Kenya rejects bid to privatize parts of Kenya Wildlife Service

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2004:

NAIROBI–Swiss-born horticulturalist Rene
Haller, founder of the Baobab Trust, was on
August 18 appointed acting chair of the Kenya
Wildlife Service.
Haller succeeds Rhino Ark founder Colin Church.
Church was indefinitely suspended and KWS chief
executive officer Evans Mukolwe was reprimanded
after 11 days of furor over a plan advanced by
Church associate Andrew Hind to privatize the
money-making KWS activities.
As in several other recent flaps
involving the KWS, much of the uproar appeared
to result from the manner in which the plan was
made public.
“The proposed deal to turn KWS into a
commercial company was allegedly made without
Cabinet approval,” and for that matter without
the knowledge of most of the KWS board, wrote
Biketi Kikechi of the East African Standard.
Hind, at invitation of Church, drafted
the proposal on July 8. Entitled The
Commercialization of the Kenya Wildlife Service:
Concept Document, it came to public notice after
almost a month of quiet discussion.

When it finally came to light, it
appears to have been much misunderstood.
“If the deal goes ahead, it is possible
that Kenya’s prized wildlife could be shot for
sport,” wrote John Mbaria of The Nation on
August 7. “Behind the deal are believed to be
some of the people who recently drafted a bill
that is now before Parliament asking for the 1977
act banning sport shooting in the reserves to be
“The shooting lobby is composed mainly of
big-time ranchers in Laikipia, Machakos, and
Nakuru,” Mbaria continued.
Oscar Obonyo of The Nation later set the record straight about Hind’s positi
“Mr. Hind, a director of Bill Jordan’s
Wildlife Defence Fund, said his proposals would
never involve harming any animal,” Obonyo wrote.
“Enumerating his wildlife conservation
activities, which include donating 50% of the
profits of his restaurant, The Wildlife Café,
and sponsoring several projects in Kenya and
other countries, Mr. Hind maintained that he is
a conservationist who believes that wildlife can
raise revenue from tourism without having its
life threatened,” Obonyo continued. “His idea
is the introduction of commercial policies which
make money from tourism, merchandise sales,
memberships, hotels, and safari camps.”
Said Hind, “I do not now, nor have I
ever, nor shall I ever support in public or
private any actions which harm wildlife.”
Mbaria noted in his initial report that
the privatization plan was “silent on both the
shooting of wildlife for sport, and the name of
the man who would head the wildlife bodyŠOne name
being suggested in KWS corridors,” Mbaria said,
“is that of former KWS director Richard Leakey.”
Leakey has vigorously defended the ban on sport hunting.
Leakey fell under suspicion, Mbaria
explained, because “Early in 2003, a scheme to
set up a trust fund to finance some KWS
operations was nipped in the bud by the
government, who suspected the fund was meant to
control conservation in Kenya. The fund’s
architects were Dr. Leakey and retired World Bank
director Harold Wackman.”
That controversy led to the firing of
then-KWS director Michael Wamithi, who
previously headed the Nairobi office of the
International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Both the trust fund proposed by Leakey
and the privatization scheme proposed by Hind
were to have drawn heavily upon foreign capital.
This left both proposals vulnerable to attack as
“neo-colonialism,” especially after they were
advanced for some time in virtual secrecy.
The underlying economic issue is that
KWS, organized as a wildlife police force, has
usually operated at a substantial loss, and has
been heavily dependent upon foreign grants,
which also jeopardize national control of
wildlife policy.
Under the George W. Bush administration,
USAid in particular has applied leverage toward
opening Kenya to sport hunting.
KWS came closest to self-sufficiency
under Nehemiah Rotich, who reduced the agency
budget deficit from 588 million Kenya shillings
when he was appointed in July 1999 to just 30
million Kenya shillings when he was fired under
unexplained circumstances in December 2001.
Rotich on August 13 detailed to Nixon
Ng’anga’a of the East African Standard a series
of transactions that Rotich charged were “done in
order to weaken the KWS financially. It has now
been so run down,” Rotich charged, “that
privatization appears to be the only viable
Rotich argued that KWS, if properly
managed, could itself develop all of the viable
economic opportunities envisioned by Hind and
others, without surrendering any control of
natural resources, and without subjecting Kenyan
wildlife to consumptive use.

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