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Campaign Update - Kenya: Court Blocks National Park; Police Attack Samburu Community

A Samburu community’s fight to retain their land and grazing rights on a property known variably as Kisargei, Elan Downs, or Kabarak Farm in Kenya’s Laikipia district turned violent over the weekend as Kenyan police attacked the community, killing at least one Samburu elder and confiscating the community’s cows and goats, an estimated 10,000 animals.

Spokespersons for the Samburu community expressed suspicion that the police attack was intended to “punish” the community for having initiated legal proceedings against former President Daniel arap Moi who sold the Elan Downs property to the African Wildlife Foundation, leading to the forced eviction of hundreds of Samburu families.  The Samburu initiated legal proceedings against the former president and the African Wildlife Foundation, claiming their right to the land.  The judge in the case declared that the status quo should be maintained, with the Samburu continuing their occupancy in the property, until the court reaches a decision.

Despite this ruling, in early November, the Kenya Wildlife Service announced that the property had been donated to the government by the Africa Wildlife Foundation and The Nature Conservancy and would become a new Laikipia National Park.  Members of Parliament questioned the Minister for Forestry and Wildlife, Dr. Noah Wekesa, about the establishment of the National Park during a Parliament session on November 22, and Dr. Wekesa agreed that the establishment of the Park would be put on hold until the court announces its decision.  The Kenya Wildlife Service was also enjoined in the case, along with former president Moi and the African Wildlife Foundation.

This was the situation when, on November 23, unknown raiders shot and killed two Kenya police who were camped at the Elan Downs property.  In apparent retaliation, police shot and killed a 56-year-old Samburu elder, Mzee Lelekina, and beat and arrested two others, Mzee Lekitacharan and Mzee Lenchordo, although community members have heard no evidence against any of the men.  Then, on November 25, some 300 police in trucks and Land Rovers arrived at Kisargei, where the Samburu were grazing their cattle, and rounded up all the people’s cows, sheep, and goats. An estimated 10,000 animals were confiscated and impounded. Some of them were later slaughtered and consumed by police.  

Terrified Samburu families fled into the bush, fearful of beatings and rape by the police. Many people remain in hiding without food or shelter from the rains and cold, and vulnerable to attack by wild animals.

The community is demanding release of all their confiscated animals; compensation for animals that were slaughtered or lost during the police operation; an independent investigation into the police attack; an investigation into the police killing of Playa Lelekina; and resettlement of the Samburu people on the Elan Downs property, pending a decision of the court on their claim to the property.

For more information, please see these reports: Business Daily: Court Blocks Deal to Establish Laikipia National Park

The Star: Samburu demand investigation and compensation for police actions at Elan Downs

Community Report: Violation of Indigenous Samburu Minority Rights (see attachment below)