Magistrate puts brakes on herders’ claim to Laikipia farm

Police guard cattle seized in Laikipia County over illegal grazing in a past incident.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The court ruled they did not prove ownership of the 2,190-acre parcel of land.
  • Ms Mutai noted that the community illegally invaded the plot of land as they did not have any title document proving ownership.
  • The court also issued a restraining order preventing the herders from entering or interfering with Jennings Farm.

Pastoralists will now take great caution when settling in private property while looking for pasture and water for their livestock if a recent court judgement holds.

In a ruling, Nanyuki Chief Magistrate Lucy Mutai declared the mainly Samburu, Maasai and Turkana herders — under the Kisiriri pastoral community — who had settled in the Jennings Farm in Laikipia County, as illegal occupants. 

The court ruled they did not prove ownership of the 2,190-acre parcel of land.

Ms Mutai noted that the community illegally invaded the plot of land registered as LR 5197 and LR 2426 as they did not have any title document proving ownership.

 “The community failed in proving the existence of rights over the contested property, which is defined by way of title deed and is properly demarcated with beacons,” said the magistrate.

The court also issued a restraining order preventing the herders from entering or interfering with Jennings Farm.

Invading farms

In the recent past, thousands of herders who have been invading farms, ranches and wildlife conservancies in Laikipia County have been emboldened by the narrative of historical land injustices.

Majority of them claim the huge tracts of land, owned by ranchers, who are mostly white settlers, were their ancestral lands.

Prominent personalities who own ranches, conservancies and other vast properties have borne the brunt of the vicious invasions by illegal herders.

In 2017, herders, with over 100,000 cattle, sheep and goats invaded private land, from large ranches and conservancies in Laikipia North, to small farms in Laikipia West.

Jennings Farm was one of those invaded by the herders. A security manager was even killed.

Infringed on property

The magistrate, in her ruling, noted that the court had been told the herders had infringed on the property on many occasions by removing beacons from the land and grazing their animals inside the farm.

“The defendants submitted that the pastoralists have trespassed their property and caused wanton destruction of the environment rendering their farm unviable for agribusiness,” she said.

Part of the property in which the community settled is a wetland located between Passi and Ewaso Narok rivers.

The magistrate noted that the court was informed that the Water Resources Management Authority (Warma) and the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) had previously attempted to evict the nomadic group from the area with no success.

Gazetted area

The judge ruled that the community could not settle at a gazetted area without permission from the relevant authorities.

In their submissions to the court, the Kisiriri community said that the land had been allocated to them by former president Daniel Moi.   They said they had lived on the property without a title deed for more than 40 years.

Through their chairman, Thomas Lesikei, they told the court that they were in the process of formalising ownership of the land.

During the hearing, Ms Lucy Jennings told the court that the herders had been illegally grazing at the farm since 1997.


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