Kenya: Isiolo Leaders Accuse Police of Bias After Cows Seized From Locals

Isiolo leaders have accused police of bias during a recent operation to recover 80 cows stolen from Kimanjo in the neighbouring Laikipia County.

At least 107 cows were confiscated from two Oldonyiro residents living on the border of the two counties.

Though police say the animals were confiscated from the Narasha residents due to their proximity to the alleged suspects' home, the leaders decried unfairness, noting that the officers should have instead pursued the suspects and recovered the stolen livestock.

Led by Governor Mohamed Kuti and Isiolo North MP Hassan Odha, the leaders maintained that they will not allow residents be subjected to communal punishment for crimes committed by a few individuals whom police are reluctant to follow.

The animals were reportedly stolen by suspected bandits from Samburu East who are said to have used the Oldonyiro route to access the village in Laikipia North.

Local elders not involved

Further, the leaders said, it was unfair for the police in Isiolo to hand over the seized cows to their Laikipia counterparts without involving local elders who had earlier assisted in footprint tracing for the stolen animals.

While demanding for the immediate release of the seized animals, the leaders maintained that they will seek legal action against the officers for any damages including death of the cattle.

"The police should find the criminals and not punishing the community. Seizure of residents' cows because their homes are close to those of the suspects is unconstitutional and we will not allow it," said Dr Kuti.

The county government has already tasked its lawyer to apply for a court injunction so that the cows are immediately released to the owners.

No suspect arrested

Mr Odha, who was accompanied by some elders and Isiolo Deputy Speaker David Lemantile, who is also the Oldonyiro Ward MCA, said it was unfortunate that police had not arrested any suspect despite elders sharing their names.

"It is known where the animals' footprints were traced to (Wamba hills) and that is where police ought to have carried out the operation and not meting suffering on innocent residents who rely on livestock for their livelihoods," the MP said.

While it is suspected that the bandits were from Samburu East, police insist they were assisted by some locals in carrying out the crime and could have also been hosted in the area days before the incident happened.

The joint operation led by a senior police officer from Laikipia North is said to have been prompted by reports that some of the stolen animals had been hidden in the nearby Narupa conservancy.

Police have been using the technique to provoke the community in sharing information with them and having the suspects return the stolen animals.

Hosting criminals

Isiolo Sub-County Police Commander George Kariuki said the bandits could not have achieved their ill mission without being assisted by the local community either by sharing information or hosting them.

"The local community participated by hosting the criminals and sharing information with them," said Mr Kariuki.

The police boss said investigations into the incident is underway and that an identification process for the seized animals, detained in Kimanjo, is ongoing.

Samburu East Deputy County Commissioner Pius Murugu said 13 cows had been recovered and handed over to their owners with pursuance of eight more ongoing in Ngilai hills.

Footprints

"The traced footprints showed that 23 cows were driven towards our side and we have already recovered 13 of them and two donkeys which have already been handed over to owners in Laikipia," Mr Murugu said by phone.

The Oldonyiro MCA said residents had on several occasions assisted their Laikipia counterparts to recover stolen livestock and the recent incident is likely to create bad blood between the two neighbouring communities.

MP Odha accused some Laikipia politicians of taking advantage of the border row between the two counties to intimidate and eject Isiolo residents living in the area.

"It is so unfortunate that instead of uniting residents at the border, some politicians from Laikipia are taking advantage of the incident to forcibly eject our people from the area," the legislator said.

He appealed to Eastern Region commissioner Isaiah Nakoru and Rift Valley's George Natembeya to move with speed and assist in resolving the boundary tussle.

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