The Livestock and Fisheries ministry issued an appeal to this effect in a recent meeting with Coast Region government officials while on a two-day tour of the region. The region is one of those which have experienced a series of such rows, and hence the need for the committees.
While the reports talk of what the ministry said and it is evidently expected that regional authorities will take up the matter, it isn’t clear enough if there is a reciprocal sentiment that this method will yield the results expected.
For instance, what was aired is that local leaders said there are conflicts that have been running for decades, and that they are costly to the nation and must be put to an end.
It is easy to see that these leaders wanted a solution from the government, not the government to ask them to find a solution.
Yet this is the gist of what the ministry apparently directed, for instance in setting out the terms of references for the committees of experts, that they should visit conflict-hit areas and discuss the issues at the district and village levels.
The crucial part is that the experts will interview the relevant parties to find those aggrieved so as to propose solutions. The committees are expected to identify areas that have been invaded by so that steps are taken against those in the wrong.
Though it is unavoidable that the picture has to be balanced somewhat, in which case the committees will need to identify the actual needs in regard to livestock infrastructures, it is something else to figure out exhaustively the livestock populations and their locations.
It is unclear if the herders’ population could be cooperative enough in this, as they need the presence of economic facilities and welfare provisions without ‘being counted’.
Seeing their needs differently from those of local residents won’t reassure them in participating in those interviews or surveys – indeed, as part of suggested solutions catering for them too.
For better results, the government ought to have worked for a specific mode of resolving the issues in question, including convening meetings with regional officials on measures to implement the recommendations.
The idea of forming committees to make in-depth assessments is one step, while figuring out the solutions to the land-related rows in Coast Region or elsewhere is another.
This is because the underlying causes go beyond regional capacities, with migratory herders staunchly believing that they have the right to settle anywhere, not by law but basing on traditions that lie beyond the law.
What makes them ‘stubborn’ with respect to the conflicts is that customs give them the legitimacy to occupy and use open land.
Thus, unless land rights are redefined to have ownership of defined land, and not by merely ‘plans’ of land use in this or that district, scuffles will persist. The ministry’s stand on this should be unequivocal.