Just last month, (January 2017), the New York Times published a list of 52 must visit destinations in the world. Laikipia was number 47 worldwide and the only one in Africa to make it to this prestigious list. Borana Conservancy, being the reason why Laikipia was picked is a hotbed and all-in-one scenic destination in and around Africa. It forms part of a 90,000-acre protected area for elephants, lions and cheetahs, among other charismatic megafauna. Game drives and lodges abound, but a spectacular new property, the five-suite Arijiju, opened in 2016 with guides who take guests on excursions, including fly fishing, trail running, horseback riding and treetop canopy tours. The region is also home to both the Samburu and the Maasai, tribes with equally colorful and fascinating cultures – According to New York Times website.
In 2016, Laikipia County was feted as the, County of the Year, Tax Compliance County and Trade Facilitation partner for the year 2015. I can confirm, this was not accidental but due to the quality of firms which have settled in Laikipia largely in Tourism sectors and Flower Industry, thereby fueling the economy of this county to new height levels including providing employment opportunities to as many as they can. It has dozens of ranches, conservancies, private firms, home to the big five, and big enough to fetch over 200 kilometer squared.
By now you appreciate the level of tourism inside Laikipia County. That said, you’ll ponder why the political class is busy crisscrossing the country mobilising all and sundry to register as voters as County number 31 is burning inside-out, since late last year. It’s prime revenue source, being Tourism, the sporadic violence is eating up its main core of survival, displacing the minority tribes and European/American settlers; while no hairs are being raised.
The worse of all is the lackluster approach with which the government in place has conducted itself. It’s saddening when the media too doesn’t tell the whole story. The country has been cheated all along that what is befalling Laikipia is scramble for resources and the biting drought. That’s part of a well-choreographed story, well-polished to lure the rest of us from what is the actual truth. The actual truth is, Laikipia County is envied for its lack of ‘hardened Army’ unlike its neighbouring communities who engage in cattle rustling.
The truth of the matter is, Laikipia County has been invaded by its neighbours, who form thousands of pastoralists from Baringo, Isiolo, Samburu and Pokot with close to 200,000 cattles. Worthy to note is that the dynamics of this invasion was changed by the heavily armed Pokot. Pokots are ‘envied’ for their superior war tactics and the number of arms in their possession. Why Laikipians need to worry is because; Pokot and Samburu resolved their archaic feud just before 2013 elections, and developed a strategy to displace communities living in Rumuruti – Maralal and East of Laikipia.
The minorities being largely Kikuyus and white settlers, theirs have been counting the losses and watching their properties go up in flames and farms get invaded to feed pastoralists livestock. The epitome of the violence is greed, selfishness and barbarism from enemies of Laikipia which is unrivalled. I wonder why the Government has not thought of setting up a military base either in Rumuruti or Baragoi where we lost about 40 military and brave Kenya heroes who died painful deaths having sacrificed their lives for peace, in this region. As the situation appears now, the worst is yet to come. Unfortunately, the Truth, Justice, Reconciliation Commission of Kenya has been reduced to a spectator as Laikipia County is held hostage, by incitement and political powers where some politicians want to place themselves as kingpins for their self-preservation as election date draws near.
The aspirants are using the Land issue to incite their communities that the ranches and private firms across Laikipia County are illegally occupied by the settlers yet most of them are Kenyans, who pay tax and land rates and rents to County governments just like everybody else. A former Mungiki leader who controversially got born again and fashionably became a pastor, who is now an aspirant for the Laikipia senate seat has gone public to allege that the settlers leases have expired and therefore should give back the land to the locals. There has also been allegation of voter importation by both political divide thereby causing tensions and political animosity.
National Land Commission and National Cohesion and Integration Commission have done little to bring long lasting solutions. The government too has failed to disarm communities in cattle rustling areas which to a large extent has had guns play out as the most lethal weapon in this clashes. Where the guns are sourced and who finances these bandits cum herders, is the elephant in the room.
Will we watch Laikipia’s envied ecosystem get destroyed by politicians who want to win elections through the back door? What of the billions of money in this economy which has created employment and tax revenue to both County and National governments? The media must do enough to expose aspirants who are fuelling animosity like Maina Njenga and have Head – Office of Director of Public Prosecution Keriako Tubiko direct prosecution of these rogue politicians who want to burn our livelihood. Moreover, Laikipia should make enough noise to their superiors be it having politicians and other leaders be vetted for this menace. The National Intelligence docket too, should have justified their work by now.