The government has begun a security operation to flush out herdsmen from the Buffalo Springs game reserve, Attan and Aukot areas of Ngaremara Ward, Isiolo County, where frequent retaliatory attacks had caused tension among residents.
Isiolo County Commissioner Geoffrey Omonding, said a contingent of security team had been dispatched to the game reserve with orders to evict the herders who had defied the government’s ultimatum to leave voluntarily by Monday, March 21, 2022.
Mr Omonding said the national police officers and reinforcement from other security units are already on the ground with firm instructions to remove the herders and their animals from the game reserve which is a restricted area and after the herdsmen defied orders to leave willingly.
“The herders are from outside Isiolo County who had invaded the park and other grazing areas in Ngaremara Ward without prior permission from the local communities. They had up to March 21, 2022 to leave and go back to their home counties, but they refused hence the need to forcefully evict them,” the County Commissioner said.
Mr Omonding said that the illegal herders were behind the criminal activities to the host community in Ngaremara, including livestock theft and rape cases while they masqueraded as herders whose livestock were facing imminent death due to the prolonged drought in their home areas.
He however confirmed that a 50-year-old woman who was allegedly ambushed and raped by the criminals while fetching firewood in the area on Sunday was not abducted after being raped as it was claimed by some people.
The administrator said that the operation to be conducted by a multi-agency team of officers from the Administration Police, General Service Unit (GSU), Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU) and Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) helped by National Government Administration Officials will focus on evicting the armed illegal herders from the Buffalo Springs game reserve where they are believed to hide after committing the crimes, as well as Attan and Aukot areas within Ngaremara ward where locals have complained of daylight raids on Saturday and Sunday.
The administrator said that the team will first make an appeal to the herders to leave immediately and deploy any necessary force if they fail to comply, insisting that the government team was well equipped with armored vehicles and any other weapons required to handle the armed herders and evict them forcefully.
He assured the local Ngaremara community members that all the stolen animals would be recovered and handed back to the owners.
He said that the operation will involve a police chopper for surveillance and the team had already identified exactly where the stolen livestock are kept, and would therefore recover them all.
Mr Omoding said the outdated practice of cattle rustling will only be discouraged by ruthlessly dealing with raiders, recovering all stolen animals to make their efforts futile and arresting anyone found in possession of stolen livestock to face the law.
Residents of Ngaremara had earlier accused government of inaction and discrimination, threatening to hold demonstrations along the Isiolo – Moyale highway starting today if no action was taken to eject the invading armed herders.
They also accused elected leaders of remaining silent while they were facing attacks from armed bandits from the neighboring counties.
Some parts of Isiolo County such as Ngaremara and Kom that have little pasture are experiencing an influx of herders from Samburu, Marsabit, Garissa and Wajir Counties following a prolonged drought situation that has hit the region.
Mr Omonding added that any herders who enter Isiolo County with their livestock must have prior permission from the host communities, and details of the owners, number of animals they have and time they will spend in Isiolo also clearly indicated in order to effectively protect the host communities from any criminal activities.
By Abduba Mamo and David Nduro