Administrative boundary disputes are fuelling clashes in northern Kenya, even as the government continues to apply double standards in tackling the incessant skirmishes.
The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has acknowledged the critical role played by the disputed administrative boundaries in the escalation of ethnic conflicts in northern Kenya.
This comes as the violence in most parts of the region continues. Yesterday, one person was killed and five were injured in a bandit attack at Hare Dida, near the Isiolo-Samburu border.
The six were grazing their animals at Kom Grazing Reserve on Tuesday evening, when the bandits unleashed terror on them, killing one on the spot.
Speaking to journalists during a peace meeting in Marsabit on Tuesday, NCIC Commissioner Abdulaziz Maalim urged the government to take the blame for the skewed administrative land boundaries allocation and clean the mess quickly.
“One of the key resolutions reached in today’s meeting is to ask the government to deal with the thorny administrative land boundary issues that have constantly triggered ethnic tensions in these regions,” Mr Maalim said.
Land tenure and governance play a central role in determining whether individuals, communities and other actors can acquire the right to use and control natural resources, such as land, he said.
He revealed that the commission was seeking audience with President Uhuru Kenyatta in a bid to submit the report of the meeting that brought together the local leadership and the NCIC at the Kenya School of Government in Nairobi in July 2021, following the July 8, 2021 Marsabit town attack.
During the meeting, more than 300 participants resolved that the disputed land boundaries be regularised to help resolve the disputes.
They called on the government to implement land tenure, governance, redistribution programmes and access to equitable dispute resolution in the disputed zones and to ensure that the displaced persons are resettled.
Meanwhile, despite admitting to having intelligence reports connecting leaders to the incessant skirmishes, the government continues to militarise conflict zones, targeting civilians, while the politicians are let off with a mere warning.
Cabinet Secretary for Interior Fred Matiang’i last month announced that the army and specialist units of the National Police Service would be deployed to Laikipia to evict illegal herders. Laikipia is the latest county to witness the clashes.
As for politicians, the state, for the umpteenth time, issued the same old stern warning, threatening to arrest and prosecute them.
The security boss pointed out political interests and greed by leaders as the main cause of unrest in the north.
For most part of this year, the counties of Laikipia, Marsabit, Wajir, Isiolo and Garissa have experienced ethnic clashes, mainly among pastoralist communities.
In the Laikipia conflicts, the communities are competing for resources as the dry season continues. Herders have also been reported to be invading private ranches.
Nonetheless, politicians have been accused of being the biggest instigators of clashes, with the aim of displacing rival communities for political gain. They ride on the historical problems between communities to advance their political agenda, actively fuelling animosity.
With violence, displacement of residents is bound to happen. The politicians then settle their own community members with the plan to register them as voters ahead of the elections.
Already contingents of heavily armed paramilitary police have been deployed to counter the ethnic clashes in the areas affected.
The Nation has witnessed the deployment of the GSU, Border Patrol Unit (BPU), Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU) and the Anti Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) in Laikipia, Marsabit, Wajir, Isiolo and parts of Garissa.
More troops will be deployed this month to support the different operations in the conflict zones. KDF will also play a supportive role in the deployment by setting up operational camps for various police units.
This comes as residents of Garbatulla in Isiolo County have been warned against facing off with groups of armed herders from Garissa that have invaded the sub-county with thousands of animals in search of water and pasture.
The influx of animals has caused tension in reserve areas such as Quri, where there are pastures and water, with conflicts expected to increase in the coming days.
Garbatulla Deputy County Commissioner Stephen Nyakundi said close to 10,000 camels had been driven into Isiolo from Lagdera and Balambala in Garissa, causing discomfort in the local community.
Mr Nyakundi said he was engaging peace committees and administrators from the neighbouring counties to ensure the herders, who insist on their animals grazing in Isiolo, leave voluntarily without any confrontations with the residents.
“Our people should remain calm to allow us to engage our Garissa neighbours so that the invaders leave voluntarily without us using any force,” said Mr Nyakundi.
With the local community hit by drought and more than 85 percent of water sources having dried up, Mr Nyakundi said the continued stay of the new arrivals could spark conflicts and result in loss of lives.
The hardest hit areas are Sericho, Kulamawe, Duse, Boji and Barambate, where pastoralists have been reporting deaths of weak animals.
Mr Nyakundi said majority of the residents were in dire need of food assistance and appealed to the county government and local NGOs to intervene.
“Over 90 percent of Garbatulla residents are faced with hunger and it is time those with some food to share with their neighbours while we seek interventions,” he said, adding that only a few were benefiting from the government’s monthly cash transfer programme.
The dry spell has seen the distance to water sources increase from 14 to 20 kilometres, according to the official, who said the military was trucking water to the affected areas and ensuring residents have enough supply for themselves and their livestock.
The administrator announced that the National Drought Management Authority was currently registering more people in the sub-county to benefit from the cash transfer programme, though the process could take quite some time.
By Jacob Walter, Waweru Wairimu and Nicholas Komu