‘Are you saying we are frauds’ ask conservationists from Principal Secretary?


(Posted 04th September 2014)

Several of Kenya’s conservation NGO’s, all highly respected and with a great long list of accomplishments in their respective fields, took almost immediate exception at the rants uttered by the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, after Dr. Richard Lesiyampe let fly accusations that NGO’s were deliberately falsifying and overstating poaching numbers in Kenya for the sole purpose of getting sympathy funding from abroad.

He made the allegations, without however offering any proof, when appearing before the parliamentary committee to answer searching questions before obviously losing his cool and lashing out at targets unable to defend themselves there and then.

There has been a long running dispute on actual poaching numbers, which landed one conservationist in court when the immediate former Executive Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service had him arrested and charged under an obscure law reminiscent of the old chief’s rule that you do not challenge those in power or else face the consequences. That episode, though eventually resolved when the case was withdrawn, left a perpetual stain on KWS and in particular former CEO Kipng’etich who is now in the private banking sector and would no doubt wish the entire saga away. Yet, an elephant census carried out in the Taita / Taveta / Mkomanzi eco system revealed that a lot more elephant were lost just there than the entire number admitted to by KWS over the same period of time, casting further doubts about the credibility of numbers of elephant lost vis a vis those numbers admitted to.

Several conservationists, on condition of anonymity for fear of direct repercussions on them and their organizations, have now challenged the PS to show evidence that NGO’s have doctored poaching figures in order to get foreign funding: ‘Throwing dirt at us, who have been reliable partners of KWS in so many programmes we supported, not only lacks etiquette but shows a bankrupt mind. Let him publicly show those who raised money according to his utterances through walks and races and have not supported KWS or put the resources they raised in to specific project. Claiming to be dismayed or telling the public that we do not have a major crisis at our hands is an insult to our intelligence. Let me not mince words, that ministry is in a mess, KWS is in a mess as the recent feedback from a report compiled by the overseers clearly shows and throwing mud and pointing fingers will not make that go away. He either is constructive and works with NGO’s or otherwise maybe looks for gainful employment elsewhere if he cannot stick to the truth. I expect an apology from that man because he is not protected by parliamentary immunity to say what just comes to his mind and get away with it. For all purposes, though not said outright, between the lines he accuses some NGO’s of fraud. Let him bring evidence or publicly withdraw and apologize’ wrote a clearly incensed conservationist from Nairobi.

Another took exception that a suspect nabbed was deported instead of charge in a court of law in Kenya, to answer for his crimes and get locked up. ‘Dealing with poaching is a multi-layered challenge. It is not just to catch those foot soldiers in the field with guns and snares and blood ivory. It is also those who hord it, store it, conceal it and transport it before treating it to escape sniffer dogs when packed in containers. It is those who provide transport, those who provide finance. It is similar big business like the piracy was until last year. So fighting poaching needs many agencies to work hand in hand and even us NGO staffers can assist by providing intelligence from the field. We need someone like Leakey who doesn’t give a damn who you are and who you are related to but who locks you up when found complicit in poaching and trading’ said another source, again demanding not to be named, adding ‘If the PS can make such accusations in parliament you can imagine what he would do if he had our names. Such characters can make life a living hell and as an NGO one might even lose accreditation for speaking out openly. At least we know you will publish this in the right way’.

Sad indeed when those who should stand together to fight a common enemy fall prey to egos and falsehoods while trying to whitewash their own failures at the expense of others, risking long lasting conservation coalitions in the process. Barbs for Lesiyampe and bouquets for the conservation fraternity who is not taking such outburst laying down any longer.

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