the transfer of Amboseli park
Story by JILLO KADIDA
Publication Date: 10/29/2005
The decision by the Government to
degazette Amboseli National Park has been temporarily halted.
A High Court order yesterday
suspended the resolution contained in a legal notice dated
September by Tourism minister Morris Dzoro. The notice downgraded
the park and handed back its management to the Olkejuado County
Granting the temporary orders
yesterday, Mr Justice Mathew Anyara Emukule said Mr Dzoro did not
follow the due process of law in degazetting the park.
He said the minister ought to have
given notice of intention to convert the national park at least 60
days earlier and put an advertisement in at least one newspaper.
Also among the responsibilities of
the minister, the court said, was to lay the decision before the
National Assembly for at least 100 days. Finally, the National
Assembly should have approved the decision.
The court gave the order in a suit
filed by conservationists who have challenged the decision to
The East African Wildlife Society,
the Youth For Conservation, the Centre for Environmental Legal
Research and Education, the Born Free Foundation and Mr George
Mulama asked the court to nullify the decision degazetting the
park and placing it under management of the council. They
maintained the decision was illegal.
The lobbies had said that returning
the park to the council contravened the Wildlife Act which, they
argued, gave the Kenya Wildlife Service the right to manage
The change of status was likely to
affect the maintenance of the park's ecological integrity, the
group had said.
And the minister exceeded his
powers by changing the park's status, they said.
The case will come up for hearing
on November 15.
Another court heard that the suit
filed by the conservationists lacked merit. On October 12 a
similar suit was filed before Mr Justice Joseph Nyamu. But the
judge declined to grant a temporary order barring Mr Dzoro from
degrading the park.
Last week, replying to the earlier
suit, the council urged the court to strike out the matter because
there were no parties to the suit.
Maasai to visit State House
THE STANDARD, Nairobi
Tuesday October 18, 2005
By Paul Jimbo
Maasai leaders supporting the
proposed constitution have said they will seek guidance from
President Mwai Kibaki over land issues.
Education minister Prof George
Saitoti, assistant minister Gideon Konchella and Kajiado South MP
Katoo ole Metitto said they would lead a delegation of Maasai
leaders to State House before month end.
Others present were Olkejuado
County Council chairman Julius ole Ntayia, former MPs Philip
Singa’ru and David ole Sankori.
They said the perceived Orange wave
among the Maasai, was born out of lies and propaganda by those
opposed to the Wako draft.
They were speaking at a local hotel
in Saitoti’s Kajiado North Constituency.
"Despite the so-called Suswa
Declaration, we will go ahead to meet the President and nobody
should block us," Saitoti said.
"Let nobody pretend that he is
senior to us. We are all equal and nobody should come between us
and the President," he said.
Saitoti also accused the Orange
Movement of harbouring mischief in their campaigns among the
"The majority of those making
noise in the No team from Maasailand are the same people who were
used by the past regime to fight Saitoti," he said.
But he maintained that he would not
change his position or change his allegiance to the President.
"Since Kibaki has not betrayed
me, why should I lead you to oppose his Government?" he asked.
The minister also said that he
would not shy away from the Banana campaign rallies as this could
be misinterpreted as cowardice.
The Government, he said, would
ensure the Draft Constitution was passed at the referendum.
"I have never been to the
opposition and I cannot gamble with my electorate’s political
destiny. I know all the avenues to victory," he said.
Saitoti also accused some foreign
envoys of interfering with the referendum by allegedly funding the
Konchella said later that Cabinet
minister William ole Ntimama’s recent Suswa meeting was "not
binding on the Maasai".
He said he did not attend the Suswa
meeting because it had a tribal agenda aimed at sidelining the
Maasai from mainstream leadership.
Meanwhile, the Coast Banana team
yesterday demanded that local residents be given title deeds like
the Ogiek community.
Speaking at a rally at Mtwapa,
Kilifi District, at the weekend, the leaders demanded that Coast
squatters "numbering thousands", be issued with title
The request follows President
Kibaki’s rally last weekend where he gave 12,000 title deeds to
the Ogiek in Nakuru District.
Cllr Elizabeth Jumwa of Mtwapa
urged President Kibaki to issue local squatters with title deeds
before October 31 in return for supporting the Wako Draft.
Speakers claimed that Coast
Province has been given a raw deal by President Kibaki’s
Kisauni MP Anania Mwaboza said
tycoons who are opposed to the Wako Draft wanted to protect their
huge tracts of land because the proposed constitution advocates
redistribution of land.
The meeting was attended by
assistant ministers Danson Mungatana, Suleiman Shakombo and
Magarini MP Harisson Kombe.
During the rally, police arrested a
man who shouted Orange slogans and attempted to disrupt the
Magarini MP Harry Kombe claimed the
Orange team had a secret political agenda and was not merely
opposing the Draft Constitution.
Amboseli: On the
horns of a dilemma
17. Oct. 2005
Elephants in Amboseli: Many
people believe that the
capacity of the 392-square kilometre park to sustain
big game has been outstripped.
John Mbaria writes
that although the Olkejuado County Council is ill-prepared to handle
the delicate ecosystem of the Amboseli National Park, the Kenya
Wildlife Service has itself not fared much better, particularly in
ensuring that the local population gains from what was once their
communal ancestral land
I VISITED KITILWA, IN the
Olgulului Group Ranch that surrounds 90 per cent of the Amboseli National
Park, two years ago, I was in the company of a group of 15 or so American
tourists who were on a unique tour that combined a wildlife safari with a
beadwork workshop with the local Maasai women.
Organised by Meitamei Ol’Dapash,
the executive director of the Maasai Environmental Coalition, together with
Kurt Kutay, the president of a US-based tour company, Wildland Adventures, the
American women – from Seattle, Washington – and their Maasai counterparts
showing their experience and techniques for making jewellery and necklaces
from beads. To the surprise of the Maasai women, some of the American women
were exceptionally gifted at beadwork, and had actually brought along some
jewellery they had made back home. They had also brought along quantities of
"raw" beads to donate to the Maasai women.
Apart from the joint beadwork, the
Americans were also on a mercy mission. They had donated funds to start up a
water project and to assist a school located close to one of the gates of the
Amboseli National Park.
As they toured the school, the
park and the Maasai villages, the American women came into contact with the
horrifying reality that is Amboseli. In the comfort and safety of their
tourist vans, they came across a number of Maasai women deep inside the park
carrying heavy jerricans of water strapped to their backs. And at Lake
Amboseli, they were to experience, first hand, what seemed to have been some
unwritten memorandum of understanding between the wild animals and the
community on how to share the lake’s water.
Elephants, zebras and other
ungulates were taking the water from one end of the lake while on the other,
women loaded donkeys with the precious fluid as men kept watch, with hundreds
of heads of cattle quenching their thirst. It was a scene from the Peacable
Kingdom, with the wild animals keeping to their side of the lake and people
and livestock to theirs.
Rarely, though, we were to learn,
is this Biblical "MoU" adhered to. The wild animals, and
particularly the more than 1,000 elephants in the park, often come into
conflict with members of the local community. "Many people have been
killed or maimed by elephants," Ol’Dapash told the visitors.
INDEED, THE COMMUNITY
REP-resentative hosting the American women, Daniel Leturesh – who has since
become the chairman of the Olgulului Group Ranch – paraded before the
Americans six orphaned children whose parents had been killed by the
pachyderms. The Americans were horrified to learn that whenever such deaths
occur, it takes years before the victims' kin are given the paltry Ksh30,000
($405) provided for by the law as compensation.
This state of affairs has, over
the years, led to simmering bad blood between the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS)
and the wild animals, on the one hand, and the community and largely
opportunistic politicians on the other. In some cases, this animosity has
erupted in open hostility and occasional "revenge" killings by
Maasai morans go out to avenge their kinsmen killed or maimed by wild animals.
