On September 6, the government declared Laikipia Nature Conservancy (LNC) and its environs a disturbed area and announced a seven-day multi-agency security operation led by the National Police Service.
The National Security Council (NSC) action was in response to an illegal invasion of the ranch by some hardcore bandits masquerading as herders. They had also attacked nearby settlements, killing and maiming the residents. They torched houses, rendering the locals homeless and forcing them to flee.
Being in the theatre of action gave me great insights into the problem and the way forward.
First, although I had heard and read much about LNC, I had never imagined its raw splendour. Once the bandits’ guns were silenced, I noticed the imposing landscape. The impeccable ecosystem, as virgin as they come, is probably second only to the biblical Garden of Eden! The roaming wildlife, the abundant fauna, the clear night sky and the twinkling stars were just awesome. Deliberate effort seems to have gone into its preservation and that should be supported against illegal grazing.
Secondly, the commingled banditry and illegal herding criminality not only threaten environmental conservation sustainability of the LNC and similar ranches, including national forests, but also the lives and properties of bona fide residents in the environs. The bandits should pursue sustainable economic models of modern livestock farming.
The collateral damage to the conflicts are simple hardworking Kenyans who have toiled for many hard years to acquire property for settlement. Their gardens, green with crops, now lay abandoned. They need protection to resettle and resume their lives with their children going to school peacefully.
Thirdly, the role of the security sector cannot be gainsaid. Within a record time, the officers pushed the bandits out of the conflict zone despite real risks of counter-attacks and disproportionate advantage of the tough terrain in favour of the latter.
The fourth factor is the political complicity to the conflict. This push factor should be firmly countered with the culprits deterred, if not prevented, and more so at such a suspect political timing. As at the time of writing, some notable politicians were helping authorities with investigations.
Fifthly, this is an appeal to the media and other news purveyors. A conflict is not a conventional reporting theatre where a scoop wins the day. It is a delicate balance where life and property are on the line. Where morality should prevail over profits.
This is a time of greater fear and despondency of society’s weak. When livelihoods are at stake and the people destitute. It calls for personal sobriety, professionalism and responsibility. They should join hands with law enforcement for a common objective of restoring security and peace.
Lastly, a mention of the humanitarians suffices. Led by the Red Cross and local churches, they worked side by side and with both the national and governments to offer immediate relief to those affected. Individuals of goodwill also chipped in.