Maasai leaders vow to defend Amboseli park take over

Kajiado Governor Joseph Ole Lenku, Anglican Church head Jackson Ole Sapit, and nominated MP David Sankok during special prayers at Amboseli National Park in Kajiado, on Monday, August 28, 2023. [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

Maasai leaders from Kajiado, Narok and Samburu counties have warned wildlife conservation groups against interfering with the implementation of President William Ruto's directive to transfer the management of Amboseli National Park to the County Government of Kajiado.

The leaders, who included three governors, ten MPs, three senators and more than 50 MCAs, said they would not tolerate any attempts to sabotage the Amboseli take over, which they termed as a "correction of one of the most discriminatory historical injustices meted on the Maasai Community."

"We know the conservation groups went to court seeking to overturn former President Mwai Kibaki's similar directive in 2005. We shall ban them from operating in our counties," said Samburu Governor Jonathan Lelelit.

He added that Maasai Mara and Samburu game reserves were doing well under the county governments and that Kajiado would be supported to manage Amboseli.

Kajiado Governor Joseph Ole Lenku said President William Ruto's directive was a "best gift a President could give to us."

"We shall not drop the ball and we shall ensure this directive is fast-tracked. We have no time for busy bodies," he said.

Narok Governor Patrick Ntutu said they would take it offensively if anyone, including government bureaucrats, tried to slow down the process.

"It has been discriminatory. Narok manages Maasai Mara and Samburu manages Samburu game reserve. Why not Kajiado to manage Amboseli?" he asked.

Kajiado South MP Samuel Parashina said they all backed the Amboseli take over and said the community had enough land to allocate more for wildlife conservation.

The leaders spoke inside the Amboseli National Park during an inter-denomination thanksgiving prayers ceremony conducted by Archbishop Jackson Sapit of the Anglican Church in Kenya and thirty bishops from the three counties.

Archbishop Sapit said the clergy from the Maa Nation fully supported the changes over Amboseli and pledged that they would pray for the community to ably manage it. He thanked President Ruto for re-introducing the presidential directive on the park.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), which manages the park and raises more than Sh 1 billion in revenues, boycotted the ceremony, indicating a brewing conflict between the community and the county government on one side and the parastatal on the other.