As we did the rounds, I could not
help but realise just how much of the park had been degraded by the wild
animals. Much of the taller vegetation – trees and bushes – has been
cleared by elephants, which invariably knock them down in search of nutritious
leaves. When the rains fail, the grass is almost depleted, leaving most of the
park bare. This makes life increasingly uncomfortable for the marauding beasts
and visitors alike. Many people believe that the capacity of the 392-square
kilometre park to sustain big game has been outstripped, thanks to an alien
conservation paradigm that has led KWS to protect wildlife at the expense of
ecological sense and the local people's needs.
Hostility has characterised the
relationship between the local community and successive government bodies
purporting to protect the animals better than the Maasai did for hundreds of
years before the advent of British colonial rule. Unlike most other Kenyan
communities, the Maasai lived in a curious relationship with wildlife that has
been the subject of a number of books by white writers who, more often than
not, misinterpret and romanticise it as "harmonious."
Amboseli is one of the earliest
wildlife-dominated areas to be declared a game reserve. It started off as a
mega game reserve called the Southern Reserve in 1906, when the colonial
government zoned off a large chunk of the local community’s land and
declared it a game reserve. It was to be reduced to slightly over 3,000 square
kilometres in 1948.
The local community, through its
representatives, has always agitated for the size of the park to be reduced.
For many years before the central government assumed the management of the
park, the Kajiado County Council, later renamed Olkejuado County Council, ran
it. This went on until the early 1970s when the government embarked on
negotiations for its upgrading. The late minister Stanley Oloitiptip, who was
then the Assistant Minister for Health, is said to have played a key role in
the park's handing over to the central government.
He had a long-running dispute with
the then county council chairman and led a delegation to president Jomo
Kenyatta declaring that the local people had decided to give up the park to
the government. The story goes that Kenyatta was reluctant to accept the
"gift" and actually gave the delegation three weeks to "think"
about the matter. In the meantime, other Maasai leaders spoke against the idea
but Oloitiptip stuck to his guns.
THE REST IS HISTORY – KWS, which
came into being in 1989, inherited Amboseli from the Wildlife Conservation and
Management Department. The government signed some sort of an agreement with
Olkejuado County Council in which the council was to receive a Ksh600,000
($8,000) share of annual revenues and to retain over 180 hectares, on which
Amboseli and Oltukai lodges are constructed. The agreement also stated that
local communities were to benefit from the arrangement through
government-funded water projects and through being allowed to put up a
campsite in the park. On their part, the communities were to keep their
livestock away from the park.
Initially, the government did meet
a number of these conditions. For instance, it constructed a water pipeline
from the park to the group ranches in 1977 which, however, fell into disuse
three year later. The government also reneged on the revenue-sharing
agreement. As if to compensate for this failure, it has allowed the community
to water its animals at the permanent swamps inside the park.
But while over Ksh250 million
($3.4 million) continued to be generated from the park each year – collected
as rent and rates from the hotels and lodges and as park entry fees – little
of this money ever reached the thousands of local residents who wallow in
poverty and deprivation.
A visitor to their villages will
witness the mass deprivation suffered by the local people, especially manifest
in sickly-looking young children whose eyes offer a permanent abode to flies.
Emaciated women walk, on average, 20 kilometres inside the park in search of
water, while scores of morans – young warriors traditionally dedicated to a
spartan lifestyle – have been leaving in their hundreds to seek employment
in Kajiado, Kitengela, and Nairobi.
So, will handing over the park to
Olkejuado County Council rectify the situation? While this is a question the
government is best placed to address, it has raised a political storm in Kenya
today. The government has been accused of trading the future of Kenya's
resources for cheap political mileage, while members of the country's
conservation fraternity believe that the move is the beginning of the end for
On its part, the Olkejuado County
Council, which had filed a court case in 1997 seeking to have the park revert
to it, has dismissed the naysayers and invited KWS and other organisations to
partner with it in managing the park.
PRIOR TO THE GOVERN-ment's action,
Kenyans were generally agreed that devolving authority brings governance and
resources closer to the people. Both the Bomas Draft and the Wako Draft
constitutions that Kenyans are now campaigning for and against have sections
and clauses on devolution of management of resources from the central
government to local communities.
But though this has been the
clamour, the reality, as far as wildlife conservation is concerned, has been
different. The management of the Maasai Mara National Reserve has been cited
as a case in point. The revenue collected by the Narok County Council, which
runs the Mara, runs into hundreds of millions of shillings each year. But
there is little to show for it. The roads in the Mara are in a permanently
dilapidated state, while off-road driving by thousands of tour vans in search
of the ever-rarer carnivores is the norm, leading to severe environmental
There have also been media reports
that communities in the surrounding group ranches rarely benefit from their
rightful 19 per cent share of the annual revenue, while the nature of the
conservation practised by the Narok County Council is hardly professional.
And according to the government,
part of the Mara fell into private hands during the reign of former president
Daniel arap Moi, a situation that is still under investigation. Moreover, each
time these issues are raised, some Maasai leaders mobilise or threaten to
mobilise the entire community to rise against any move to stop the looting and
to bring order and better management to the Mara.
Amboseli is a more "delicate"
nature reserve. While the Mara ecosystem can withstand the ongoing degradation,
the Amboseli cannot. It has a fragile ecosystem that is characterised by low
vegetative cover, low annual rainfall and high temperatures. The seasonal
combination of all these characteristics literally converts Amboseli into a
dust bowl each time the rains are late. It is feared that further degradation,
by way of off-road driving and other destructive practices, could precipitate
its decline into a full-blown desert.
In addition, many of Amboseli's
animal species – impalas, rhinos, etc – have disappeared and there is a
likelihood that lacklustre management could lead to further loss or extinction
of rare species. The biggest danger to the animals is the bush meat trade and
the fact that once animals cross over to Tanzania, they become a target for
hunters, since that country has allowed consumptive utilisation of wildlife.
WHAT TO DO? IF Kibaki's government
does not reverse its decision to hand over the park to the Olkejuado County
Council, it is likely to find itself inundated by similar demands from other
communities that were forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands to make way
for the more than 50 national parks and reserves in the country. With the
ongoing opening of democratic space, everybody will soon start demanding to be
given back what was once theirs. President Mwai Kibaki’s action might have
opened up a pandora's box. Soon, KWS might be forced to go back to its drawing
board to re-examine its mandate.
The Olkejuado County Council has
conceded that it does not have the capacity to handle the conservation role
thrust upon it by the president. This does not mean that KWS is best placed to
run the park, however, as it has itself not been responsive to the local
people's needs. The government may need to authorise the council to hire KWS
to continue managing wildlife conservation in the park as the council handles
other roles. The council will need to use part of the resources it will derive
from the new arrangement to build its own capacity.
Ultimately, though, what is needed
are legal guidelines that spell out the dos and don'ts in the management of
wildlife areas by local authorities. The die seems cast; local authorities or
local representative organisations seem hellbent on assuming the management of
natural resources in Kenya.
It is time international and local
NGOs heeded this fact and sought to learn how to perfect local management
systems. Perpetual antagonism, just like incompetence and corruption, is part
of the problem.
'disaster waiting to happen'
Story by MEITAMEI OLE DAPASH
Publication Date: 10/14/2005
While the Maasai recognise the
importance of Amboseli National Park as a natural heritage and
cash cow; and while they appreciate the reserve's importance to
global conservation, they are perplexed by the persistent
relegation of their interests on all economic and environmental
conservation and management decision-making.
As representatives of Maasai
interests in different roles I repudiate the misguided position
taken by our colleagues in the conservation and tourism sectors
against the Government’s move to right the historical injustices
perpetrated against the Maasai.
