Local Chief claims his life is in danger as row between NRT and locals escalates

Songok Sub –Location assistant chief Mr. Joseph Korkimul
Songok Sub –Location assistant chief Mr. Joseph Korkimul

A row between West Pokot County residents  and the Northern Rangelands Trust [NRT] organization has taken a new twist as a local chief claims that his life is in danger accusing officers working for the organization in the county of having a scheme to eliminate him.

Songok Sub –Location assistant chief Mr.  Joseph Korkimul now claims officers working for the Pellow conservancy in Turkwel area, section of area leaders and some government officers want to kill him for rejecting the organization’s operations in the area.

Locals in the area have been accusing the organization of having a scheme to push them away from their ancestral land.

Speaking on Wednesday to the press in Kapenguria, Mr Korkimul   recorded a statement at Turkwel police station in February and also did the same at Kacheliba police station in May, 2021.

According to the chief, the organization is using its rangers, warden and the Pellow conservancy manager to eliminate him.

‘I have my intelligence and am aware of the plot to finish me and all those who are against the project. There is a plan to kidnap me.I want DCI and CID to be watchful, “he said.

Korkimul alleged NRT has failed to be transparent, accountable and have ignored the public participation concept, hence observing the conservation policy approach is a smokescreen for grabbing community land.

The conservancy project started in 2015 along the Turkwel corridor which aimed to stabilize peace among the Pokot and Turkana communities but conflict started to simmer a few years ago  after the community members fell out with NRT over the conservancy land boundary  and job opportunities.

Mr Korkimul says that the community has rejected the operations in the area citing that it is not genuine in its dealings.

“At first I was taken to Isiolo by the organization, they came here and proposed their development projects and we accepted but it reached a time things started going astray. The Committee was divided and they started wrangles. NRT Extended other areas not in agreement and where there are no elephants and residents are not aware, “said Mr Korkimul.

He noted that the NRT was not after land   and there was no agreement but development but later they drew the maps, identified where animals can graze and settle.

‘The community was not pleased about the bursaries. I cannot accept something that the community does not want. I work for the community and government hence I cannot go against the will of the people. I have disarmed people peacefully without using force. I recovered seventeen guns and ammunition, “said Mr Korkimul.

He said that the organization should stop its operations in the area because   it can create animosity among communities.

“The animals are ours, not for NRT. Some leaders and few government officers had an interest in the project. The help has turned to conflict .We have had many organizations like Red Cross and World Vision, Acted but they didn’t draw any maps.

He accused NRT for failing to include locals in consultation and decision making based on the people’s fair and informed consent.

Mr Korkimul said they accepted a conservation project in the area to help stabilize peace and promote wildlife conservation as one way of boosting the economy.

“We have not been having issues with NRT but what provoked the community is when NRT decided not to involve locals. No employment was offered and they refused to change board members.” He said.

He asked the national government to investigate the motive of NRT as there are allegations of grabbing their ancestral land.

However, an NRT officer in the county who sought anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to the press dismissed the allegations saying they are baseless.

He said Korkimul is an attention seeker because he has lost relevance.

“He has been inciting locals to reject the project. No one can kill a chief,”he said

However, Kitale High court last year ordered all NRT programs in the County to be stopped while pending investigations after a section of residents petitioned the organization for allegedly moving them and selling off their ancestral land.