Human rights activists in Taita-Taveta County have termed as reckless remarks by the Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala that local leaders are not sober.
The civil society groups claimed Thursday that the CS had failed to adequately address persistent human wildlife conflict in the region and President Uhuru Kenyatta should immediately replace him.
“The CS does care the concerns raised by the local leaders about frequent lion’s invasion in settlement areas. The remarks made by Mr Balala’s that local leaders are not sober are reckless, insincere, retrogressive and disrespectful. The remarks are insult to the local community and out to demean the county’s leadership,” said a human rights activist Paul Olinga.
On Tuesday, the CS was quoted in a TV Station (not KTN) interview that local leaders are not sober, a remark that irked the county leaders.
Balala was reacting on the demonstration spearheaded by local leaders on Monday over lions’ invasion that have so far killed livestock worth over 5.2 million in the past two months.
Apart from killing livestock, the big cats have also disrupted learning in schools in Mwatate Sub County that is the worst hit
Addressing the press in Wundanyi town, the human rights activists among them Thomas Njumwa, John Mwaiseghe, Gilead Mwakazi, Grace Chari and Irine Wakesho asked the President to relieve Balala of his ministerial position as he had demonstrated inability to lead the Tourism and Wildlife docket.
“The CS does not care about the injury and loses the locals are under going through in the past two months following invasion of the lions from Tsavo West National Park. The lions have so far killed about 128 livestock and this is a major drawback to the economic well-being of the county residents,” said Mr Njumwa who read a brief statement to the press.
“The CS has demonstrated inability to lead the docket. Frequent wildlife invasions in the people’s settlement has become a thorn in the flesh and we need a new CS who can effectively articulate issues affecting the local community whose 64 percent is occupied by wildlife,” he said.
Mwaiseghe viewed the remarks as an insult to the local community and its elected leaders.
He challenged Balala to apologize to the local leadership or else face unspecified consequences.
“We have not encroached on wildlife protected areas as claimed by the CS and KWS personnel. Over 64 percent of our land is occupied by Tsavo National Park without any benefits accrued from the wildlife resource. Our hospitality to host wildlife in the region should not be misconstrued to mean that we are foolish,” noted the rights activists.
They claimed that the CS had failed to address mining disputes when he headed the Mining docket in 2013 and should not be trusted. “We declare that we have no confidence in Balala leadership and his entire staff including KWS personnel in the region,” said the human rights activists.
Meanwhile, the government has announced plans to drive out marauding lions that invaded people’s settlement in the recent past.
According to Balala, the security operation will be carried out in the next 48 hours.
At the same time the CS regretted the suffering the local farmers were undergoing through following the invasion of lions in the region.
“KWS personnel have already been deployed to the ground to effectively deal with the lions menace in the affected areas of the county. We are ready to deal with the situation,” Balala assured the locals and leaders.
The CS was speaking at his Nairobi office when he held a consultative meeting Governor Granton Samboja and Mwatate MP Andrew Mwadime at his office yesterday. Present was Principal Secretary Dr Magaret Mwakima and top KWS officials
He announced that plans were also at advanced stage to compensate relatives of people who had lost their lives and property as a result of wildlife attacks.
The compensation will be done before the end of this year, he told the county leaders.
“We regret to see how the local community is suffering from persistent human wildlife conflict. Already we have sent a team of KWS personnel to effectively deal with the wildlife menace before it turns out of hand. We are ready and prepared to drive the lions back to the park besides intensifying surveillance. We will also soon launch the compensation programme for people who have lost their relatives, injured by wildlife and loss of property,” Balala assured the county leadership.
Samboja assured that his administration fully supports the national government move to address the wildlife menace in the region. The governor pointed out that the construction of the 96kkilometre electric fence from Kamtonga –Sagala- Kasigau would not only help minimize wildlife conflict but also improve food security in the region.
“My administration is committed towards working with the national government in addressing pertinent issues affecting the local community like the wildlife menace,” he told Balala yesterday..
Mwadime asked the government to find a lasting solution to the wildlife menace.