By Adan Kabelo
I can say without fear of any contradiction that pastoralist communities of Isiolo not only view the LN 150 with lots of suspicion but deliberately designed to displace them. This fear is real and cannot be wished away through coercion or dangling carrot and stick. Many believe even the purported amendment is just a ploy to hoodwink the community to swallow the bait like a fish before it is removed from the water and rendered helpless once it lands on the soil.
ISIOLO TESTING GROUND
The urgency and determination with which this adjudication is being pushed is abnormal and has all the hallmarks of wider deceitful motive. Some people will dismiss this fear but I urge everyone to pause and reflect on it folks. It cannot be all about titles really. Title ni ‘nduano tu’. In my view, the threat is even bigger than Isiolo. I am not good at swahili but there is a saying ‘ukiona mwenzako ananyolewa, tia chako maji pia’. The entire Northern Kenya region occupied by the pastoralists community have reasons to raise their antennae and get interested in this infamous notice. I believe Isiolo is a testing ground because of obvious reasons of proximity to powerful communities interested with land here and also the upcoming multi billion investment of LAPPSET.
However, once it succeeds here, the notice will eventually be expanded to the entire region and this is why we must reach out to North Eastern, Upper Eastern and Turkana leaders and professionals. It is common knowledge that conservationists like Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) and private land investors are preying on this region because there is no space on the other parts of the country. If local communities are given power to determine land ownership, the land cartels fear they will be locked out. Therefore, using stale and outdated to take over community land is the simplest option. The schemers will achieve their goals by dividing us along tribes, politics and even clans. Eventually, none of us wins, we shall all sink together.
Pastoralists have no boundaries when it comes to grazing their animals. Last drought season, Isiolo pastoralists were in Ethiopia, Hon Aden Duale’s camels were in Isiolo, Marsabit cows were in Chari. Those eying this land, see it as an open space to invest/grab. Years to come, our only grazing space will be along the tarmac road with private electric fence restricting access to pasture on either side of the road.
This is what Oltorobo community near Oldonyiro is facing today for those who visited Doldol. It is not therefore unfounded fear, it is real. In my experience as a development worker, any development that doesn’t involve the people it is supposed to develop, is not their development.
My development colleagues and professionals must respect my views. Just like Kenya constitution took many years of debate and consultation, this land issue is as important as the constitution so it should not be rushed. Politicians come and go but the decision we make today lasts for generations to come.
We must not fall in the trap of US and THEM. We need to engage the entire region leaders on this debate. Scholars from the region must come out with positions to guide the society. Governors of Marsabit, Turkana, Mandera, Wajir and Garissa must not wet their hair but must protect Isiolo from being shaved.
Adan Kabelo is a development expert working as a consultant with International Non-Governmental Organisations.