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Judge stops Nema from closing Mara luxury camp

By Robert Kiplagat | September 24th 2020

The High Court in Narok has stopped the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) from closing a luxury camp.

Mara Ngenche Safari Camp came under the spotlight a fortnight ago after its staff were filmed by a tourist chasing away wildebeests migrating across River Mara.

In the order filed on September 10, the camp’s lawyer Abdullahi Mohammed also made application to compel the Narok County Government to review the terms of a 33-year lease.

The camp also wants three respondents – Tourist Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala, Narok County Government and Nema – to withdraw offending tweets or posts from their respective social media handles and apologise.

Quashed directives

Narok Environment and Lands Court judge Mohammed Kullow ordered the camp be allowed to continue operating and quashed directives issued by Nema on September 17, 2020, to shut down the facility.

He directed the applicant to file and serve the substantive motion within 21 days. The respondents have been directed to file their response within 21 days thereafter.

Nema and management of Mara Ngenche Camp had been directed to maintain the status quo for 28 days which shall elapse on October 22 but the former went against the directive and ordered the latter closed.

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According to court papers, the camp is operating on a 33-year land lease which was issued by the Ministry of Lands on November 25, 2011. This is according to a letter issued by the defunct Narok County Council indicating that the lease had been granted subject to the approval of the Ministry of Local Government.

Last Thursday, Nema closed the camp for allegedly blocking the migration of wildebeest trying to cross the river in the Masai Mara park.

Nema chairman John Konchellah said the camp will immediately close all operations until a full environmental impact assessment study is done to determine the suitability of the camp at the confluence of the Talek and Mara rivers.

On September 8, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala and Narok Governor Samuel Tunai discussed the Mara Ngenche Safari Camp built beside the Mara River.

Mr Balala said the camp was blocking the wildebeest crossing.

“It’s very disturbing and we expect the governor to have the camp removed,” he said.

The case will be mentioned on October 22 for directions.

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