Kenya Wildlife chief Leakey given whole civil service
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1999:
NAIROBI––Stating, “The time has come to give
public jobs to those who can deliver,” Kenyan president
Daniel arap Moi on July 20 promoted Kenya Wildlife Service
director Richard Leakey to the post of permanent secretary in
the office of the president, making him head of the entire
Kenya civil service and secretary to the cabinet.
“Leakey, 54, a third generation Kenyan who was in
his second stint as director of the KWS, has a reputation for
efficiency and thoroughness,” explained Emman Omari of
The Nation, the leading Kenyan newspaper. Leakey previously
headed KWS from 1988 until mid-1994, a year after losing
both legs in a plane crash but gaining public stature with his
swift return to duty.
Resigning in frustration with arap Moi minions who
hoped to open Kenya to commercial hunting, Leakey formed
Safina, a leading opposition party, and was elected to the
Kenyan parliament. After arap Moi personally denounced
Leakey, a pro-arap Moi mob dragged him from his car and
flogged him––but when KWS became “a staff-bloated organization
wallowing in cash flow problems,” as Nation reporter
Ken Opala put it, arap Moi put Leakey back in charge.
KWS will now be headed by Eastern African Wild
Life Society director Nehemiah Rotich, who is also vice chair
of the KWS board of trustees.
In 1998, wrote Opala, “Rotich resigned from the
KWS board following disagreement between him and thendirector
David Western over commercial hunting. Rotich,
like Leakey, is opposed to the ivory trade and commercial
hunting. EAWLS, the non-governmental organization Rotich
has headed for years, is currently experiencing financial problems
induced by reduced donor support,” Opala added. “In
1993-1994, EAWLS fought for the protection of the Tana
River Delta owing to its unique wildlife,” notably endangered
red colubus monkeys and crested mangebys. “A 20,000-
hectare chunk of the delta earmarked for Africa’s first wetlands
game reserve had been allocated to private interests,”
Opala continued. “President Moi revoked the allotment, but
reports later indicated the order was reversed through a court.”
The World Bank has threatened to withdraw funding
for primate conservation in the Tana River area unless the
work moves more rapidly, but two groups of villagers, the
Gwano and the Ndera, have refused to relocate to leave their
land to wildlife. In August they accused KWS of improperly
trying to evict them by allegedly causing the Kenya Water for
Health Organization to renege on a pledge to drill wells.
Leakey in his new position is expected to fight “A
cartel of traders, politicians and administrators” whom T h e
N a t i o n exposed in late July for alleged cattle rustling in the
Pokot, Turkana, Marakwet, and Samburu districts.
Apparently organized along tribal lines, bands of as many as
1,500 rustlers have reportedly hit herds with such violence that
at least 20 children have been killed while cow-watching.
Forty schools were said to have closed in the affected areas,
sending 10,000 students home––some of whom were helping
to tend cattle while others joined the rustlers.
The activity may be associated with a rise in poaching,
following the resumption of elephant ivory sales by
Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia, as well as with banditry,
plaguing some of the highways serving the major Kenyan
wildlife parks. On July 12 a KWS ranger was killed by three
poachers he reportedly caught in the act near Yatta; on July
21, a driver and passenger were wounded by apparent bandits
who shot at them in southern Tsavo National Park; and on
July 30, KWS announced the recovery of ivory from at least
23 elephants, probably poached in Tsavo, although the tusks
were stashed in a corn field 185 miles north of Nairobi.
Confrontations continue over logging in the Karura
Forest, just north of Nairobi, led by Wangari Maathai, who
founded the Kenya Green Belt Movement in 1977. Her organization
has reportedly formed more than 5,000 local nurseries
to start seedlings, and has planted more than 20 million trees.
While police keep Maathai and followers out of the
Karura Forest, KWS rangers and forest guards were deployed
in June to keep loggers and squatters out of the 5,000-acre
Kararacha Mpendakukla forest, a portion of the 60,000-acre
Arabuko Sokoke forest (east of Nairobi) which has been designated
as a refuge for rare birds and butterflies.
As if KWS wasn’t already up to the tops of its
waders in figurative crocodiles, real croc trouble surfaced on
August 6 when Kwale County councillor Susan Mbulwa
Nzuki demanded that fences be built and other measures be
taken to protect villagers near the Kibuyuni dam from crocodiles
who have killed at least 20 people in eight years.
KWS South Coast warden Onesmus Macharia said
his staff have been killing the menacing crocs, even though
maintaining public safety at the dam was not their duty