Outgoing Kitui County Commissioner John Ondego who hit headlines for quelling tension between pastoralists and farming communities in Kitui-Tana River Counties has been transferred.
The commissioner who was instrumental in containing the runaway insecurity at a time when herdsmen from Tana River County while in search of pasture drove their livestock to farms in Kitui sparking clashes between the communities.
Before his posting from Isiolo County, locals living along the porous border had endured several decades of intrusion from the armed Somali herders who drove them out of their farmlands in search of water and pasture for their camels during the dry season.
Ondego, who has been transferred to Machakos County, will be replaced by Thomas Sankei from Thika East Sub-County.
According to Mzee Kitile Wambua told KNA on Thursday that the residents are enjoying relative peace since the exercise to push the herders back to their County last year.
“We are grateful to the Kitui Security team for restoring peace in our area. There is calm in our area, schools are open and livelihoods are thriving,” said Wambua.
During Ondego’s tenure, Kitui County established grazing committees along the border to stem the influx and unwarranted intrusion of camel herders in search of water and pasture.
Ondego said that the ongoing rain season is a reprieve to communities living along the border due to availability of water and pasture in Tana River County.
The County Commissioner lamented that the prolonged dry season had pushed camel herders from the neighbouring Tana River County into Kitui County in search of water and pasture, fueling fears of possible conflict over the scarce natural resources.
He said that the formation of the grazing committees headed by the local elders has been pivotal in ensuring lasting peace is achieved and decimated the perennial conflicts Kitui South, Kitui East, Mwingi East and Tseikuru pitting the locals and Somali camel herders.
“The grazing committees acts as the focal point that knows which farmer has leased his land for grazing. Once the camel herders come, they are shown their boundary and thus reduce conflicts with other landowners who have not leased their farmlands and water points,” said the administrator.
The County Commissioner said that police are on high alert to drive illegal camel herders back to their respective homes to avert clashes in the area.
“I am in constant communication with my counterpart in Tana River to constitute a team that will hold meetings with the herders to stick to their borders despite the harsh weather conditions that may tempt them cross over to Kitui in search of pasture and water for their camels,” said Ondego.
The County Commissioner said that the government cannot sit back against the back drop of any intrusion that will destabilize peace that the locals are enjoying in the area at the expense of camels’ need for pasture.
“I appeal to wananchi to remain calm as government agencies swing into action to ensure safe passage of any camels within our border back to Tana River County,” said the administrator.
Ondego who reiterated the government’s resolve to maintain peace and peaceful coexistence amongst communities along the porous border of Kitui-Tana River counties.
“We will continue with flushing out herders who are grazing their camels inside Kitui South Game Reserve. This will help stop their influx and associated conflicts in Mutha,” said the County Commissioner.
By Yobesh Onwong’a