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Tuesday, 15 August, 2000, 21:43 GMT 22:43 UK
Cattle invade Kenya's capital
herd of cattle
Motorists are compelled to give way for the wandering cattle
By Alice Muthengi in Nairobi

Kenya's capital city, Nairobi, has acquired a new face as Maasai pastoralists herd their cattle into the city in search of pasture.

The country has been experiencing a severe drought for nearly two years. Rains have failed twice, leaving Kenyans to put up with long hours of power cuts - as hydroelectric stations have been shut down - and without water.


It is the drought that has forced us to go looking for grass all over. And we will go anywhere we can get grass for our cattle

George Mbarugu, pastoralists
On a normal day, traffic flow along the Nairobi-Mombasa road is relatively organised. But that is no longer the case.

Motorists in Nairobi have been compelled to learn how to dodge herds of cattle that have virtually taken over some roads and streets in the city.

It has become a daily routine as the pastoralists herd their frail and emaciated cows for long distances in search of grass. They have little regard for private land ownership.

Nairobi
Residents say Nairobi is no longer the "green city in the sun"
They encroach anywhere, anytime. But there is no food for them in the city either. All they get is tarmac, concrete, or dust.

The cattle do not spare a streak of vegetation in the once "green city in the sun". And city residents are simply outraged.

''I think there should be some order in the timings when they can be allowed to graze in and around town... or if not they should get out of town," an angry motorist quipped.

Accidents

Last week, a speeding minibus - popularly known in Kenya as matatu - rammed into a herd of cattle, killing eight of them.

The driver and passengers sustained serious injuries. Many road users now fear the Maasai and their cattle pose a major traffic danger.

They fear a worse accident could soon occur if the situation is not arrested.

Herd of cattle
Eight cows were recently killed by a speeding minibus
Some city residents have begun to attack the cows with sharp axes whenever they invade their rear gardens.

But the Maasai are adamant that it is not their fault that they have to wander with their livestock in search of pasture even in the city. They say drought is to blame for destroying their usual grazing areas.

"That is how the situation is. It is the drought that has forced us to go looking for grass all over. And we will go anywhere we can get grass for our cattle", says George Mbarugu, who also herds his 50 head of cattle to the city for pasture.

He says Maasais will not leave the cattle, their main source of livelihood, to die.

Only last week, the Maasais were roaming close to Nairobi's state house.

The authorities here do not seem to have an answer to this growing menace of Maasai herdsmen invading Kenya's capital city.

And until the rains come, Nairobi residents will have no choice but to learn to live with cattle in the city.

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See also:

17 Jul 00 | Africa
Kenya's powercut chaos
30 May 00 | Africa
Lights out in Kenya
12 Jul 00 | Africa
Kenyans starving, says UN
05 Jul 00 | Africa
Kenya drought warning
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