By Salad Malicha Guyo
By Salad Malicha Guyo
For over 10 years, the Northern Rangelands Trust, a Kenya-based conservation initiative, has been acquiring land in the arid north of the country. Today, it controls almost 10% of Kenya’s land mass. Environmental journalist John Mbaria investigates. (Courtesy of the New African Magazine)
In its dying days, the Obama Administration pumped massive amounts of money into supporting a powerful NGO accused of using below-the-radar tactics to control a huge amount of Kenyan land, thereby using conservation as a subtle tool for dispossessing tens of thousands of pastoralists, who have unwittingly participated in their own dispossession.
Much of the land, whose control is enforced by local well-armed militias, has recently been granted UN-protected status. And with financial backing from powerful Western donors, the Northern Rangelands Trust’s (NRT) activities are largely insulated from public scrutiny.
Unless the new Trump administration discontinues the US government’s support to wildlife conservation in Africa, the NRT is set to continue having a say over vast, mineral-rich lands in the north and coastal areas of Kenya.
Most of these lands have been identified, in official documents, as areas of immense potential capable of becoming the very basis of the country’s future economic progress. These areas are also crucial to the maintenance of the extensive livestock husbandry practised by millions of pastoralists in northern Kenya.
Today, the NRT effectively controls 44,000 km2 (or 10.8m acres) of land – that’s roughly eight per cent of Kenya’s 581,309 km2 landmass. Interestingly, the organisation appears to have acquired a decisive say over these lands by co-opting the local leadership. Consequently, NRT’s control of the lands in Kenya’s Upper Rift, North and Coastal areas is facilitated by local political and community leaders, some of whom are co-opted as members of the organisation’s Board.
This has been done through community wildlife conservation, a model in which landowners assert the right to manage and profit from wildlife on their lands.
Conservancies have proliferated across pastoralist, wildlife-rich areas in northern and southern Kenya. They are also an extremely attractive funding prospect for Western donors in the conservation sector.
All the cash is handed over, not directly to the landowners, who have constituted themselves into 33 community conservancies, but to the NRT, which acts like a middleman and which has taken up not just conservation, but other roles (including security arrangements) that are ordinarily performed by national governments.
Among the biggest financial supporters of NRT, the former Obama administration consistently extended tens of millions of dollars to the organisation through the United States Agency for International Development (USAid). As if to underscore how important the NRT’s work was to the Obama Administration, the organisation’s Chief Programs Officer, Tom Lalampaa, and its founder, Ian Craig, were among the people given the privilege of making short presentations about their work when the former US president visited Kenya last July.
America’s latest support to the organisation was announced in a press statement released by the US Embassy in Nairobi in late November 2016. In the communiqué, the US Ambassador to Kenya, Robert F. Godec, said
the US’s new 5-year, $20m support was meant “to help expand” the NRT’s operations in Coastal
He hailed NRT’s partnership with the communities, terming it “a shared vision of protecting ecosystems and promoting peace for a better future”. He added that the cash would be used to support the work of community rangers, to conserve wildlife and fisheries, improve livelihoods, and advance women’s enterprises.
For its part, NRT, through Craig (who signed off as the organisation’s Director of Conservation), said the cash would be used to fund the opening up of new conservancies and create a conservation trust fund.
The former Obama administration consistently extended tens of millions of dollars to the NRT through USAid.
Though the US government believes that the NRT shares “the visions of protecting ecosystems” with the communities in Upper Rift, the North and on the Coast, recent developments in Kenya have proved otherwise. Indeed, the US support comes at a time when some well-armed herders, from some of the same communities the NRT has helped to form community conservancies, have invaded sprawling private ranches in Laikipia and elsewhere, leading to human fatalities, the killing of wild animals and forcing the deployment of specialised security units from the Kenya police.
The work of NRT and the West’s support to conservation in some of Kenya’s arid-and-semi-arid lands has altered the human/ wildlife dynamics in some areas. This has also invited curious concern from conservation experts, who believe that the US and other countries in the West have been supporting a controversial organisation that has been usurping the role of Kenya’s human and wildlife security organs, as well as destroying the age-old ability of tens of thousands of herders to live off their land.
