The dispute between Kenya and Tanzania over pasture has deepened with Tanzanian President John Magufuli declaring that his country is not grazing land for Kenyan cows.
Mr Magufuli was reacting controversy generated by the decision of a Tanzanian court to auction 1,300 cows belonging to Kenyan Maasais that had been confiscated for grazing across the border.
EYE FOR AN EYE
In a press statement issued from State House, Mr Magufuli said that Tanzania followed the law by arresting and auctioning the cows belonging to Kenyans.
“Let them (Kenyans) also take similar action if cows from Tanzania are arrested in their country,” he said without mentioning Kenya by name.
The Tanzanian President’s edict did not go down well with Kajiado Governor Joseph ole Lenku, who accused his of sabotaging good neighbourliness.
“This man (President Magufuli) is a disgrace to East Africans. He continues to sabotage good neighbourliness with his government officers harassing Kenyans over flimsy grounds,” said Mr Lenku.
“I have lobbied for diplomacy to apply when issues arise in mutual respect of East Africa citizens. However, Maasai Morans are being driven to defend themselves. We can’t tolerate this anymore.”
The auctioned cows belonged to farmers from Loikitokitok, in Kajiado South. Loikitokitok DC, Abdi Jaldesa told Nation that the herders had crossed over to Tanzania, with their livestock in search of pasture following prolonged drought on the Kenyan side. He added that this is a common occurrence among Maasais residing on either side of the border.
“Herders from Tanzania also get into Kenya whenever they experience draught. These people are brothers and sisters,” said Mr Jaldesa.
Mr Ole Lenku said that the Tanzanian President needs to appreciate the fact that there are more Tanzanian cows on the Kenyan side than there are Kenyan cows in Tanzania.
“If he can’t appreciate the neighbourliness we have enjoyed, then we can cut short our ties. He has made citizens from both counties to suffer his actions. He must not provoke us further,” said the governor.
Uhuru Sirote, a Nyumba Kumi official, from Namanga, told Nation that elders from the border town would meet on Wednesday to deliberate on the issue.
“We noted Mr Magufuli’s utterances with a lot of concern and we are afraid they might negatively affect the way common wananchi living along the border relate with each other,” said Mr Sirote.
“It should be appreciated that there are a lot of Tanzanian cows in Kenya, including the ones that are taken to the livestock market in Bisil.”
Three weeks ago Tanzania government seized more than 1,000 cattle from Kenya and later a Tanzania court directed that the livestock be auctioned and the money be used by the government if the owner of the animals cannot rise Tsh500 million.
Last week, Tanzanian Livestock ministry burnt 6,400 chicks imported from Kenya to prevent the spread of bird flu.