How Drought and Politics Are Exacerbating Pastoralist Violence in Kenya

How Drought and Politics Are Exacerbating Pastoralist Violence in Kenya
A herder drives his animals away after watering them at one of the few watering holes near the drought-affected village of Bandarero, Kenya, March 3, 2017 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

The drought affecting the Horn of Africa has aggravated conflicts over land use in northern Kenya this year, leading to dozens of deaths. Since March, security forces have been trying to evict herders who have occupied ranches and conservancies. The situation briefly received global attention last month when Kuki Gallmann, a celebrated conservationist and author, was shot during an altercation with armed herders. In an email interview, Murithi Mutiga, Horn of Africa senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, describes the recent history of resource conflict in the area and what role politics might be playing in the violence this year.

WPR: For how long has pastoralist violence been a problem in northern Kenya, and why has the phenomenon escalated this year?

Murithi Mutiga: Communities in northern Kenya have clashed over access to water and pasture for a long time. What has made 2017 a particularly bad year is the fact that the Horn of Africa is experiencing the worst drought the region has seen since 2011. The dry spell has caused thousands of herdsmen to move hundreds of thousands of cattle to try and access pasture.

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