Nairobi: A Kenyan lawmaker has been charged in a Nairobi court with inciting his constituents to violence and racial contempt.
Mathew Lempurkel is accused of calling for the forceful eviction of white landowners if opposition leader Raila Odinga wins the general election on August 8. Lempurkel is a member of Odinga’s party and represents the Laikipia North constituency.
Lempurkel denied the charges Friday but said he could not comment further when quizzed by journalists outside court.
Hundreds of seminomadic herders invaded ranches in Laikipia seeking to save their animals from a prolonged drought that was declared a national disaster. However, they have stayed on after seasonal rains arrived and are claiming ownership, saying the lands belonged to their ancestors. Many of the ranches are owned by whites. Already in March, Lempurkel, who represents the local constituency, was arrested and charged with inciting violence.
Lempurkel called into a local radio station saying: “There is no private land in Laikipia North. Nobody will go short of grass while I am MP.”
While some have blamed the increase in land invasions on the drought others argue the reasons are more complex.
There is increased competition for land and resources as a result of population growth and a massive increase in the number of livestock.
But there is also growing anger over historical land injustices. The region has enormous tracts of land owned by white settlers and Kenyan elites.
The approach of next month’s presidential, parliamentary and local elections has also increased political tension.