Conservationist shot by desperate Kenyan herders

Kenya | Drought conditions have sparked violence around the country
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 4/24/17, 11:09 am

Kenyan raiders on Sunday shot Italian conservationist Kuki Gallmann at her conservancy as they invaded the property in search of pasture—the latest in a string of land invasions as the country battles with drought.

Police chief Ezekiel Chepkwony said the 73 year-old author of the memoir I Dreamed of Africa had been patrolling her 100,000-acre ranch in Laikipia with wildlife rangers after arsonists burned down a lodge. The raiders ambushed the group as they returned from the inspection, and a bullet hit Gallmann in the stomach, Chepkwony said. She survived with injuries.

Kenyan Internal Security Minister Joseph Nkaissery said security officials killed two of the suspects, and others are in custody. The country’s officials are examining a gun recovered from the scene to confirm whether it was used to shoot Gallmann, he said.

The rangers quickly flew Gallmann to a British Army medic base in the town of Nayuki before transferring her for surgery at a hospital in Nairobi. Gallmann’s close friends said she emerged stable from surgery but still had extensive internal damage, The New York Times reported. Invaders last month also burned down a retreat lodge on the property.

Kenya’s drought, which has left about 3 million people in need of food, has also increased land invasions by herders seeking pasture for their cattle. The invasions have killed dozens of people and left multiple buildings in ruins. Chepkwony said four police officers have been killed in confrontations with the herdsmen. Some raiders last month also shot dead Tristan Voorspuy, a British national who operated a safari in the same Laikipia region. Voorspuy had gone to inspect one of his lodges burned down by invaders when he was killed. His murder prompted the Kenyan government to deploy a military team to the Laikipia region.

Residents have also accused local politicians of inciting violence to gain more votes in elections this August. The Laikipia Farmers Association said some politicians have announced that the ranchers’ leases have expired and encouraged herders to take over the land. National police spokesman George Kinoti said one local politician already faces court charges for inciting arson and violence in the area.

Ralia Odinga, Kenya’s lead opposition figure, said the ranchers should be protected and warned the attacks could spin out of control if the government fails to respond adequately.

“Unfortunately, we have watched in bewilderment as hooligans take advantage of the drought to subject these ranchers to unwarranted attacks,” Odinga said in a statement. “Even more depressing is the apparent helplessness of the government that is clearly unable to bring these attacks to a stop.”

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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