Kenyan MP charged with inciting deadly land invasions

2017-03-08 21:05
Farm land. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Farm land. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Nairobi - A lawmaker from Kenya's restive highlands was charged on Wednesday with inciting violence for allegedly encouraging a wave of land invasions which have left eight people dead including a British man.

Heavily armed herders have in recent weeks forced their way into private ranches in central Laikipia, slaughtering wildlife and destroying property in invasions blamed on a biting drought, but also local politics.

The MP for Laikipia North, Mathew Lempurkel, is one of the local leaders accused of inciting the invasions.

Youths clad in T-shirts with the slogan #TeamLempurkel were pictured taking part in the invasion of the 17 600-hectare Suyian ranch where tourist huts were burnt down in January.

And Lempurkel called into a local radio station last year saying: "There is no private land in Laikipia North. Nobody will go short of grass while I am MP."

The lawmaker was arrested on Tuesday and charged with inciting violence, a source with the prosecution told AFP.

He was released on bail of $2 000.

While some have blamed the uptick of invasions on a drought which has pushed thousands of herders with tens of thousands of livestock into the Laikipia highlands, the underlying causes are far more complex.

Competition for land and resources as a result of population growth and a massive increase in the number of livestock has coincided with anger over historical land injustices, climate change, money and politics.

The region has enormous tracts of land owned by white settlers and Kenyan elites.

The decentralisation of government after 2013 elections has made the stakes higher for regional power, and politicians are playing on the land ownership issue to win votes.

"Local political leaders have contributed to the tension by making inflammatory statements, and sometimes even blatantly inciting locals to break the law through illegal occupation," said Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery in a statement on Monday.

On Sunday a British man was shot dead while going to inspect damage on his vast ranch.

British High Commissioner Nic Hailey urged the government to "take all necessary steps urgently to restore law and order".

A total of eight people have been killed since December last year and 10 shot and injured, including a mother and her two children who had to be airlifted to Nairobi on Tuesday after being shot.

Police have stepped up efforts against the illegal grazers, and have arrested 379 in Laikipia, said Nkaissery.

Read more on:    kenya  |  east africa

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