ARREST TURNS MEDIA AND CONSERVATION GROUPS AGAINST KWS CEO
News from Nairobi were received with some incredulity when it became known that the General Manager of Eco-Tourism Kenya, a well respected conservation and best practice organization long established in Kenya, was arrested. This apparently followed a complaint by the KWS Executive Director Dr. Julius Kipngetich to the police over an article which seemingly annoyed him or else brushed against his ego the wrong way. It is not known if the two had earlier disagreements or a fallout, professionally or on a personal level, leaving this possible explanation wide open to speculation.
Conservation circles are in fact baffled over this remarkable faux pas by the KWS CEO, apparently letting emotion get the better of him and drag the good name of KWS into the bad books of public opinion.
Mr. Kahindi Lekailhaile had apparently written about his doubts on officially admitted figures of poaching of elephant in Kenya, openly questioning the official figure given by Kipngetich as 275 in earlier media releases, and in the process suggesting that the true extent could be ten times worse than officially admitted in order to conceal the true extent to which massive gang style poaching has now taken root in the country.
Kipngetich accused Kahinda to undermining the authority of a public officer, under section 132 of the penal code leading to Kahindas initial questioning, then detention with pending charges to answer for in court and his eventual release on a police bond worth 50.000 Kenya Shillings.
Eco-Tourism responded to the sad news with a statement saying : Ecotourism Kenya supports Kahindi in his noble efforts to safeguarding the integrity of Kenyas conservation success and promote responsible tourism in Kenya. Elephants remain a flagship for Kenyas conservation success and a bedrock for tourism.
The mood has clearly turned foul against Dr. Julius as social media networks are buzzing with accusation of blatant misuse of office, decrying the arrogance of a civil servant using an obscure legal provision to rid himself of a critic instead of answering to the allegations made, while also blaming the Kenya police of being a willing tool in muzzling dissent and oppressing the freedom to free speech.
Whichever this saga goes, a good starting point would be for Dr. Julius to withdraw his complaint to the police to have Kahinda set free and then engage with Eco-Tourism and Kahinda in order to not just present facts but also permit public scrutiny of the figures KWS has owned up to vis a vis the claims made by Kahinda incidentally quietly echoed across a wide section of the conservation fraternity, none of whom was however willing to go on record citing the likelihood of also falling victim to the police should more complaints be filed.
Until that is done however, there is a stain on Kenyas credibility under the new constitution of freedom of expression and increased worries that simply by stating ones dissenting opinion in public forum one becomes the target of a vicious or vengeful public official who seeks the restoration of his bruised ego by attempting to send the critics to jail.
Meanwhile though, on a positive note, have news also been confirmed that KWS was collaring a number of elephant in the wider Tsavo area, to establish their pattern of movement and obtain vital information from the data about the increasing human wildlife conflict in the area, caused by elephant leaving the parks in search of pasture and water and raiding crops along their way. An added purpose, it is understood, is also to be able to monitor the movement of herds as a measure of providing anti poaching cover for the animals with precise locations now always known through the constant flow of data via satellite. Watch this space.