The government has ordered all herders who have invaded parts of Laikipia, Mwingi and Kitui counties to vacate the areas with immediate effect or face forceful eviction.
Speaking in separate meetings in the counties, Interior Cabinet Secretary Prof Kithure Kindiki warned the pastoralists who have recently sparked violent clashes with local farmers that security personnel will be deployed to flush them out if they fail to comply with the directive.
Speaking at Gathanji village, Kirima Sub County in Laikipia, Prof Kindiki blamed the herders for the rising spates of cattle rustling and insecurity as they fought over the pasture.
He regretted that thousands of illegal grazers were illegally grazing in private farms, thereby causing conflict.
“Time has now come for them to either leave peacefully or use force. They have one week to do so” said Kindiki.
He ordered for immediate recruitment of National Police Reservists who he said would make sure that peace prevailed in the area, an exercise he noted would be done in the next two weeks.
“In the next two weeks, I will personally come here and have them deployed to the various areas. We will not allow our people to suffer anymore in the hands of bandits” he noted.
The CS assured residents that more police officers would be deployed along the Baringo-Laikipia border.
“This is an area that we have identified as a battle zone. The rustlers must now be warned that we are on the ground” he said.
He at the same time called on those holding illegal guns to surrender them.
“Time will soon come when we will get them using force. I plead with those still holding them to surrender them” he said.
His tour in the area comes two weeks after four people were killed by bandits.
Kindiki was accompanied by the county leadership led by Governor Joshua Irungu, woman MP Jane Kagiri, senator John Kinyua and MPs Sarah Korere (laikipia North) and Wachira Karani of Laikipia west.
Governor Irungu promised that his administration would collaborate with the national government to see to it that more police posts were put up along Baringo border.
“Already, we are in the process of building some 25 police houses in those police posts. This is a matter that concerns all of us” he noted.
In his first meeting on Tuesday morning in Mandongoi Primary school in Mwingi North Constituency, the CS who was accompanied by area leaders said with the onset of the rain season, herders from neighbouring counties could no longer hide behind the search for pasture and water to invade private farms.
“No one has permission to graze their livestock wherever they want without the consent of the owners of those fields. All the grazers and herds people must leave this place before we get to them,” Prof Kindiki said.
The directive follows recent flare-ups between armed herders and local farmers who accuse the pastoralists of deliberately driving camels and other livestock into farms and thereby destroying crops.
The CS said that a crack operation has been launched to back up the directive until the last herder is driven out.
“I want to challenge the criminals who think they have better weapons, tactics or instruments of violence than the government to dare face us. We will follow them anywhere they are. We won’t leave this area until we end this menace.”
In line with Section 61 of the National Police Service Act, the CS said the government will protect security officers who will deploy the necessary force, including the use of firearms, to enforce compliance with the directive.
“We cannot wait for another death or crisis before we act. Neither will have a discussion with criminals. Use all the available means to protect the lives and property of peace-loving Kenyans. The government will defend you.”
Prof. Kindiki further directed the immediate recruitment and training of 250 National Police Reservists (NPR) to beef up security in the area to complement the operations of other security personnel already on the ground.
He gave the Kitui County security team, in consultation with the Inspector General of Police, two weeks to undertake the exercise and to draw up a strategy to address a long-lasting solution to insecurity in the area.
Prof Kindiki, however, cautioned area residents against taking the law into their hands, saying they risked legal consequences for their acts and that such acts could fuel retaliatory attacks.
The CS also said the Government will immediately release Ksh1 million for the completion of a police post under construction in the area to host more police officers to be deployed in the area.
The CS also said the government will increase relief food in the area with priority given to schools and boarding learning institutions.
The CS also toured Igembe North, Meru County where he directed that 174 NPRs be recruited immediately to combat cattle rustling and banditry.
The move will raise to 200 NPRs in Tagania and Igembe region.