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Cablegate: Cows Versus Crops: Government Responds To

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LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV PHUM KE
SUBJECT: COWS VERSUS CROPS: GOVERNMENT RESPONDS TO
"ILLEGAL" PASTORALISTS

1. (SBU) Summary: The recent government crack down on the
influx of pastoralist migrants occupying privately-owned land
in Laikipia is a short term solution to a very complex
problem. Scarce resources and poor management of them will
continue to drive desperate pastoralists to seek much needed
water and pasture wherever they can find it, inevitably
bringing them into conflict with other communities. A recent
peace initiative following the government crackdown is cause
for some hope, but it remains to be seen if the government
will be able to dedicate the necessary attention and
resources to develop a more-lasting solution to the
underlying causes of the communal violence. End Summary.

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Scarce Resources Drive Pastoralists South
-----------------------------------------

2. (U) The effects of drought have driven pastoralist
communities, primarily Samburu and Pokot, southwards from
their semi-arid grazing lands in the north of Kenya in search
of water and pasture for their herds. Large numbers of Pokot
and Samburu herders have wandered into Laikipia district,
where supplies of both are more abundant, creating escalating
conflict with farmers and landowners. The pastoralists have
little experience with the concept of private property, as
most of the land in their home districts is held commonly as
trust land.

3. (U) This land in Laikipia is predominantly owned by ethnic
Kikuyu, the tribe which benefited the most from the
post-colonial land distribution policies of the government of
then President Kenyatta (an ethnic Kikuyu). Much of the land
is divided into large, privately-owned ranches, which the
pastoralists perceive as being unoccupied, irrespective of
ownership, and therefore available for grazing.
Additionally, growing population pressure among the residents
of Central Kenya (also primarily ethnic Kikuyu) to the south
of Laikipia has resulted in an expansion of Kikuyu-cultivated
land out to the margins of traditional settlements in
Laikipia, bringing farmers into more frequent contact with
pastoral migrations.

Government Cracks Down, Speaker Objects
---------------------------------------

4. (U) As the "invading" pastoralist herds caused damage to
crops and land, land-owners appealed to the government to
take action to protect their property rights. In early
October, the government began forcibly evicting pastoralists
and their herds from the privately-owned land in the northern
Laikipia district. The government's tactics were
heavy-handed, and pastoralists and their advocates fought
back, organizing demonstrations against the evictions. Even
Speaker of Parliament Francis Ole Kaparo (a land-owner in the
affected area and himself an ethnic Maasai) rose to the
defense of his fellow pastoralists. Kaparo accused the
government of targeting the pastoralist communities for
ill-treatment, even indiscriminately evicting pastoralists
with legitimate land titles in the area. He went so far as
to threaten to resign from the government if the
administration did not stop "harassing" pastoralist
communities and properly address their grievances.

5. (U) The Speaker's bold challenge to the government focused
national attention on the situation and prompted President
Kibaki to intervene to reduce tensions. A meeting at State
House between government officials and community leaders
produced an agreement to evict only illegal grazers, allowing
those with titles to remain, and dictated that such evictions
should be carried out in a humane manner. Recognizing that
insecurity in the region contributes to the conflict, the
leaders also proposed a meeting of pastoralist community
leaders to discuss methods to reduce conflict between
pastoralist communities.

Silver-Linings: Peace Initiatives for the Region
--------------------------------------------- ---

6. (U) The national attention on the Laikipia conflict
provided the much needed impetus to bring together
communities to discuss broader conflict issues.
Traditionally, the Samburu and Pokot communities clash over

territorial control and grazing rights. Conflict between
these two communities escalates in times of scarcity, as they
fight over dwindling access to water and grazing lands. The
drought-prone Samburu and Pokot districts of the Rift Valley
have witnessed mounting conflict in the preceding months,
with instances of cattle-raiding on both sides on the rise.
This mounting insecurity disrupts traditional grazing
patterns and forces herders to seek pastures farther afield
from their homesteads, bringing them into potential conflict
with the inhabitants of the land they occupy.

7. (U) In dealing with the Laikipia land-owners, however,
the Samburu and Pokot made common cause. In mid-October,
Samburu and Pokot leaders who had gathered to discuss ways to
resolve the long-standing conflicts between their communities
agreed on a peace accord. They agreed to expand dialogue
through subsequent meetings, committed to avoid inflammatory
rhetoric, and recognized certain disputed grazing rights.
The agreement also contains several appeals to the
government, primarily to open more grazing areas, extend road
networks, and resettle displaced pastoralists.

8. (SBU) Comment: Though laudable, the Samburu-Pokot peace
initiative will require the full support of local and
national authorities to ensure that the resources necessary
to achieve these ambitious plans are made available.
Conflict between the pastoralists has a long, turbulent, and
largely ignored history. It took a well-respected
politician's intervention and his threatened resignation to
garner the requisite national attention to the problem.
Merely forcing the invading herders from areas of potential
conflict falls far short of addressing the underlying causes
of the conflict. While competition for scarce resources
among pastoral communities is certain to continue given their
reliance on the notoriously unreliable bounty of the land,
the intensity of these conflicts can be mitigated by strong
community leadership and sound government policies aimed at
alleviating some of the exacerbating factors which contribute
to instability in the region. Judging by past performance,
however, these may be in short supply.
RANNEBERGER

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