Conservation myopia and
exclusionist ideology accompanied by persistent lack of
appreciation of the role played by the Maasai in conservation are
a grave danger to conservation and the long-term prosperity of
wildlife in Kenya.
Faithful custodians of wildlife
The Maasai have remained faithful
custodians of most of East Africa’s wildlife – a cultural
practice that existed long before the arrival of Western concepts
of conservation. Nevertheless, conservationists continue to refuse
to learn from Maasai wisdom and true respect for nature.
What is perplexing about the
anti-Maasai campaign is that its architects are all great
beneficiaries of Maasailand.
We take issue with Dr David Western
whose recent statements left a great deal to be desired in light
of his patronising 'pro-community' philosophy.
It is ironic that Dr Western has
become a big part of this anti-community movement whole purpose is
to perpetuate the violation of the Maasai traditional land rights.
What would he be without the Maasai people, particularly the
Yet, he was the first to speak
against the return of Amboseli to its rightful owners!
The opposition by the Kenya Tourism
Federation is motivated by greed and lack of vision. When accusing
fingers are pointed at Narok County Council for mismanaging the
Maasai Mara, the tourism industry fails to recognise that the most
serious environmental crimes, including wildlife harassment,
off-the-road driving, pollution, and cultural abuse and
exploitation of the Maasai is committed by its own members.
The return of Amboseli to the
Maasai is less illegal than the economic, environmental, and human
rights violations perpetrated by the tourism industry against the
Maasai and nature. In fact, the federation lacks any moral
standing to accuse Olkejuado County Council of ineptitude.
What the anti-Maasai campaigners
fail to understand is that it is not President Kibaki’s decision
to return Amboseli to the Maasai that is illegal; rather, it is
the original decision to transfer the management of Amboseli to
the then Wildlife Conservation and Management Department in 1974.
What legal or constitutional
process did Mzee Jomo Kenyatta follow when he used Executive fiat
to declare Amboseli a national park? If Kenyatta’s order was
legal or constitutional, why isn’t President Kibaki’s?
In addition, anti-Maasai
campaigners also lack the basic facts about what actually
transpired in 1974 when Mzee Kenyatta declared Amboseli a national
park instead of a game reserve. To this date, the Olkejuado County
Council holds the title to Amboseli, and is thus the legal
custodian of the resource.
President Kibaki’s decision is
praiseworthy and has the support of the entire Maasai community.
It stems out of recognition of the widespread land rights
injustices against the Maasai people.
New management agenda
Finally, we call on the
conservation community – both local and international – to
seek partnership with Olkejuado County Council to create a new
management agenda for Amboseli Game Reserve.
The Kenya Wildlife Service should
take a leading role in advising the county council on how to go
about managing the reserve. Alternatively, KWS could go into a
management agreement with the council.
There is absolute need to help
build the capacity of the communities and Olkejuado County Council
in particular. Lack of this capacity must not be misconstrued as
lack of dedication and commitment to the future of our resources.
Mr Dapash is the president of
the Maasai Environmental Resource Coalition based in Washington
planned on hand-over of Amboseli
Story by PATRICK NZIOKA
Publication Date: 10/14/2005
Talks are planned to discuss
handing over of Amboseli National Reserve to the Maasai, despite
protests and court action by conservationists.
Tourism minister Morris Dzoro said
he had brokered talks between the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and
Olkejuado County Council on the management of the park.
KWS would not move out of the
wildlife sanctuary but is would continue to run it on behalf of
the council, the minister said.
"It is crucial that KWS does
not move out of the park," Mr Dzoro said, adding that the
council lacked the capacity to manage Amboseli.
The minister's announcement
regarding management puts to rest fears that KWS could be kicked
out of the reserve.
The minister spoke after signing a
Sh6-million agreement between EU's Tourism Trust Fund and the Tana
and Athi Rivers Development Authority at Masinga on Wednesday. The
money will be used to draw up a master plan to open up the Tana
basin as a tourist circuit.
Olkejuado council has written to
KWS asking it to arrange to hand over the park. But KWS said it
would wait for communication from the ministry.
Amboseli was scaled down from a
national park to a game reserve on President Kibaki's orders and
returned to the Maasai community.
The decision was reached during a
meeting of the community's representatives and President.
Conservationists have opposed the
move and this week moved to court to block the intended transfer.
They want the decision to degazette
the park nullified, arguing that it contravenes the Wildlife Act,
which gives KWS the right to manage national parks.
The notice, they say, is a threat
to environmental conservation and that the council lacks the
technical capacity to sustainably manage the reserve. The Court
has, however, declined to temporarily stop the transfer, pending
Amboseli National Park
By Nyakundi Nyamboga
Conservationists yesterday won round
one of their bid to block Olkejuado County Council from taking over
Amboseli National Park.
The High Court allowed an
environmentalist, George Mulama Wamukoya, and four groups to file a
suit seeking to reverse a Government decision to hand over the park
to Olkejuado County Council.
The groups are East Africa Wildlife
Society, Centre for Environmental Legal Research and Education, Born
Free Foundation, Youth for Conservation.
They want the court to quash a
decision by the Tourism minister to change the status of the
sanctuary from a national park to a national game reserve.
The applicants were allowed to seek
orders quashing the September 29, 2005 decision by the Government.
On Wednesday, the council demanded
immediate handover of the facility, and told KWS to withdraw it
The civic leaders also appointed a
six-member committee to oversee the handing over and avoid
interruption of services. They accused KWS and its former director,
Dr David Western, of sabotage.
They also resolved to send 80
community game scouts to keep guard at the vast tourist attraction.
But yesterday, Justice Joseph Nyamu
directed the applicants to file and serve the substantive motion
within five days and be ready for inter partes hearing on
He issued the orders after hearing an
ex parte application by the conservationists through Musyoka
and Wambua advocates.
The applicants told the High Court
they were likely to be affected by any changes that do not recognise
Amboseli as a resource of national and international importance that
must be protected and managed for the benefit of present and future
The conservationists claim transfer
of the park breaches environmental agreements.
They say there will be increased
poaching, deterioration of infrastructure, loss of biodiversity and
decrease in tourist numbers.
They said the minister did not
recognise national interest, which militates against such lands
being converted to trust land.
The court was told the legal notice
is illegal because it goes against procedures under which a national
park may be transferred.
The conservationists said it was
regrettable that Kenya Wildlife Service was not consulted over the
Kenya wildlife haven downgraded
By Adam Mynott
BBC News, Nairobi
More than 20 wildlife groups
have urged Kenya's president to reverse a decision last week
to downgrade Amboseli National Park to a game reserve.
This means control of the
Rift Valley wildlife haven will move from the Kenya Wildlife
Service to a local authority, run by the area's Maasai
Opponents of the change say
it is an attempt to win Maasai votes ahead of next month's
But supporters say the Maasai
will now benefit from Amboseli's revenue.
Amboseli brings in about
$3.3m a year from park fees
They say it corrects what was the
"theft" of Amboseli 31 years ago, when the land was
taken away from the Maasai people who had lived on it for
Amboseli, internationally renowned
as a haven for wildlife, particularly the huge herds of elephants
that tramp across the grasslands, covers an area of nearly 400 sq
km in southern Kenya.
It is famous for
the stunning views of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest
mountain, in neighbouring Tanzania.
The open letter to President
Mwai Kibaki from the Born Free Foundation, the International
Wildlife Coalition, the East African Wildlife Society and
others says the move, known as de-gazetting, "sets a
most unwelcome and potentially catastrophic precedent that
could lead to the disintegration of Kenya's much envied
national parks system".
Amboseli brings in about
$3.3m a year from park fees and related tourist activities.
This money helps administer Amboseli and other national
parks in Kenya.
