New twist in Giriama ranch row after herders are ordered to vacate

A section of the Giriama Ranch water pan in Goshi village during a dry season. PHOTO: COURTESY.

Kilifi,KENYA:More than 4,000 residents of Giriama ranch in Gede, Ganze sub-county in Kilifi County have  vowed to block the Giriama ranching company from evicting of Somali herders from the ranch to pave way for new investors.

This was after the herders were handed  eviction notices earlier in the week.

Led by Gede peace and reconciliation committee chairman Johnson Charo, the community members said they depend on the Somali herders who have leased the land  from  them for their livelihood.

“The Somali herders have been paying for the pasture in this land which is rightful ours,” Charo said.

“This move by the company is to divert payments and also sell this expansive ranch to another investor something we will not accept at all ,” he said.

He said they have been supporting the community in educating children in the area and should they be evicted the services would  cease, thus becoming a big loss to them.

“Through them we have been able to send to school more than forty students ” he said.

The chairman said  he received a call from one of the herders informing him that they had been given a notice to vacate the ranch or face legal action.

He said  that it is a wrong approach to the problem saying they have lived with the herders peacefully but it seems like there are some people who want to create conflict between the Giriama, Wartha and the Somali communities.

Watha spokesman Barisa Galgalo, 57 vowed to brush off any attempts to bring in a new investor to the ranch without their approval.

“We are the genuine owners here and we don’t know about the so called directors of Giriama Ranch,” Galgalo said.

“How did they get the land to claim it? I was born here and in the entire life this has remained my home. In fact the manner in which it changed hands to become a company needs to be investigated,” said Barisa.

The residents, majority being of the Watha and Giriama communities  are accusing the Giriama ranching company and a local politician  of attempting to edge them out from the  ownership of the 66,000 acre ranch  .

However the company has maintained that the ranch is on private land owned by a private company  .

Rajab Menza the company spokesman  said they had already gone to court to seek an eviction order for the Somali pastoralists whom he  accused of  being  encroached on their private land.

“This is a private land and it is not associated with the community,” Menza said.

“That’s what we want the locals to know. There are other ranches which we are not administering but this one belongs to a private company owned by members.We have gone to court to get an eviction order and we are suing for  damages from the pastoralists who have been grazing on the land without our permission as the company,” he told Baraka FM.

A standoff between the locals and the ranching company has stalled the sale of the ranch to Dubai based Al Maktoum Holdings &Associates which has in the past revealed it plans to put up a cement company and a power plant worth sh 6.8 billion.

In November last year , the Kilifi county government asked the National lands commission to investigate how the community ranch was converted to a private owned company.