In the latest bout of violence in central Kenya, armed herdsmen in the drought-stricken Laikipia region have torched Mukutan Retreat, a luxury lodge owned by renowned Italian-born conservationist and author Kuki Gallmann.
Kenya's most important wildlife conservancies and private farms have been facing "armed incursions" by thousands of herders in the Laikipia county as the pastorialists search for food and water for their livestock. Earlier this month, armed herders responsible for land invasions killed British rancher and safari company owner, Tristan Voorspuy.
According to The Star newspaper, ethnic Pokot armed men raided the lodge located on the expansive Laikipia Nature Conservancy on 29 March, burning property and leaving several people injured. The attack followed a security operation to restore order in the area.
Kenyan national Gallmann is a world-renowned author and conservationist.
Seven out of 30 tourism lodges in Laikipia have closed since Christmas due to attacks, The Star reports. Mukutan is the second tourism lodge to be burned by attackers since January.
The battle for water and pasture in drought-ravaged Kenya has also spilled over into violence between armed cattle herders from rival tribes, who invade private farms to find pasture for their animals, with people and wildlife killed. Thousands have been displaced and some 30 people have been killed.
There are claims, however, that insecurity in the region may be politically-motivated. According to Eric Matara, a journalist at Kenya's Daily Nation, "the competition for political power ahead of the August General Election is one of the main factors fuelling ranch invasions in Laikipia county".
Citing local residents and politicians, Matara reports that many political aspirants are using the land ownership issue to gain support.
On 7 March 2017 the government of Kenya declared that parts of Laikipia county were "dangerous and disturbed", but Britain welcomed Kenya's assurances to deal with the skirmishes in Laikipia County ranches and conservancies.
According to the UK Foreign Commonwealth Office website, Laikipia remains outside the orange "all but essential travel" zone.