The government has scaled up the ongoing operation in Isiolo County to flush out illegal armed herders who have forcefully invaded Isiolo grazing lands, consequently resulting to conflicts with the latest attack in Burat area on Friday leading to loss of nine lives, and five others sustaining gunshot wounds.
According to Isiolo County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding, the illegal herders had already been evicted two weeks ago when the operation was started, but they returned to the same areas again in utter disregard of the effort by security officers to drive them out. He noted that the move has now forced the government to scale up the operation, with the deployment of at least three armored vehicles and additional security officers to effectively deal with the armed herders who have disregarded the directive to retreat back to their home counties.
Omoding warned that the armed herders will now be handled as criminals and will meet the full force of the government especially if they try to resist the directive to move out. He noted that the government has the might to mercilessly deal with any criminal elements, but opts to first engage diplomatically, and use force where necessary.
According to the administrator, political leaders and even organizations that sponsor peace efforts need to move away from the meetings usually held in hotels around town, change tact and focus on engaging elders and morans at the village level and grazing areas, arguing that the hotel meetings do not provide any solutions.
He noted that there was need for them to encourage the locals to embrace education as a lasting solution to the retrogressive cultural practices like cattle rustling which only result to unnecessary loss of lives. Omoding argued that the Isiolo population had done reasonably well towards that end, and it was now up to the leaders and members of public from the neighboring counties of Samburu and Marsabit to follow suit in order to ensure that lasting peace is achieved in the region and beyond.
He noted that there are laid down regulations on how herders ask for pasture and water from another community by first approaching elders from the host community who are supposed to either agree or turn down the request, based on the prevailing conditions. Omoding argued that the utter disregard of the laid down regulations, forceful invasion and even coming back and killing people soon after being driven out by government agencies points out to the possibility that they are out to instill fear and eventually displace the host communities from their ancestral grazing land, noting that the government will not allow that to happen.