The Maasai community will
now benefit from Amboseli's revenue
Wildlife tourism is one of Kenya's
main sources of foreign revenue and international prestige.
Now the income from Amboseli will
be administered by the Olkejuado County Council following its
members' meeting with the president last week.
The decision to
de-gazette Amboseli has come in the middle of a fractious
political battle over a proposed new constitution for Kenya.
President Kibaki leads the
campaign for a 'yes vote' in the forthcoming referendum.
" [It's a]
desperate measure to secure Maasai votes "
Cabinet minister William
Kenyan cabinet minister William ole
Ntimama described the Amboseli decision as a "desperate
measure to secure Maasai votes" in the referendum on 21
The Maasai leaders of Olkejuado
County Council are delighted to have control of such a lucrative
source of income.
Opponents also claim that the move
to de-gazette is illegal.
Conservationists, Government Clash Over Park Management
11 October 2005
groups in Kenya have voiced concern over a recent move by the
government to hand over the management of a national park to local
authorities saying the move is detrimental to conservation and the
tourism industry in the country.
Mt. Kilimanjaro in Amboseli National Park
decision to involve local council authorities in the
management of Amboseli National Park was reached late last
month after a meeting between elders from the areas
bordering the national park and President Mwai Kibaki.
But conservation groups in
Kenya term the move illegal.
Steve Itela is a program
officer with Youth for Conservation, a group of young
Kenyans working to preserve wildlife in Kenya.
very clear procedures involved in the act that give direction as
to how a national park can be de-gazetted and in this particular
case there was a complete violation of the wildlife and
conservation and management act that is cap. 378," he said.
Mr. Itela says that section of the
law prohibits the conversion of national parks into other land use
patterns without exhaustive debate by all stakeholders including
parliament. He says the government did not consult conservation
groups, the public nor parliament before turning Amboseli National
Park over to local management.
Amboseli National Park lies to the
south of the capital Nairobi and is one of the most visited parks
in Kenya. It was declared a national reserve in 1948 and given to
the Maasai community, but because of conflict between them and the
wild animals it was converted to a national park in 1974.
The government's move to return its
management to local authorities has been seen by some as an
attempt to lure the Maasai into voting for a draft constitution
prepared by the government, but which risks rejection in national
But in downgrading Amboseli
National Park to a national reserve and vesting its management to
the local Olkejuado County Council, Tourism Minister Morris Dzoro
evoked the wildlife conservation and management act and denies
"As far as am concerned there
is no politics in it," he said. "This is something that
has been going on before and it should not be read in the outlook
of politics. We reached at this stage after the leaders had
approached us and it was after a very long discussion that we
reached such a stage."
Mr. Dzoro says his office is ready
to talk further with the stakeholders in wildlife conservation
arguing that the Kenya wild life service will assist the local
communities manage what is now known as Amboseli National Reserve.
Mr. Hadley Decha, deputy director
at the East African Wildlife Society, says the governments move
has motivated more local authorities to demand that management of
national parks in their neighborhoods be handed over to them,
despite the fact that they lack the skills to manage the wildlife.
The conservation groups are asking
President Mwai Kibaki to rescind his decision or they say they
will take the matter to court.
back Amboseli National Park to the Maasai
Story by DAVID MUGONYI and JEFF OTIENO
Publication Date: 10/01/2005
The Government has handed back
Amboseli National Park to the Maasai in what appears to be a move
to woo the community into the Banana camp before the November 21
President Kibaki on Thursday
directed that a legal notice be issued to ensure the park was
returned to the community as trust land.
|Through a special
gazette notice issued on the same day by Tourism and
Wildlife minister Morris Dzoro, the park now becomes a
national reserve and will be run by Olkejuado County
Yesterday, Health assistant
minister Gideon Konchellah and Kajiado South MP Katoo ole
Metito led the community in declaring that they would
support the Government since it had corrected a wrong
committed 31 years ago.
They said the Sh250 million
the park generated in gate fees every year would henceforth
be managed by the community. In August, the park collected
The decision to return the
park to the community was reached at a meeting at State
House, Nairobi, with President Kibaki, who directed that the
community be given the rights to manage the reserve.
Society Forum chairman Ben Koisaba addresses the Press in
Nairobi yesterday, accompanied by Mr Ole Leposo from Magadi.
He criticised the move to transfer Amboseli National Park to
Also present at the State
House meeting on Thursday were Transport minister Chris Murungaru,
Narok South MP Stephen ole Ntutu, attorney-general Amos Wako and
director of public prosecutions Keriako Tobiko.
But in a quick rejoinder,
some Maasai leaders said the decision would not change their stand
against the proposed new Constitution.
Speaking at Bomas of
Kenya, officials of Maa Civil Society Forum urged the community to
reject the move, saying the proposed new Constitution was clear that
all national parks and game reserves would revert to the Government.
They criticised MPs Konchellah and Metito for not consulting the
community before the State House visit.
Their views were supported
by Cabinet minister William ole Ntimama, who described the move to
return the Amboseli as a "desperate measure to secure Maasai
votes" in the referendum.
Mr Ntimama said article 80
(1) (g) of the new Draft put reserves under the National Land
He added that the decision
was unlawful as it required a parliamentary resolution to give the
park back to the Maasai. Said Mr Ntimama: "It is a hoax...a
desperate effort to get the Maasai votes during the referendum. This
is flouting of the law."
Yesterday, Mr Konchellah
accused some Maasai leaders of peddling lies and distorting
provisions of the proposed new Constitution for political gain.
"They are lying to
our people that this Draft will take away the Maasai Mara and
Samburu national reserves," he said.
There will be a ceremony
to hand over the reserve to the locals today at Amboseli as other
Maasai converge on Suswa to back the No campaign.
Head of the Public Service
and secretary to the Cabinet Francis Muthaura refuted claims that
the Government would take the management of national reserves if the
proposed new Constitution was passed.
Mr Muthaura said in a
statement that the responsibility of the Government would be to
ensure natural resources were sustainably developed and managed to
He added: "National
reserves such as Maasai Mara, Samburu and others do not come under
the article and they do not therefore fall under the mandate of the
The 20,000-member Siana
Wildlife Conservancy in Maasai Mara also announced they would vote
against the proposed new Constitution.
In a statement signed by
Mr Sammy ole Nkoitoi, the conservancy said the document would force
the Maasai to cede the Maasai Mara Game Reserve and other
sanctuaries in Kajiado and Narok districts.
The Kenya Wildlife
Service, he added, in conjunction with the council would manage the
He declared that the
Gazette notice resolves a case lodged by the community at the High
Court demanding reversal of the 1974 decision to take charge of the
The notice reads in part:
"In exercise of the powers conferred by sections 18 of the
Wildlife (Conservation and Management) Act, the Minister for Tourism
and Wildlife, after consultation with Olkejuado County Council,
hereby declares the area of land described in the schedule hereto to
be a national reserve which shall be known as Amboseli National
Reserve, to vest in and be held by Olkejuado County Council."
The coordinator of the Maa
Civil Society Forum, Godfrey Ntapayia, wondered said the management
of Amboseli by Olkejuado County Council would only be temporary
adding that it would be null and void if the new constitution came
"We are convinced
that this is another divide and rule strategy to draw rift between
the community and undermine its solidarity," he said.
The forum officials asked
why the transfer was only being done in Kajiado and not in Laikipia,
Transmara, Isiolo, Marsabit, Nakuru, Samburu and Narok.
The elders said the
termination of a case against the Maasai arrested at Uhuru Park
while on a peaceful demonstration last year was yet another move woo
the community into the yes bandwagon.
They argued that the
proposed constitution considered grazing lands as idle and would be
under the control of the National Land Commission.
