Security officers carrying out a security operation in Laikipia County are on the spot after herders claimed hundreds of their animals were killed last week.
Questions arose after it emerged that the officers drawn from different police units and the Kenya Defence Forces have been shooting livestock grazing on the ranches with live bullets to force the illegal herders to flee.
The most affected ranches include Laikipia Nature and Conservancy, Mugie, Sossian and Suyian, where many animals have been shot dead by the officers.
When The Standard visited Laikipia Nature and Conservancy, hundreds of carcasses could be spotted leading into the conservancy.
In one of the conservancies, there were rotting carcasses near a dam where the cattle had gone to drink water.
The security officers also detained The Standard team for several hours after they ventured onto the ranch to assess the situation following reports from the herders.
The officers confiscated cameras and deleted some pictures and video clips before The Standard team was released on Tuesday evening.
According to the herders, a contingent of police officers was ferried in by helicopters and lorries on Monday. They used explosives and guns to kill the animals.
An estimated 500 cows were killed during the one-hour operation, according to the herders.
“They were ferried to the dam, where we had taken our animals for watering, in three choppers and more than 10 lorries. We scampered and hid in the nearby bushes. Immediately after they arrived, they started shooting at the animals,” said Benson Lotuliama.
He said they also used explosives at a site where hundreds of animals were and killed all of them.
“It was like a nightmare, seeing our animals being killed mercilessly with explosives. Other officers used their guns to shoot at the cows and sheep,” he said.
The officers, he claimed, carried some of the carcasses in their lorries to another site where over 200 cows were also killed in the same manner.
The herders protested, saying all they were looking for was pasture and water for their livestock.
James Lomeron, another herder, said he lost his entire herd of 256 cows.
“This was my only source of income and now I have nothing. I travelled to the ranch to look for pasture and water, and now they have killed my cows. This is not right.”
Mr Lomeron regretted that even with permission from ranch owners, their animals were killed by the security officers.
“Many of us have permission from the ranch owners but they still continue to kills our animals. Why are they killing our animals yet we are not harming anyone?”
He said they would take legal action against the national government so they could be compensated.
But Nyahururu OCPD Joseph Chepkowny, who is in charge of the operation in the conservancy, denied the claims, saying the animals were shot during an exchange of fire between the police and the herdsmen.
“They were using the animals as shields during an exchange of fire and that is how the animals were shot. We cannot go shooting at animals aimlessly as they are claiming,” he said.
Meanwhile, armed bandits on Wednesday ambushed security officers at Kamwenje Police Post in what was believed to be a retaliatory attack after the officers killed their livestock.
The bandits stormed the station at around midday, turning the area into a battlefield. The attackers were however overpowered and repulsed.