Kenya: Laikipia Paradise – The “hand” of DP William Ruto in Land Saga
The vast plains of Laikipia stretch from the slopes of Mount Kenya to the far reaches of the Rift Valley, where tourism merges warm hospitality with stunning scenery, sparkling skies and wonderful wildlife.
The region is full of ranches and conservatories defined by exclusivity and freedom, qualities par excellence that make Laikipia a paradise on earth.
Visitors can immerse themselves in the wilderness and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of nature.
After Tsavo, Laikipia is the most extensive wildlife refuge, part of the Ewaso ecosystem that is home to a variety of endangered animal species, including Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffes and black rhinos.
Private ranches occupy more than half of the land, and outsiders own thousands of acres, which they use for wildlife conservation and ranching.
Our trip to the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) Mutara Ranch begins in Rumuruti Town at noon. It takes about 40 minutes on the bumpy Rumuruti-Nanyuki road to Mutara Mall.
At the 64,000-acre ranch, guards look after the main gate while an electric fence and trenches are also in place to deter intruders. There are many layers of security. Maximum protection.
The ranch encompasses an area of 253 square kilometers amid critical wildlife migration corridors. It is home to a great diversity of animals, including the big five, rare species such as Grévy’s zebra, cheetah and Patas monkey. It was first established as a private ranch in 1921.
It borders Laikipia National Park and Kihika Ranch to the east.
As we drive down the dusty road between the main gate and the administrative offices, the serene environment greets us at the ranch. The song of birds and the hoarse trumpets of elephants cheer us up.
We are momentarily delighted by a family of elephants walking towards a water point. It’s a scene to watch as they play with water, splash it and sprinkle it with their trunks. Just like adventurous toddlers. They then come out and pose, as if waiting for a group photo. It’s Laikipia.
It is billed as one of Africa’s most exhilarating safari and wildlife destinations. In one part of the ranch are rusty houses, idling machinery, and old vehicles that give the impression of an abandoned historic site. Not at all. The old buildings serve as offices for the employees who run part of the ranch.
One of the managers, Mr. Benard Maranga, says part of the property has been let to four people.
“They mainly practice agriculture. The rest of the land is managed by the ADC, ”he suggests.
Two of the individuals are Musa Haji and Mark Powsy, both of whom are commercial farmers. They grow corn and raise beef cattle. The native Boran cattle are the most popular, with one employee saying there are around 6,000.
“The ranch is home to Boran cattle but there are also wild animals. It’s a nice mix. Part of the farmland has been leased to farmers, ”he said.
The section under ADC is used as a breeding ground for Boran cattle. The beef produced is sold locally and abroad.
In 2007, ADC set aside more than 20,000 acres for integrated wildlife conservation and ecotourism. He manages the wildlife reserve with the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. A private wildlife area that borders the Mutara Ranch, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy is home to Kenya’s largest black rhino population and promotes ecotourism.
Ol Pejeta occupies approximately 360 square kilometers of savannah and includes the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary.
Leases signed secretly
While the ADC believes land leased to commercial agriculture brings in revenue to the government, most employees say the leases were signed secretly because they do not know the people who benefited from them.
“I know some people have rented portions of land, but I don’t know all of their names. It is the management of the ADC and the government who know who owns the land here, ”explains one of the employees.
While management remains suspicious of other people they have leased land to, there is speculation that a powerful public official is at the top of the list.
Earlier this month, Home Secretary Fred Matiang’i said Vice President William Ruto owned thousands of acres on the ranch, where he would be involved in grain cultivation and breeding.
But the DP denied owning a 15,000-acre piece of land on the property and blamed it on his political enemies.
“The president’s office was 70 percent right (on the Matiang’i case), but they added a property like ADC’s land to me that is not mine,” Dr Ruto said when ‘he addressed a meeting with leaders from Nakuru County. at her Karen residence.
Not actively involved
The Nation has established that Dr. Ruto has not been actively involved in the management of any of the properties mentioned. It is still unclear whether he uses powers of attorney to manage the land.
In 2015, a local daily reported that as the conflict over grazing land in Laikipia County escalated, questions emerged over ownership of a large ranch leased to an influential person. A contingent of armed police had been deployed to the ranch to provide security.
A section of pastoralist community leaders has now urged the state to allow pastoralists to enter the 15,000-acre land, believed to belong to Dr Ruto, to use it for grazing.
Led by Samburu Senator Ltumbesi Lelegwe and former Laikipia North MP Mathew Lempurkel, they want pastoralists to graze their cattle there.
“We want the government to turn the land over to pastoralists to use it for grazing. They grazed freely on the land before being expelled. Now their animals are dying, ”said Lempurkel.
Meanwhile, the people of Suguroi near the ranch also want access to pasture. They say their water sources and pastures for their cattle have been closed.
They ask the National Assembly to investigate the circumstances in which part of the land has been leased.
“We used to graze our cattle on the ranch, but since the people rented part of the land, we have been evicted. We now want the ADC to give us pasture, ”explains one resident, Mr. Musa Lekirmpoto.
ADC is a parastatal enterprise established by an Act of Parliament, Cap 444 of 1986 for the promotion and execution of agricultural programs and the reconstruction of the country by starting, assisting or developing agricultural enterprises and enterprises.
Its main mission is to promote sustainable agricultural development and reconstruction in Kenya by initiating, assisting and developing agricultural enterprises through the production and supply of quality seeds, livestock, technology transfer and training in a sustainable manner and affordable.
The ADC Mutara ranch is located north of Ol Pejeta.
An archetypal Laikipia landscape, rich meadows and thick bush are home to many species that are also found on Ol Pejeta Conservancy, including elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, giraffe, antelope and zebra.
At the reserve, the Mantis Tented Mutara camp stands in the midst of the wildlife.
Nestled atop a cliff, Mantis Mutara Tented Camp enjoys 360-degree views of uninterrupted wilderness. It is the only accommodation in the 20,000-acre Mutara reserve, with only 15 tents.