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NGO officials and Isiolo County residents protest over 'plans to lease out three of Kenya's game parks'

THE COUNTIES
By Ali Abdi | August 10th 2015

County officials have entered into talks to lease out three game parks to an international wildlife conservation group.

The talks, being led by Governor Godana Doyo and officials of African Parks have however raised a major storm from the residents who have vowed to go to court to stop the process if they are not fully involved.

Isiolo County plans to lease out Buffalo Springs, Shaba and Bisanadi game reserves to African Parks for 99 years, making Kenya the eighth country in Africa to do so.

The Ewaso Ngiro River in Shaba National Reserve, Kenya. The Shaba National reserve is among the three slated to be leased for 99 years by Isiolo County government to African Parks.

(PHOTO: COURTESY)

Officials of African Parks, with roots in South Africa, Western Europe and the US were last week taken on a tour of the three parks for three days before the meeting at Joy Adamson Camp, located within the Shaba Game Reserve.

Those in attendance included Governor Doyo, Tourism Executive Suleiman Shunu, Assembly Lands and Tourism Committee Chairman Hassan Kumpa and Ian Craig, the director of Northern Rangeland Trust and proprietor of Lewa Downs Wildlife Conservancy, among others.

Yesterday, officials of local non-governmental organisations held a meeting with local residents and agreed to block the deal through court.

 Possible impacts

Waso Trust Land Project (WTLP), Movement for Survival of Indigenous Isiolo People and Environmental Conservation (Mosiipec) and Merti Integrated Development Project (Mid-P) claimed the county had already entered into a deal with the foreigners without following the law.

"We are strongly opposed to this deal because the public has not been consulted. These parks are the lifeline of the people of Isiolo and they are the ones mandated to deal with the matter," said Liban Golicha, the CEO of WTLP.

Hassan Balla, the chairman of Mosiipec and a former councillor of the defunct Isiolo County Council, alleged the executive and assembly had already approved the deal to lease the game parks.

"The people of Isiolo should know that our parks have been auctioned and the repercussions include sacking of the locals, including the game rangers. We know that 19 out of 20 MCAs support the move," alleged Mr Balla.

Salad Tutana, an official of Mid-P, expressed concern that a county can decide to 'hand over' the management of its wildlife sanctuaries to a foreign entity, claiming that Kenyans had been duped in the deal.

"If this deal goes through, Kenya will be the eighth country in Africa to do so. Other countries have done so and failed miserably. Two of the states, including DR Congo and Central Africa Republic are experiencing unprecedented wildlife poaching," said Mr Tutana.

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