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Herders Fire at Police in Kenya

May 30, 2000

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ Nomadic herders seeking grass for their drought-starved cattle fired shots at police trying to evict them from a private ranch in central Kenya, officials said Tuesday.

Police fired back but there were no injuries, said Bernard Muli, second in command of the force at the farming town of Nanyuki. ``We will try again,″ Muli pledged.

The shooting Monday came after the Maasai herders promised they would end their trespass when _ and if _ the rains come, around October.

``We know we have broken the law by doing what we have done,″ Joseph ole Kirokou told a local administrator. ``But ours is a desperate move by desperate people.″

Kirokou said the Maasai had lost many animals due to the 3-year drought. ``We could not watch our children start dying while our neighbors had pasture,″ he said.

The confrontation occurred at the 50,000-acre Lol Daiga Hills ranch near Nanyuki, 90 miles north of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

Nomadic herders and their livestock routinely invade farms and private ranches during drought _ but such invasions have become politically sensitive since March, after a local politician urged Kenyans to emulate Zimbabwean Africans who have invaded more than 1,000 farms owned by whites.

The English-language Daily Nation newspaper reported Tuesday that nomads also had invaded two nearby ranches.

The three ranches belong to white Kenyans, although wealthy blacks Kenyans own equally large chunks of land in the ranching region west of Mount Kenya.

In all, an estimated 1,000 people and more than 15,000 head of cattle, have occupied 2,000 acres since Saturday.

Ranchers say the herders, who collectively own adjoining land, overgraze and are quicker victims of drought.

Relief agencies say the drought, which this week forced power-rationing in Kenya and water-rationing in Nairobi, threatens millions of lives in Kenya and surrounding countries.

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