As drought sweeps Kenya, herders invade farms and old wounds are reopened
Thousands of herders are fleeing their traditional grazing lands as a biting drought engulfs east Africa, and their animals have swept through farms and conservation areas.
Still, an undertow of grievance about history has always informed relations in Kenya’s highlands and is playing a major role in the crisis.
Local people say the latest migration of thousands of herders with tens of thousands of cows, goats and sheep in search of water and pasture has been triggered mainly by harsh weather patterns.
Their call to them to forcibly occupy the holdings of all large landowners in the area, black and white, has rattled Laikipia.
Shuel, who previously managed a Maasai-owned group ranch, says there should be a sensible compromise between heated demands for radical land restitution and the apocalyptic claims of a race war from British tabloids that focus on the perspectives of white settlers, many third-generation Kenyan citizens.
The UK conservation charities that bought the 90,000-acre ranch from Rowland took it in a completely new direction.
Ol Pejeta is operated on a non-profit basis and has an extensive community service set-up that includes the offer of grazing to pastoralists affected by drought.
The CEO of Ol Pejeta, Richard Vigne, says the latest confrontation points to the need for a more coordinated approach to ensure that communities benefit more from local resources.
“There must be a long-term, government-endorsed approach to secure this land for sustainable management.
A plan to build a 280-mile game-proof fence around Mount Kenya, not far from the Laikipia region, was endorsed by Pope Francis on his visit to the country in November 2015.