Chairperson, Consumptive Wildlife Taskforce
I write to you as a citizen of the world domiciled in the African Motherland, and particularly in a territory that the imperial British forces carved out and called "Kenya."
I would like to voice my loudest opposition to the proposal to introduce "wildlife consumption in Kenya.
Despite sending my views to the task force, I feel that it cannot authentically represent the interests of the people of Kenya, due to the presence of foreigners or employees or foreign entities. In particular, Munira Bashir's loyalty is likely to be to The Nature Conservancy that is not only a foreign but also a commercial entity, as would be the case of Holly T. Dublin.
I also do not believe that the commercial private sector represented by the director of KEPSA should be involved in a task force about our national and biological heritage, without balance from the culture and religious sectors, or representatives of indigenous communities. The value of wildlife to Kenya more than just monetary and biological.
2. ABUSE OF THE PUBLIC PARTICIPATION CLAUSE OF THE CONSTITUTION
I also feel that the attempt of the task force to seek the views of the public has been feeble and cynical. The first notice we saw in the local dailies assumed that "consumptive wildlife" model is the only model of wildlife management in Kenya, and allowed for no alternative opinion. The notice started by explaining what consumptive agenda, but not what opposition or alternatives were available. The questions at the end of the notice began by asking the the public if we agree with consumptive wildlife, and give us a No option. But all the other questions that followed assumed that our answer is Yes.
The notice flouted the spirit of the constitution that respects the diversity of perspectives of the Kenyan people and expected that diversity to bear on decisions that affect all of us.
Another element of bad faith in the notice was the use of technical terms known mostly to those in the narrow field of ecology or conservation. Terms such as "culling," "off-take," and "cropping," alienate not just the general public, but also communities whose indigenous knowledge contains wisdom on alternative ways to live together with wildlife.
The purpose of the public participation clause is to encourage genuine and authentic participation of the people in decisions that affect them, but the task force notice sounds like the intention was to erect obstacles to manipulate the public to support a certain view.
1. DIVORCE WILDLIFE CONSERVATION FROM TOURISM
The fundamental mistake that Kenya has perpetuated since independence is to see wildlife primarily in terms of the money which comes from wildlife tourism. This obsession with money has distorted our national sense of duty to the environment and to the heritage of our ancestors. Wildlife conservation should be removed from the tourism ministry and placed under the Environment ministry. Conservation should be driven not by the effort to earn tourist dollars, but as our duty to our environment and our heritage.
2. REFORMS TO THE KENYA WILDLIFE SERVICE
a) KWS should no longer be a trust but should be converted into a government body fully funded by the tax payer and directly from the exchequer. It makes no sense for KWS to have trustees when the Government is the Trustee designated to take care of wildlife on behalf of the Kenyan people.
b) KWS should be responsible for all wildlife in this country, and should have access to the wildlife no matter whether the wildlife are on private land or not. Conservancies should not be able to dictate any policy on wildlife. Firearms used to protect wildlife should be solely in the hands of KWS.
c) KWS capacity to protect our wildlife heritage should be boosted by employing and supporting more KENYAN professionals, especially ecologists and veterinary officers. KWS should never be in a situation where private business managers and foreigners outnumber the professionals.
3. RECONFIGURE CONSERVATION
As indicated in the press release issued by the group Kenyans4KWS, the logic of the conservation should be reconfigured to respect indigenous peoples and their knowledge on the environment, to restore the community rights to land, and to reverse the unconstitutional arrangements that allow foreign entities like The Nature Conservancy and North Range Trust to own vast amounts of land at the expense of indigenous people, and even train and arm their own rangers. All firepower with the potential to kill should remain under the sole jurisdiction of the Kenya Government because it is the only entity accountable to the people of Kenya.
The default assumption of any conservation should be that Kenyans are the original custodians of wildlife, and are competent to keep preserving the wildlife, and that wildlife are priceless and beyond monetary value. It is amazing that to this day, there are still wildlife roaming in the plains of Kenya, despite having suffered the historical obliteration in their thousands at the hands of colonialist hunters like Woodrow Roosevelt, who killed over 11,000 species, or J. A. Hunter, of the Hunters' Lodge fame, who killed almost 1,000 rhinos in a span of 2 years.
The conservation, rather than management, of wildlife, should be based on faith in the people of Kenya and in the indigenous knowledges we have that respect the sanctity of land and nature.