Mr Ben ole Koissaba, the
chairman of the Maa Civil Society Forum, challenged Mr Metito and
Konchellah to attend today's meeting at Suswa which would discuss
the proposed constitution.
"Should they fail to
show up it shall be taken as confirmation that they are on the wrong
and should apologise," said Mr ole Koissaba.
It's a recipe
Publication Date: 10/2/2005
The Government has published a
gazette notice transforming the Amboseli National Park into a game
reserve. This is not just a change of name. Amboseli will cease to
be run as a state-owned institution through the Kenya Wildlife
Service. It will now be managed by the Olkejuado County Council. In
other words, Amboseli has been handed back to the local
And the local leaders, obviously, are
happy. They can look at Narok and Trans Mara districts which have
some of the richest county councils in Kenya courtesy of revenue
from the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.
Kajiado leaders can also anticipate a
financial windfall to build schools, hospitals and roads. So, in
terms of promoting rural development, the Government has done the
right thing. The revenue will directly benefit of the local people.
However, the timing suggests that the
decision was based not on the need to give Kajiado people control of
their resources, but as part of a bid to entice them to back the
Government position on the vote for the proposed new Constitution.
To put it more bluntly, official policy is being dictated by the
need to bribe specific communities in order to secure their
Such an approach to policy is recipe
for disaster. It's a bankrupt approach which indicates that the
Government is ready to throw all decency out of the window in order
to win the referendum. It also appears to vindicate those claiming
that some leaders are being bribed to secure their support for the
This is not the first example of
policy being dictated by politics. The Government has also reversed
the controversial edict banning the sub-division of agricultural
land under 2.5 acres. It is again obvious that the decision was
based not on common sense, but on referendum politics, having become
a major propaganda weapon for the No campaign!
Maybe it is for the good that
politics is forcing the Government to make quick and right decisions
on vexing issues. However, policy must never be dictated by the need
for short-term political gain. For sooner or later, a decision will
be made which could have terrible consequences.
criticised over move on park
Story by JILLO KADIDA and NYABONYI KAZUNGU
Publication Date: 10/3/2005
The decision to degazette Amboseli
National Park by ministerial notice is illegal, former Kenya
Wildlife Service director David Western has said.
Neither President Kibaki nor Tourism
and Wildlife minister Morris Dzoro has the power to degazette a
The power, he said, rests solely
with the National Assembly.
He was reacting to press reports
which said the government had decided to hand back the Amboseli
national park to the Maasai community.
President Kibaki on Thursday
directed that a legal notice be issued to ensure the park was
returned to the community as trust land.
Mr Dzoro issued a special gazette
notice on the same day making the park a national reserve to be run
by Olkejuado County Council. Yesterday, Mr Western said the
country's parks risk being wiped out if the "government is
allowed to go ahead with the illegal degazettment".
This, he said, will put the entire
wildlife and tourism industry in jeopardy.
Any change to protected areas should
be done legally and by due political and public process, he added.
Amboseli was gazetted as a national
park in 1974 and can only be degazetted again if the minister
consults competent authorities like KWS.
The minister, he said, must then
publish a notice of intent, with details, inviting objections within
After the notice lapses, the order
must be placed before the National Assembly and ratified, Mr Western
At the same time, a Coast lobby
wants seven national parks in the province handed over to
communities through local authorities.
The Pwani Environmental Resource
Alliance threatened to vote No during the referendum on the proposed
new Constitution if government failed to grant the demand. The
national parks listed include Tsavo national park (For Taita-Taveta),
Shimba Hills and Kisite Mpunguti marine parks (Kwale) and Mombasa
marine park (Mombasa).
Others are Watamu and Malindi marine
parks (Malindi), Arabuko-Sokoke (Kilifi and Malindi), Kiunga marine
reserve (Lamu) and Tana national primate reserve (Tana River).
The group, in a statement signed by
Mr Benjamin Dalu, queried the criteria used to degazette Amboseli.
illegal, says society
Story by DAVID OKWEMBAH
Publication Date: 10/4/2005
The move to degazette the Amboseli
National Park was illegal, said a conservation group yesterday.
By degazetting the park, the
Government had contravened the Wildlife (Conservation and
Management) Act, said the East African Wildlife Society (EAWLS).
The move to degazette the national
park also overlooked the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) which is
responsible for the management and conservation of wildlife in the
A warden points at elephants
in Amboseli wildlife park, now at the centre of controversy
after the State placed it under a county council. Photo/Nation
The Government's move is
likely to affect donor funding for the wildlife policy,
being undertaken by the United States Agency for
International Development (USaid) and the infrastructure and
park development by the European Union, both projects under
One of the leading
international bodies on wildlife conservation, the World
Conservation Union (IUCN) said it was studying the situation
before it states its position.
The wildlife society said the
degazettement was contrary to Section 7 of the Wildlife Act, which
states that the minister must consult with a competent authority
before changing the status of any national park, national reserve,
local sanctuary or even a part of it.
The order to degazette such an area
must also get approval from Parliament and a notice of 60 days must
be published in the Kenya Gazette and in at least one newspaper in
Last Thursday, President Kibaki
directed the Tourism minister to issue a legal notice to ensure that
Amboseli is returned to the Maasai community as trust land.
On the same day, minister Morris
Dzoro issued a special gazette notice making the national park a
national reserve to be run by Olkejuado county council.
But the notice did not stick to the
The Government broke the law, said
EAWLS chairman Imre Loefler in a statement, and added that it was
not surprising that the action was taken without any consultation of
the many organisations that have being involved in the history of
Amboseli – one of the best known game parks in the world.
"The East African WildLife
Society regards the degazettement as illegal and detrimental to
Amboseli as well as prejudicial to conservation policy," said
The EAWLS said it supported the
concept that local communities should benefit from parks but was
doubtful that the latest move would benefit those around Amboseli.
"The Amboseli has been the
responsibility of Kajiado county council before and was made into a
national park precisely because of poor management, encroachment,
environmental degradation, non-compliance with national and
international conservation policies and interminable wrangling,"
said the society.
The EAWLS said it had persistently
criticised the manner in which income from game parks is distributed.
"Handing over the park, however
dramatic the gesture may be and whatever political constellation may
have motivated it, is reckless, for the Kajiado county council has
neither the capacity nor the experience to manage Amboseli,"
said Dr Loefler.
The society said it was concerned
about the domino effect that the ill conceived and illegal action
Last weekend, a lobby from Coast
Province laid claim to seven national parks in the area, demanding
that they be handed over to the communities through the local
The KWS declined to comment on the
impact of the move by the Government but conservationists, including
former director David Western termed the decision negative.
They said the Amboseli ecosystem was
delicate and needed proper scientific management compared to that of
the Masai Mara.
Conservationists warned that donors
are likely to withhold funding until after the November 21
referendum on the proposed new Constitution to see the direction
wildlife management will take.
Putting parks under local communities
had not been successful, they said and cited the Masai Mara as an
example where money collected never reached the community.
The elephant research programme at
Amboseli is one of the few projects that have survived with little
disturbance in natural conditions. Each elephant has a tag and is
Publication Date: 10/4/2005
Generally speaking, there has been
order in managing public resources during President Kibaki's
three-year tenure. Illegalities – like allocating land to
politically-correct individuals and giving public utilities to
private people – have been rare.
But doubts are beginning to emerge.
Will this sobriety continue to hold? One case that raises this
question is the decision to degazette the Amboseli National Park and
return it to the Maasai community.
A national park is an institution
which the Government is managing for the public. The Revenues it
generates goes to the central Government and thus benefits everybody
when used to finance other public services.
This will cease once Amboseli becomes
community property, benefiting only those around to it.
Even then, procedures exist for
transferring a national park to a community. But none was followed
in returning Amboseli to the Maasai.
