Opinion and Analysis

State must recover grabbed land

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Ibrahim Mwathane

Ibrahim Mwathane 

By Ibrahim Mwathane

Posted  Monday, June 28   2010 at  00:00
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At a workshop for Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) wardens and scientists, I lauded the management for the decision to take such a high level workshop to far away Garissa.

Most State Agencies don’t. Mombasa, the Coastal city of comfort and leisure, takes preference.

The decision to bring their conservation discussions far North would not only provide business to the town, but also substantially raise public awareness on matters of conservation. But this was a side issue.

My key compliment was elsewhere. KWS controls a whopping 10 per cent of Kenya’s land mass.

Land under its parks and reserves accounts for about 75 per cent of Kenya’s stock of public land.

And some of it traverses pristine areas like the peripheries of major urban areas such as Nairobi, Nakuru and Kisumu. It’s prime for land grab.

Yet, during Kenya’s land grab mania of the 1980s and 90s, this land remained largely intact.

Only a few plots on which stood houses for wardens in some of the District Headquarters went into private ownership irregularly.

At a time when many other State Agencies lost much land, this was unparalleled.

And much as some attribute this feat to KWS’ operative Statute which outlaws conversion of protected land to other uses without the authority of the National Assembly, I believe that it’s the restrained and protective internal staff culture that helped to save the prime KWS land.

I said as much and encouraged the wardens and management to keep up this businesslike approach to conservation.

The land they watch over, the fauna and flora therein, belongs to Kenyans and posterity.

But I was in for some major surprise.

During lunch, Dr Julius Kipng’etich, the director, calmly told me that KWS had actually recovered all of its grabbed land listed in the Ndung’u Report.

“We have recovered all the 20 listed plots”, he asserted.

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