MWAZO IS AT IT AGAIN
(Posted 16th September 2013)
If one thought there is safety in numbers to hide between when talking utter rubbish, Dan Mwazo, former and failed tourism minister and now senator for his county once again erred in a major way.
Mwazo together with county governor Mruttu and area MP’s Mwadime and Mlolwa demanded during a visit by President Kenyatta to this part of the country that locals be allowed to mine inside the sprawling Tsavo National Park. In the same breath though they decried that the park was being destroyed by mining companies owned by Kenyans from other parts of the country, which in their interpretation led to a migration of elephant out of the park where they were destroying crops, causing increased human – wildlife conflict. ‘If a former tourism minister can stand up on the podium and be part of such nonsense utterances, I think it proves beyond doubt what issues we had with him when he was tourism minister. It was only a matter of time before his true self was to return to the public stage and he becomes part of yet more controversies. There were some legacy mines for gems inside the park for decades and those were controversial. They could only get away with it because that part of Tsavo was traditionally less populated by game because of the dry and infertile soil but conservationists have always had sentiments about it. It is not on the same scale as mining uranium in the Selous or mining soda ash at Lake Natron but the principle is the same. Increased human presence, increased disturbance of the habitat and increased settlements outside the park to house staff which in an ecologically challenged area only adds more destructive pressure on the environment. In the past such areas were hardly inhabited because no one could sustain farming for very long. However the area is ideal for tourism. There are two lakes, Jipe and Chala, and there will be enough room for the game which draws tourists in if the locals stop their poaching activities. They often use the reason of losing crops and property but KWS has a compensation mechanism now. More tourists means more lodges and that means more jobs. There are also remnants of the World War I battles between the Germans and the British and their allies, more reasons to perhaps declare some national monuments in the Taita Taveta area and bring visitors there like they flock to Verdun and Somne in Europe? But some people just don’t get it, they are cheap populists only looking at the next election with no concept of the bigger picture’ did one regular source let fly who in the past already showed his professional but also personal dislike of Mwazo.
Poaching in the Tsavo area and adjoining ranches has become a mounting challenge and while Kenya Wildlife Service and a recently established task force have been able to prevent a further spread and increase of poaching, there are still too many sporadic and opportunistic poaching incidents. ‘It is often locals who take their politicians by their words and then claim to defend themselves against marauding elephant groups and other game straying outside parks. And I must lay much of the responsibility on the politicians who by keeping quiet on this menace talk very loudly on other topics which their voters then see as an encouragement. With those utterances from last week the dots have been connected’ he then added. Travel commitments last week made it impossible to bring these issues to the attention of a wider public in a timelier manner.
A few responses from tourism stakeholders in Kenya also revealed overnight that not one was in favour of allowing more mining inside a gazetted national park as it would set a precedent for other equally destructive commercial activities, eventually reducing the habitat of the game even further, while at the same time demanding that yet more needs to be done to fight poaching in the field but also through close surveillance on suspects thought to finance the poachers and facilitate the smuggling of blood ivory out of the country. Watch this space.