The rules were put in place simply to
guard against subjective and whimsical decisions by political
leaders, who – if left unchecked– are apt to meddle with public
utilities to gain certain political advantages..
At a time of deep political tensions,
degazettement of a park can only be seen as a desperate attempt to
bribe the Maasai into supporting a certain political agenda.
If the plan is allowed to go on, then
an extremely dangerous precedent will have been set. Future
presidents and ministers will have the justification to change the
status of national parks and other public utilities at will.
At any rate, what will now hold other
communities from seeking direct ownership of animal parks in their
And it raises the perennial question
of a community's financial and organisational ability to run such an
institution – especially faced with the local governments' dismal
failure to manage anything successfully.
Game parks are at the heart of
Kenya's tourism industry and any action that jeopardises their
survival is a direct threat to the sector and to the entire economy.
There are many ways of granting
favours. Using a national heritage is not one them. Amboseli,
therefore, is a path to disaster.
Maasai land claims rejected by the government (August 2004)
One million hectares of Maasai land was leased for 99 years to British settlers in 1894
The government does not recognise the lease
The one million hectare area shared among white farmers and black Kenyans, who practice small-scale farming
The Maasai want the white farmers to be
"The Kenyan government has rejected demands by ethnic Maasai protesters for the return of land leased to British settlers 100 years ago.
Lands Minister Amos Kimunya said the government did not recognise the colonial-era treaties.
The original lease expired this weekend on one million hectares of land, traditionally used by the Maasai and then occupied by white farmers.
On Friday, more than 100 Maasai tribesman demonstrated in Nairobi.
Dressed in traditional regalia, the Maasai handed a petition to the Kenyan lands and justice ministries and demanded compensation from the UK.
The one million hectare area is now subdivided among some white farmers, who own ranches, and black Kenyans, who practice small-scale farming.
The Maasai want the white farmers to be evicted and compensation from the British for the land occupied by the black farmers.
The Maasai Civil Society Group, which represents members of the community scattered in eight districts throughout Kenya, says if the demands are not met, it will consider legal action." (BBC, 16 August 2004)
"Kenyan riot police have used tear gas to disperse more than 100 Maasai protesters in traditional outfits in the capital, Nairobi.
The Kenyan police said they used force because the protest was illegal.
The Maasai are demanding the return of farmland leased to British settlers 100 years ago.
The original lease expired last weekend on one million hectares of land but the government says it does not recognise the colonial era agreement.
"We have arrested quite a number of ringleaders and recovered knives from them because this meeting was illegal," Nairobi police chief Julius Ndegwa told AFP news agency.
Maasai leaders say up to 10 people were wounded in running battles.
A Maasai statement said their lawyers would take their fight to the Kenyan High Court and the International Court of Justice.
Over the weekend, Kenyan police shot dead a 70-year-old Maasai tribesman who was trying to graze his cattle on a white-owned farm.
Four other herdsman were injured in the shooting which took place 40 km north of Nanyuki township in central Kenya. Police said 71 people, all believed to be Maasai land protesters, were arrested.
Last week the Maasai held demonstrations across Kenya.
The 99-year lease expired on 15 August.
The one million hectare area, mainly in the Rift Valley, is now subdivided among some white farmers, who own ranches, and black Kenyans, who practice small-scale farming.
The Maasai want the white farmers that remain to be evicted and are seeking compensation from the British.
The Kenyan government rejected their appeals.
Lands and Housing Minister Amos Kimunya said at the weekend that the government would not condone the occupation of private farms and ranches by any groups.
"It should be clear that those inciting the youth will face the full force of the law," he
(BBC, 24 August 2004)
The Maasai Stand up to IUCN Displacement Attempts from their
WRM bulletin - July 2004
Way back in 1994, a group of NGO people –among whom the current WRM coordinator- were invited by the Maasai to visit a forest which they were struggling to save from tourism "development". As a means of providing international support to the struggle, an article was written and widely disseminated in November that year in Third World Network's magazine "Resurgence" (available at
http://nativenet.uthscsa.edu/archive/nl/9412/0140.html). That struggle is still ongoing, but a new actor has appeared in scene -the IUCN- and what follows provides a detailed description of the situation as it now stands and on how the local people feel about it.
The Naimina Enkiyio Forest, one of the few remaining indigenous forests in Kenya, is situated in Loita, in the south of the country, about 300 kilometers southwest of the country’s capital Nairobi. The forest ecosystem is considered a shrine by the estimated 40,000 Maasai of the Purko and Loita clans, since it is an important natural resource which has a long history of use by them. The Loita pastoralists consider the forest as alive, and responsive in many ways to their physical, spiritual and cultural needs. It serves as an important dry season grazing zone as well as a source for numerous rivers and is home to a wide array of fauna and flora ranging from elephants to rare bird and plant species. Particular trees are regarded as sacred. The many valuable forest-based products include products derived directly from trees (medicine, edible fruits and seeds, honey, and poles) as well as water, grass for livestock, and other plants. The Maasai see the forest as their responsibility and its sustainable use as a must.
But now, a plan by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) may entail the Maasai’s displacement from the Naimina Enkiyio forest. This is not the first time that IUCN projects displace them from their traditional lands. A similar IUCN project in Ngorongoro in the 1980s forced Maasai to move out of the area to pave the way for the development of a national park.
"[The British] moved us from Nairobi and Nakuru [in the early 1900s], but we shall fight current attempts to move us from Naimina Enkiyio," declared an angry Loita elder during a June 7 demonstration which gathered one thousand Maasai to oppose what they see as a takeover of the management of the 33,000 hectare forest in Kenya’s Narok district. According to reports sent to the Centre for Minority Rights Development (CEMIRIDE), violence erupted when police allegedly fired shots into the crowd of protesters and injured a number of Maasai.
By supporting the takeover, the Narok County administration would be contradicting its October 2002 statement which granted Loita and Purko Maasai the right to conserve, protect, control, preserve, and own the Naimina Enkiyio forest. However, the future of the Naimina Enkiyio forest has been debated since 1995 when the Narok County Council tried to gazette the area for tourism. Despite legal opposition from the Loita Maasai, this case has yet to be resolved.
IUCN regional representative Eldad Tukahirwa says the objective of the project is to reduce Maasai dependency on the forest by developing their livestock and "building their conscience on the value of the forest." Tukahirwa said the project proposal was based on "a year and a half of consultations with the community."
But those opposed to the plan argue that consultations were inadequate. While pro-IUCN stakeholders are well-represented in the proposed management body for the forest, the Loita/Purko support groups “Loita Concerned Residents” and “Forest Morans” (young Maasai men) have been left out. They allege that the Narok County Council has supported the IUCN because of the $2.6 million earmarked for the project.
Regarding the IUCN’s stated intent to provide technical support to a forest management team selected by the Loita/Purko community and IUCN, Vincent Ole Ntekerei, spokesman for the Forest Morans and Loita Concerned Citizens, asserts, "Naimina Enkiyio is one of the few ungazzetted forests in Kenya, solely managed by the Maasai for centuries and therefore there is nothing new we would be learning from IUCN."
The resistance opposed by the Maasai may have rendered fruits. The permanent secretary in the Office of the President in charge of Provincial Administration, Mr Dave Mwangi, ordered the Narok DC, Mr John Egesa, to halt the project until complaints raised by the Maasai community are addressed. What would that mean remains to be seen.
