Tension as herders forcefully invade Meru village

Marsabit herder

A herder from Marsabit County buys hay in Mwea, Kirinyaga County. Fear has gripped Ntulili, on the Meru-Isiolo border after armed camel herders invaded the area.

Photo credit: George Munene i Nation Media Group

Fear has gripped Ntulili, Tigania West, on the Meru-Isiolo border after armed camel herders invaded the area, forcibly grazing their animals on people’s farms and homesteads.

They said the herders, who arrived on Tuesday, have caused tension in the restive region. They allegedly fired in the air to scare away anyone who stood in their way.

Speaking at the Zayun church compound, residents, including Athwana MCA-elect Jim Muchui, said the herders had violated an order banning them from grazing in the area.

Mr Muchui said residents were still traumatised by the killings of over 10 locals since January in conflicts between camel herders and farmers.

The camels were feeding mainly on pencil cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli), commonly planted as hedge around homes or to mark boundaries, and were grazing on farms, thus preventing cultivation.

Resident Martha Kaumi said locals must get home by 6pm to avoid running into the herders but sometimes they don’t venture out of their homes.

“There have been several shootings since they arrived. We are really suffering because when we venture out, we find camels feeding on our hedges. Sometimes we sleep hungry because we are afraid of engaging in any activity,” she said.

Kawira Mwangaza

Ms Kaumi appealed to Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza to ensure the law passed by the Meru assembly barring camels from other counties from grazing there was enforced.

Village elder Stephen Mugambi said several people had been killed when they tried to drive away the camels.

“This is a recurring thing. The herders usually come in humility seeking pasture and we welcome them, but as they return home after their home regions start getting rain, they leave a trail of deaths here,” he said.

“This year they killed seven people in February and four in April. We are living like sheep without a shepherd.”

Mr Moses Gikundi said lack of sufficient national police reservists (NPR) in the area gave the armed herders an undue advantage over them.

“Authorities are asking us to drive away the camels yet the people who were killed in January were driving away the animals. When we take them to the Kandebene police post, the following day we see them grazing around,” he said.

Mr Gikundi appealed to the government to recruit more NPRs, saying a majority of the people who were vetted for the slots were not picked, thus exposing the community.

“If people attack or kill the camels that invade their farms and homesteads, the herders stage revenge attacks and kill people … We want to tell security agencies that we do not want to bury more of our people,” said MCA-elect Muchui.