By Kurgat Marindany
Kajiado pastoralists whose cows were auctioned by Tanzanian authorities late last year for trespass have admitted their mistake.
Their admission comes barely three weeks after the Kenyan Government compensated them for the loss of the livestock.
In an exclusive interview with Kajiado County Press, Kajiado South Sub County Nyumba Kumi Initiative chairman, Lekarokia ole Nangoro, said in Loitokitok: ‘It is true we broke the law by entering Tanzania with our livestock without their consent.”
“In fact we are not bitter with Tanzanian authorities for taking that punitive action. It is out of desperation that our people crossed into Tanzania with their livestock in search of grass,” noted Nangoro.
Nangoro dispelled claims that President John Magufuli of Tanzania auctioned the livestock to punish Jubilee Party supporters who he suspected to have crossed the border to vote for opposition leader, and former Tanzania Prime Minister Edward Lowassa’s Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo party (Chadema).
He said most of those who lost livestock to the Tanzania authorities were actually members of Orange Democratic Party (ODM), adding that the ‘golden’ handshake between Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta must have played a role in the fast-tracking of payment to the affected families.
Opposition MPs and councillors won in the last general election in Tanga, Moshi and Arusha constituencies which border Kenya and mostly populated by Maasai communities with links with Kenyan Maasai.
In fact, after Magufuli ordered the auctioning of the 1,325 cows, Tanzanian Maasais convened several meetings to deliberate on how their Kenyan counterparts could be assisted.
They started collecting livestock from their kin to compensate the Kenyans. Contribution still is on-going even after the Kenyan Government compensated the pastoralists,Nangoro explained.
The families whose animals were seized by Tanzanian officials were paid Sh56 million by the State.
Deputy President William Ruto presented a cheque for Sh56 million to the 22 families that lost 1,325 animals.
“The Government sympathises with the families. It is also our resolve to maintain good relations with Tanzania,” Ruto said at Oltiasika grounds in Kajiado South Sub-County.He praised the families for their patience.
“I ask the beneficiaries to restock and start other projects,” Ruto added.
The DP said the Government had launched a pilot project on livestock insurance in eight counties. The meeting was attended by Governor Joseph ole Lenku and MPs Katoo ole Metito, George Sunkuyia and Woman Representative Janet Teyiaa.
“Families, especially those in arid areas, lose their animals during dry seasons. It is because of this that we have come up with the insurance policy,” Ruto observed.
Metito said the money would be deposited in the families’ bank accounts.
During an auctioning of the Kenyan livestock, the Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner, Anna Mghwira said the government’s decision was taken to make foreign pastoralists respect and abide by Tanzanian laws.
Immediately after the auction, Tanzania gave Kenyan pastoralist notice to leave the country, failure to which their livestock would be auctioned by the State.
Also warned were hundreds of farmers said to have encroached on gazetted land in Loliondo forest.
Tanzania’s Natural Resources and Tourism Minister, Dr. Hamisi Kigwangalla, in a strong-worded statement issued from Dar-es-Salaam warned foreigners against infringement of the country’s natural resources.
Kigwangalla said his notice took effect from October 19 and on its expiry the state would confiscate all livestock belonging to foreigners, including farm machinery which would be auctioned.
Kigwangalla in his notice said there had been a major challenge caused by Kenyan pastoralists and farmers in the country who had invaded gazetted areas in Loliondo forest.
“This has caused a lot of damage to the environment. I am now giving them notice to pack and leave, failure to which the government will confiscate the more than 200 tractors and over 6, 000 livestock belonging to Kenyans,” stated the Tanzanian Minister.
In an exclusive interview with Kajiado County Commissioner, David Kipkemei, in his office the administrator said he had initiated a process of co-operation with his counterpart from Kilimanjaro, Mghwira.
“I am in talks with her with a view to bringing together members of our administration to discuss border security issues. I have just been talking with her on phone and she has assured me that she is ready to meet me together with my deputy County Commissioners who share administrative border with Tanzania,” said Kipkemei.
Kipkemei said he believes that if there was co-operation between the provincial administration team in Kenya and those across the border, the authorities there would not have auctioned the livestock.
“We people are in regular talks, nothing can ever go wrong. Our people would have been warned before they risked taking their livestock across,” he added.
Kajiado South Deputy County Commissioner, Lawrence Kinyua, supported Kipkemei’s initiative.
“I will make a point of meeting my counterpart in Moshi to iron out whatever issues that affect our people along the common border. What I have understood within the short time I have been here, is that our local people have a long standing relation with their counterparts in Tanzania,” noted Kinyua.
Most of the people we interviewed in Loitokitok after the local people were compensated for the loss of livestock said they harbour no grudge against President Magufuli.
Before the compensation was made, most of them had vowed to exact revenge on Tanzanians by confiscating their livestock crossing into Kenya.