Article based on information from: “Loita and Purko Maasai resist IUCN plans for the Naimina Enkiyio Forest”, Michael Ole Tiampati, sent by Cultural Survival Weekly Indigenous News, June 25, 2004, E-mail:
email@example.com ; “Kenya: Contentious Forest Plan Halted”, East African Standard, June 25, 2004, Forests.org,
http://forests.org/articles/reader.asp?linkid=33023 ; “Loita project of integrated forest conservation and management (preparatory phase)”,
Lodges, Sedentary Maasai: Mara at the Crossroads of History
By PETER MUSA
EAST-AFRICAN - Monday, May 17, 2004
The problems in the Maasai Mara
will be solved when the country starts to look at the Maasai Mara
as a national heritage rather than a property for one community
alone - John Baxendale, senior wildlife and tourism officer, Mara
Conservancy, speaking to The
Eastafrican at his Mara office located in the Mara Triangle.
Striking a balance between the expansion of tourism, stopping
degradation of the Maasai Mara, saving the wildlife and leaving
the local pastoralist community's lifestyle intact is probably the
greatest challenge facing conservation in the game reserve.
With 50 tourist lodges and camps
competing for space in the 1,530 sq km reserve – most of which
are located near watering places along the Tarek and Mara rivers
– the Maasai community feels that the investors have interfered
with their ancestral watering holes and obstructed their access
and that of their livestock and the wildlife to water.
Simon Pareyo, a community officer
in charge of Siana, Koyiaki and Lemek ranches in Narok District,
says is an increasing incidence of water-borne diseases in
Mara-Rienda along the Mara River, which is attributed to water
And National Environmental
Management Authority director general Prof Ratemo Michieka says
the Maasai Mara is facing many environmental problems, so "We
shall not allow sources of water to keep diminishing due to
Prof Michieka, told The
EastAfrican, "We have directed that the lodges and the
camps apply the recommended waste disposal processes and also
carry out an environmental audit. We have communicated to the
Maasai Mara investors asking them to ensure they do an
environmental impact assessment before embarking on any further
But even as lack of policy over
pollution in the world renowned Maasai Mara National Reserve
continues, the local community too is exchanging its traditional
lifestyle from pastoralism to subsistence and commercial farming,
thereby creating a human-animal conflict situation where none
According to Mr Pareyo, this
drift has adversely affected the conservation concept. But he also
challenges investors in the game reserve to step up their
conservation efforts as their business depends on wildlife
Although poaching has been reduced,
there have been incidents of poachers targeting hippos, elephants
and zebras. Edward Nkoitoi, a warden with the Mara Conservancy,
which has been contracted by the Trans Mara County Council to
manage the Mara Triangle, said 284 poachers were arrested between
last year and this year.
Mr Nkoitoi said 15 of the poachers
were Kenyan nationals while the rest were Tanzanians, mainly from
the Kuria community that neighbours Serengeti National Park. He
said that poaching was prevalent mostly around Mara Bridge, where
the poachers can spend up to three days drying meat, before
escaping into Tanzania.
Poaching is being driven by
the high demand for game meat in Tanzania, where a hippo carcass
sells for Tsh30,000 ($30) while that of a zebra fetches Tsh15,000
Johnny Baxendale, senior wildlife
and tourism officer at the Mara Conservancy, blames poaching on
laxity among security personnel along the two countries' common
border. "I keep telling the authorities in Serengeti that our
animals are theirs too and so there should be co-ordination on
anti-poaching operations. We also need to harmonise the laws on
poaching within East Africa to deter poachers from using any state
that has lenient laws on poaching," he said.
With the change of lifestyle
among the Maasai community has come the mushrooming of unplanned
trading centres inside the group ranches that occupy the wildlife
area. Although a few of the centres have been approved by the
Narok and Trans Mara county councils, their growth poses a health
risk as they lack proper sanitary and waste management systems.
Mr Pareyo urges the councils and
the group ranches to come up with proper plans for the approved
centres, saying haphazard construction will limit future
development for the designated trading centres.
However, Narok County Clerk
Stanislas Ondimu says the council had no control over private
land where the mushrooming of shops and shanties is taking place.
According to Duncan Totona, a
project officer with the Friends of Conservation, unplanned
trading centres militate against the serenity expected in a
product of international tourism standard. "My fear is that
as the trading centres expand it will result in a high demand for
settlement, leading to slums and degradation of the wildlife
sanctuary," he said.
During a meeting in Nairobi to
launch the National Tourism Code for Kenya in September last year,
lodge and camp owners expressed concern over the centres, saying
they could become hideouts for criminals. The trading centres
mostly offer accommodation to tour guides and drivers.
The tourism code emphasises the
need for tour drivers to stop trailing animals off the roads in
the park as this degraded the grassland and scared the animals.
The code spells out that tourists should report to the authorities
any tour guides who fail to comply with the code of ethics.
The code notwithstanding, though,
the subdivision of group ranches continues and it is up to the
Maasai community to chose which way to go.
In areas where land demarcation has
been completed, such as Aitong, Oloolaimutia and Olkoroi in Siana
ranch, the Maasai have abandoned pastoralism and embraced wheat
Only a small section of the Purko
Maasai – who inhabit the land between the Loita plains and Mau
Forest – still practise a nomadic lifestyle.
The demand for construction
material and woodfuel has also led to deforestation, while fencing
off the demarcated plots has not only reduced grazing land but
limited wildlife movement through the once well-elaborated
corridors to Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
The changed lifestyle, has affected
some of the wildlife sensitive to human settlement such as the
lion, rhino and elephant, which react by retreating deeper into
the game reserve or migrating to Serengeti in Tanzania.
A study done by the International
Livestock Research Institute in November 2002 on 38 animal
species, seeking to find out the effect of increased competition
in the Maasai Mara, attributed the reduction in animal population
to increased human density and settlement in the reserve.
Dr Joseph Ogutu, an ILRI researcher,
who has been studying the Maasai Mara situation since 1990, says
that the subdivision of the ranches had triggered unbalanced
competition in the reserve.
"We found that if one group
ranch is subdivided, you lose 30 per cent of the wildebeest,"
said Dr Ogutu. His study also found that the population of the
giraffe, eland, waterbuck and wildebeest has dropped considerably.
Along with the decline in animal
population, wrangling among the ranching groups has prompted the
Mara Conservancy – which manages the Mara Triangle on behalf of
the Trans Mara County Council – to stop remitting the 19 per
cent of the revenue earned from tourism to the three community
ranches of Kimintet, Kerinkabi and Olorien from March 19.
The Mara Triangle covers 690 sq km
while the Maasai Mara National Reserve – under the Narok County
Council – occupies the remaining 840 sq km.
Baxendale says there is a misunderstanding over who should receive
the money on behalf of the community ranches. "But it is not
our business what happens with the money, so long as we give it
out," he adds.
However, Mr Baxendale says that
those who have abandoned pastoralism to embark on farming should
not ask to share the revenue collection from the game viewing fee
with the rest of the community.
The EastAfrican has
learnt that the row over the share of revenue in both the Mara
Triangle and the Maasai Mara Game Reserve revolved around how much
the beneficiaries were receiving, with some claiming that they
were being denied their fair share.
But Narok County Council treasurer
David Muntet contested this, saying that the eight ranches
directly receive Ksh45 million ($577,000) every year from the
council's annual revenue generated from tourism cess.
However, Mr Ondimu refused to say
how much the council generated from tourism, only saying, "We
spend Ksh60 million ($769,000) per year on paying teachers. But
our annual budget does not exceed Ksh350 million ($4.48 million)
from all collections. The council retains 81 per cent of the
Mr Pareyo says that some
people who want to corner the revenue collection are fuelling the
differences among the ranch members by promising them better
management of their share from the Narok and Trans Mara county
Mr Pareyo also says that the hope
of wildlife conservation in the Mara lies with the youth.
While admitting that individual
land ownership might erode conservation efforts – he is
optimistic that the community will rejuvenate the concept through
engaging the youth in school activities that reflect wildlife
"Our aim is to enable the
community to understand that conservation cannot be a lifelong
undertaking without taking the youth on board," says Mr
Students and teachers at Siana Primary
School, for instance, have set up a museum where they have
preserved skulls from various wild animals.
