Isiolo deputy Speaker investigated over ‘stolen’ cattle

cows

Some of the cows confined at Ruiri Police station on January 18, 2022. Isiolo Deputy Speaker and Oldonyiro MCA David Lemantile were arrested by Buuri East Police in Meru after a stolen cow was found among his herd of cattle. 

Photo credit: David Muchui | Nation Media Group

Police in Buuri East, Meru County, are investigating Isiolo Deputy Speaker David Lemantile after he was found with cattle suspected to have been stolen.

Mr Lemantile, the Oldonyiro MCA, presented himself to the Ruiri Police Station after a Meru resident, Cyprian Kinoti, identified one of his stolen cows among Mr Lemantile’s cattle.

The MCA spent the better part of Tuesday at the station, where about 15 cattle were being held, before he was transferred to the Timau Police Station for further questioning by the DCI. Of the 15 cattle, only eight are said to belong to the MCA.

Buuri East sub-county Police Commander Joseph Asugo and Buuri West Criminal Investigations Officer Joseph Wambua confirmed the arrest.

But Mr Wambua said investigators were trying to verify the MCA’s claim that the cattle, including the one identified by Mr Kinoti, were put under his custody by the police.

Samburu herders

“The MCA has told us that last year, Samburu herders lost many cattle to rustlers. It is then that elders from Turkana and Samburu agreed that all animals recovered by police be taken to the MCA for identification,” he said.

“This was a local arrangement because under the law, stolen property should be under police custody.”

The DCI officer said they would reach out to Turkana and Samburu elders who allegedly made the pact and the Isiolo police officers who sanctioned the agreement.

“Once this has been looked into, we will be able to determine if the MCA is liable for prosecution. He has, however, not claimed ownership of seven cattle that are in our custody,” Mr Wambua added.

Mr Kinoti, who reported the matter to the police, said the recovered cow was among 72 stolen in April 2020.

“In April 2020, raiders stole my 72 cattle but we managed to recover 64 of them while eight were never traced,” he said.

“On Monday, I spotted and identified one of my cows based on the iron rod marks on its side. We brought the entire herd of 15 cattle to the police station so that the owner could explain how he obtained the stolen animal,” Mr Kinoti said.

Cattle raids, he said, have not only led to loss of property but also lives, adding that two of his workers were among seven people recently shot dead by bandits in Tigania East.

“We want the suspect to help us recover the other seven cows and face justice in a court of law,” he said.

Athwana MCA Victor Karithi, who has been pushing for the rearming of Meru police reservists, said lack of justice for victims of cattle rustling has fanned the criminal activity.

He accused the police and administrators of always resorting to kangaroo courts to resolve robbery cases that involve cattle along the Meru-Isiolo border.

“When we laid to rest the seven victims of banditry last week, we assured their families that we will pursue justice,” Mr Karithi said.

Stolen animals

“This should serve as an example to those handling stolen animals which are taken through robbery by violence. We cannot have criminal cases being settled through negotiations and compensation.”

Last week, leaders including the Orange Democratic Movement’s (ODM) Raila Odinga called for police reservists to be reinstated on the Meru-Isiolo border as one way of curbing perennial killings and theft of livestock.

Speaking in Mweronkoro, Tigania East, during a requiem mass for seven herders killed by bandits, the leaders said families who had lost their loved ones and livestock in raids over the years had not received justice.

"The killings that happened here are criminal activities that should be dealt with according to the law. Murder is a crime that is punishable by death. The suspects should be brought to book immediately," Mr Odinga said.

The seven were killed in a night attack following a pasture dispute between camel herders and farmers.

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