In a promise that reminds us of something Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe would do, Raila Odinga (Kenya’s major opposition leader, running against President Kenyatta in Kenya’s upcoming elections) seeks to dismantle white-owned ranches in Kenya.
Whereas President Mugabe’s 2001 move of introducing laws to evict white landowners, who controlled more than half of the country’s agricultural land was seen as an attempt to decolonize his country, Raila Odinga has more evident reasons for dismantling white-owned ranches if he wins in August’s general elections.
Violence has in recent times engulfed the restive Laikipia region in central Kenya due to mismanagement by a handful of large-scale ranchers. Like Odinga told the Times newspaper;
“These ranches are too big and the people don’t even live there, they live in Europe and only come once in a while.”
Laikipia was formerly an attractive spot for tourists and conservationists but recently, it has become the site of brutal killings and arson after a biting drought swept the Horn of Africa region and intensified competition over grazing land.
In the months following the start of the drought, herders in search of fresh pasture invaded luxury lodges, farms, and conservancies. They also shot wildlife animals, looted and vandalised the hotel cabins.
Local politicians continue to incite them to more violence by using historical grievances to spur them to invade and forcibly occupy the holdings of all large landowners in the area, black and white.
It was this violence that led to the shooting of Kuki Gallmann, the prominent Italian-born Kenyan author and the killing of Tristan Voorspuy, a dual Kenyan and British national.
Still, if Zimbabwe is a case study for such a move, this type of initiative proved disastrous for their economy to an extent that the government was even forced to ask some of the farmers to return. The farms had ended up unused because the Zimbabweans who took over often lacked the farming skills or funds required to run the farms.
Kenya, however, does not have to worry about that until after the August elections when Raila Odinga will either get the powers to dismantle these white-owned ranches or some other leader will have to look for a “long-term solution” for these properties.