– a Contemporary Exploitation of an
Indigenous People’s Culture
By Michael Ole Tiampati
January 20, 2004
Across East Africa, the Maasai market in Kenya’s capital Nairobi
(Maasai for the stream of cold
waters) is a household name. The market is made up of an array of African artifacts and it forms a
regional convergence zone for different peoples and tourists. Every Tuesday, the market is
buzzing with activity; the milling crowd growing bigger with each passing minute. Taxi drivers cash
in on the many tourists who throng the market in search of “authentic” African souvenirs
to take back home.
People from various African cultural backgrounds in the
region, joined by those who have already lost their cultural
identity, referred to in Maasai as Ilashumpa Orook (black
Europeans), frequent the market, making it a boiling point of business activity
revolving around cultural artifacts.
It is curious that the market is commonly called “Maasai
market,” because Kenya is a conglomeration of more than 45 distinct
communities. Many lines of argument abound as to the reason the market was named after the
Maasai, one of the most well known and culturally resilient communities in the East Africa
Since the colonialists set foot in this region, Maasai pastoralists
have resisted the temptations offered by the west and have retained most, if not all, of
the customs of their tribal mores. This has often been used not only
to give East African states a much needed cultural identity, but also to market the region as a
tourist destination due to the conservation efforts of these pastoralists, which have kept
their lands teeming with huge herds of game and various plant species.
As such, according to one school of thought, the Maasai name
has become a by word for culture and tourism, and now members of the community feel they
have been used as a familiar background.
“When tourists come to Kenya and happen not to see a Maasai,
it is said that they feel they haven’t quite experienced the Kenyan wild,” says 70-year-old
Kiminta Ole Seki. Ole Seki is a resident of Kitengela, which was in the news last year when the
Maasai residents there killed marauding lions (from the Nairobi National Park) preying on
Stan Sullivan, a tourist from Canada, echoes the Maasai elder’s
perception. “Back home, virtually every travel agency targeting Eastern Africa has to have a
photograph of a Maasai looking at nature or doing one thing or the other, and the thought of
meeting these people face to face is in itself quite a marketing strategy,” he says.
The Maasai market, which today has almost nothing to do with
the Maasai, has a trader population of more than 400 on any given Tuesday, but there are
usually only 10 Maasai traders. Beadworks resembling theirs, though not quite genuine,
overwhelm the market. Undeniably, invoking these pastoral people’s name has paid off,
earning a bounty to some individuals, companies, and the tourism industry while exposing the Maasai
and their close cousins the Samburu (Isampurr) to commercial exploitation.
This has often earned a ricochet from the Maasai women at the
market. “We are a proud and unique people. We do not prey on other peoples things as we
hate being parasitic; but unfortunately we have become a perennial target right from the
colonial days and today [other communities] use our name to promote business,” laments
38-year-old Mashipei Sakau, a beadwork trader at the market.
She adds in the characteristic worked up Maasai style, “Look
around you, all these masqueraders purporting to sell our beadworks cannot utter three
words in Maasai, know nothing about the cultural
significance of the various colors and patterns, and yet we claim to have a
system in place to check some of these inequalities and parasitic robbery!”
Musau Makau, a wood carver from the Kamba community neighboring the Maasai to the
east, admits that there exists a glaring injustice in exploitation of certain Kenyan communities to
market the country. “To be honest,” he says, “if fame and riches
were compatible in Africa, then the Maasai would be extremely rich. They would be the
Hollywood class of the region because they have been used in every
commercial manner right from the day the white man first stepped here. Therefore, they need
government protection form further exploitation and erosion of their cultures and property.”
Makau thinks the name of the market is the result of an effort in
the early 90’s by Minister for local authorities, William Ole Ntimama, to allow his people
to gain from their indigenous knowledge and cultural arts and crafts by creating a market
principally for their traditional products. The theory is shared across Maasai country that the
establishment of this place was an effort by this pro-Maasai rights politician to invite the Maasai
to identify with a project that they could take over as a means of
creating markets and job opportunities to the women and
daughters of this community, as beadwork is culturally a preserve of the womenfolk.
As much as the idea was meant to benefit Maasai women, no
sooner had the market started near Nairobi’s central business district than it was
“hijacked” by outsiders on the pretext that they as well had cultural
artifacts to sell and would complement the Maasai and enhance diversity.
“But all they did was copy our art and craft and embark on a
vicious competition with the rightful owners of the products. They
have fabricated stories regarding us in order to convince the tourist clientele and it
should not be allowed to thrive in a modern state,” says Margaret
Saitoti one of the pioneer traders at the Maasai market.
One would be justified to ask why the Maasai did not protest the
“invasion,” but Mopel Karatina, a university graduate whose tuition was paid through sales
of Maasai jewelry at the market, says that the prevailing politics of numbers in Kenya is to blame.
“The Maasai in Kenya constitute only about 400,000 people, and
this is negligible compared to other communities. This could possibly be the reason used to
allow outsiders into the market in order for the powers-that-be to please the majority dominant
communities,” says Mopel.
Today, with the saddest outlook, the overwhelmed Maasai glance
around and witness the savage
trend contagiously spreading and entrenching itself to the very core of what was meant to
benefit their people. Mopel feels this is unjustifiable in a state
that proclaims the principle of equal opportunities.
“It amounts to lack of commitment by the state in its duty to
protect all Kenyans against exploitation both locally and internationally,” he says.
This well educated pastoralist wonders why the government does not
patent these artifacts and cultures. “After all,” he reasons, “one of the core responsibilities
of a government is to protect its citizens against any form of
Mopel fears that by not moving fast to apply intellectual property
rights, the government is squandering the Maasai people’s apparent riches of artistic
talent and culture. He warns that failure to do so may have far reaching social and political
ramifications in the future, as it might be detrimental to the whole
Traditional traders at this market point another accusing finger at
the media saying it has failed the Maasai because media houses have been guilty of biases.
Joshua Lemunka, a Maasai from Tanzania, accuses the media of
immoral injustice through its failure to highlight this glaring abuse. He argues that, in
stark contrast to the role of the media, its silence has instead exposed the Maasai, who should have
gained by the sheer use of their name to further marginalization. “The media gives the Maasai
very little coverage, if any, or simply coverage that is laden with
negative innuendos, thus failing in its cardinal duty of exposing insidious exploitation which is a
violation of their rights, while on the other hand, it has been influential in dismantling the
former regime and bringing in a new one,” laments Joshua.
This brings into focus the issue of intellectual property rights and
the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights as stipulated in the
International Labor Organization Convention 169 article 4.1. This convention states in part that
special measures shall be adopted as appropriate for safeguarding the institutions, property, labor,
cultures, and environments of the peoples concerned.
Unfortunately, Kenya has yet to ratify this convention and there
exists glaring inequalities as the existing policies were adopted from those of the colonial
era, which were principally lopsided and sought to marginalize certain
communities while favoring others. This is a stark contradiction of the Narc government’s commitment
in creation of wealth and involvement of local communities in tourism.
Historically, the Maasai are on record as the first Kenyan
indigenous people ever to sue the British government in 1913 for abrogation of a treaty they
had entered, and the colonial attitude towards them was unfriendly
ever since. But it serves as a pointer to the Maasai people’s belief in fair play and justice.
The Maasai market issue serves as an example of the unabashed
exploitation of indigenous peoples by the same state that is charged with the mandate to
Wildlife Conservation and Human Need
- The Myth of "Community Based Wildlife Management" by
Navaya ole Ndaskoi, Co-ordinator, Indigenous Rights for Survival
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