Administrator blames land leases for farmer-herder clashes

Fred Dunga

Meru County Commissioner Fred Dunga addresses Kandebene residents in Tigania West on October 24, 2022. The area residents have clashed with herders from the neighbouring Isiolo County over pasture, resulting in deaths.

Photo credit: Gitonga Marete I Nation Media Group

Meru County Commissioner Fred Dunga has ordered his assistants in Tigania and Igembe sub-counties to provide information on chiefs accused of presiding over illegal land sales and fodder lease agreements.

Conflicts between Meru residents on the Isiolo County border and herders seeking pasture have been blamed on agreements entered between the groups.

On Sunday, herders killed a woman after she blocked them from grazing their camels on her land, with claims that a relative had leased fodder without her knowledge.

Mr Dunga also directed assistant county commissioners to ensure camels don’t cross the Isiolo-Garbatula road, with officers in Tigania East, Tigania West, Igembe Central and Buuri sub-counties asked to comply with the order.

“The officers in these areas should ensure this directive is implemented and should any livestock cross that border I will hold them personally responsible,” he said.

He asked residents to herd stray camels to police stations, where they will be detained until their owners report to officers and compensate land owners for losses incurred.

Tigania West residents shrubs

Residents of Kandebene, Tigania West shelter under shrubs that they lease to herders, which is said to be the source of conflicts in the area. They were addressed by Meru County Commissioner Mr Fred Dunga on October 24, 2022 during a security meeting. 

Photo credit: Gitonga Marete I Nation Media Group

Mr Dunga spoke at Kandebene, Tigania West, during a security meeting called to discuss insecurity incidents in the area involving residents and herders from Isiolo. Also present were senior police officers, area MP John Mutunga and Athwana MCA Jim Muchui.

Concerning leasing fodder, Mr Dunga said that though residents denied engaging in the practice, security agencies had uncovered such agreements across the region and asked them to stop it.

“When animals exhaust fodder in one farm where the owner has leased they will stray into neighbours’ farms and this is where conflicts arise,” he said. 

“We will also crack down on brokers who are doing this, because this is the root of this problem and we will take disciplinary action against chiefs involved in these agreements.”

Mr Kaume Mukiira, a lawyer following up on land cases in the area, accused some chiefs and land officers of selling huge tracts of land and fanning conflicts among residents.

“The insecurity problems in this area will be solved when these corrupt officers are kicked out of this jurisdiction,” Mr Mukiira said.

But Mr Dunga directed the lawyer to also provide details of the sale agreements the officers had signed, and vowed to sack those involved in such deals.

Tigania West residents

Residents of Kandebene, Tigania West when they were addressed by Meru County Commissioner Fred Dunga  following conflict with herders over pasture on October 24, 2022.

Photo credit: Gitonga Marete I Nation Media Group

“Let me make it clear that we cannot dismiss any civil servant based on hearsay. I need documentary evidence and specific accusations against the officers so that when we take disciplinary action we cite the malpractices,” he said.

Mr Dunga also ordered assistant chiefs to reside in the confines of their sub-locations so that they could respond to insecurity incidents on time.

Commenting on the raging controversy involving Meru MCAs and Governor Kawira Mwangaza, Mr Muchui, who is also the assembly majority whip, said the legislators had no problem with the county boss and called for dialogue.

“The governor has accused us of demanding money but that is not true,” he said. 

“Our interest is to have money allocated to projects in our wards so that when we go to the grassroots we [can] discuss … the projects to be implemented and table the plans in the governor’s office for implementation.”