MP held for calling on Kenyans to take land away from white farmers

Nairobi - Kenyan police on Saturday arrested a lawmaker already accused of inciting violence after he urged people to take land away from white farmers, senior officers said.

Opposition deputy Mathew Lempurkel was in custody, an officer at the Naromoru station in central Kenya, told AFP by phone.

"He is being questioned because of remarks he made recently asking locals to take away their land from white settlers," he added.

Kenya's police chief Joseph Boinnet also confirmed in comments to Capital FM radio that Lempurkel had been arrested for "inflammatory remarks calculated to stir up racist and ethnic hatred".

Several local news organisations reported that opposition leader Raila Odinga, who is running for the presidency in elections next month, was at the meeting where Lempurkel made the remarks.

For several months, heavily armed herders have forced their way into private ranches in central Laikipia, seeking pasture for their livestock suffering from the current drought.

Increased competition for land 

Several people have been killed in the ensuing violence.

Already in March, Lempurkel, who represents the local constituency, was arrested and charged with inciting violence.

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

While some have blamed the increase in land invasions on the drought others argue the reasons are more complex.

There is increased competition for land and resources as a result of population growth and a massive increase in the number of livestock.

But there is also growing anger over historical land injustices. The region has enormous tracts of land owned by white settlers and Kenyan elites.

The approach of next month's presidential, parliamentary and local elections has also increased political tension.

Lempurkel is due in court on Monday could face fresh charges.

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