News 2008


MPís lorry impounded with illegal sandalwood



By Alex Kiprotich

Police in Baringo have impounded an MPís lorry ferrying sandalwood worth Sh10 million.

The lorry was impounded at Tenges on Sunday night.

A suspect, Mr Benjamin Rugut Kihara, was arrested at Salawa.

He had also been charged with ferrying the endangered plant last month.

Baringo OCPD Peter Njenga said police officers acting on a tip off trailed the lorry to Tenges.

"On checking the lorries, the officers found sandalwood neatly packed in gunny bags," he said.

Another senior police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was unfortunate that suspects charged in courts got away with the offence.


He said police officers in the region were frustrated in the fight against the outlawed trade.

The officer said it was unfortunate that suspects charged in courts were getting away with light fines which encouraged them to go back to the same trade.

Njenga confirmed that the suspect, who was in police custody, was released in June after paying a Sh50,000 fine by a Kabarnet court.

"The suspected politician at that time argued that he did not know that his lorry was used for the illegal trade," he said. The lorry was later released.

Baringo district has been a target by sandalwood traders because the species is found in the semi-arid parts of Marigat, Loboi, Barwessa, and Nginyang.


The sandalwood plant is used to make expensive perfumes and has market in India and the Far East.

It grows in semi-arid parts of Baringo, East Pokot and Marigat.

Police have so far impounded sandalwood worth Sh 100 million this year.

Police have also been accused of colluding with politicians and foreigners in the illegal trade.

President Kibaki outlawed trade in sandalwood in a Kenya Gazette Notice in May 2006.

Despite the fact that it is illegal to harvest the plant, smugglers still export it. They harvest the trees at night and pack them before shipping them to India, South Africa, Indonesia and Germany. In Kenya they are found in Kitui, Makueni, Taita Taveta, Meru, Turkana, Kibwezi, Mwingi, Mbeere, Nyandarua and Baringo among other areas.