissioner Erastus Mbui said he was not aware of the allegation while area police commander Leah Kithei said told the committee that action had been taken against officers who were linked to the allegations and who have since been transferred.

“We are up to the task but we have challenges with the resources,” Mbui told the committee during a fact finding tour.

The area has in the last one month been the theatre of conflict pitting herders and farmers over the grazing land for livestock; a conflict that has left three people dead and livestock maimed.

Pressed by the severe drought that is biting the country, the herders from Garissa County have moved into Kitui County with a large herd of camels in search of grazing land.

The Farmers accuse the herders of invading their farms and converting them into grazing fields triggering the conflict that has compromised the security situation in the area.

During the visit, the committee was told that the biting drought, considered the worst in the last 40 years, is the cause of the conflict.

County Police Commander Leah Kithei told the committee that the monthly ration of fuel allocated to Mutomo Sub county police headquarters is inadequate for the task of patrolling the entire area.

The sub county receives 450 litres of petrol to fuel vehicles in all its police stations.

Cheptumo promised to intervene with the Ministry of Interior to ensure that the two police Posts have vehicles while pushing the National Police Service to increase its fuel ration to police command in the area to improve its response.

“As a committee we are taking up this matter with the Ministry of Interior to ensure that the police in this area is well resourced,” said Cheptumo even as he urged the two communities to maintain peace and coexist as they have done in the past.

“We are on top of this issue {of resources}. We shall be engaging the Inspector general of Police to ensure the officers are properly resourced to carry out their task. It makes no sense to lose lives because of things we can resolve amicably.”

Lamu senator Joseph Kamau, who is a member of the committee, asked area residents to be on the lookout and report any state officer who fails to do his work as required by the law.

“We need an immediate solution to this conflict because these communities have lived together in harmony. They should continue living together and the solution to it lies with us as Kenyans,” said senator Kamau.


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