As New African found out in extensive visits and interviews with different people in the affected areas, the NRT-inspired community-conservation model is simple and can be quite attractive for anyone ignorant of its implications, especially for the lives and livelihoods of local people.
After co-opting the local leadership, the NRT appears to have crafted MOUs with the communities owning the vast tracts of land. In most cases, the communities’ land-ownership claims are based on the most rudimentary rights – an ancestral claim to the land.
Community members are also reputed to retain significant respect for, and allow themselves to be guided by, local leadership which, in most cases, uses its standing in communities to advance, and persuade “lesser” members of communities to conform with the wishes of the NRT.
This is not so difficult as the organisation has come up with quite an attractive package for the communities, including securing for them investors interested in developing lodges and other tourism facilities, once they agree to set aside some of their lands for exclusive use by wildlife and the investors.
NRT also promises bursaries for school children, employment for community members, a ready market for the livestock and the setting up of a grazing plan to prevent livestock deaths through drought in the drylands of Kenya.
“NRT’s approach is quite attractive to communities who have been neglected by successive governments in Kenya since the country attained independence from the British,” says Daniel Letoiye, a Samburu County resident who previously worked as a programme officer with NRT.
However, hidden in the fine print are consequences that are considered grave for the pastoralist groups in Northern Kenya. “Even when droughts occur, many of the pastoralist groups [who have signed up to the agreements] cannot access part of their lands that are now set aside for wildlife conservation and which constitute community conservancies,” says Michael Lalampaa, an official with the Higher Education Loans Board who hails from Samburu County.
Lalampaa complains that the NRT compels communities to set aside the best portions of their lands for the exclusive use of wildlife and the tourist investors. Lalampaa says that the organisation usually identifies leaders and elites within relevant communities who aid in persuading the pastoralists to set aside big parcels of land for conservation purposes. “Once the agreements are put in place, it becomes impossible for the herders to access some areas with pastures in the conservancies … they are confronted by armed scouts who evict them.” He adds that it is “sad that at times, livestock ends up dying simply because the owners cannot graze the animals in what used to be their own lands.”
This has proven problematic especially since vast sections of the relevant rangelands have been depleted year-in, year-out by overgrazing and are inhabited by people who have become increasingly vulnerable to the devastating effects of climate change.
As a result, hundreds of thousands of livestock end up competing over the remaining patches of grasslands and dwindling water sources such as the Ewaso Nyiro River.
This happens, as copious reports show, in an area largely ignored by the Kenya government, inhabited by
morans, have taken up cattle- rustling as a traditional pastime.
Claims have also been made that NRT’s activities have far-reaching implications on the entire country and therefore need to be handled with more than casual attention by Kenya’s allies across the world, the government as well as the people of Kenya.
“The sheer geographical, financial, cultural, and political scale of this intervention calls for a lot more thought than has been given to it thus far,” said Dr Mordecai Ogada, a conservation consultant based in Laikipia County.
Dr Ogada believes that the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has “abdicated” from its responsibility to inspire the formation and sound management of conservation activities outside Kenya’s protected areas. But top officials at KWS – which has lately been experiencing financial difficulties – deny this, saying that they see no problem with the operations of the NRT.
However, KWS appears critical of recent moves by foreign governments to fund the NRT. “Conservation NGOs like NRT have recently benefited from funding from development partners, following the paradigm shift where development partners and other governments prefer to fund communities through NGOs rather than governments directly,” said Paul Gathitu, KWS spokesperson and head of corporate communications.
Attempts by New African to elicit comments from NRT met with no success. Nevertheless, on its website, the organisation – which calls itself a “movement” – announces that it has been raising funds to aid the formation and running of conservancies.
NRT also says that it supports the training of relevant communities and helps to “broker agreements between conservancies and investors”. It claims that it provides donors with “a degree of oversight” by participating directly in how community conservancies and incomes accrued are managed. This was evident as New African toured eight conservancies in Isiolo, Marsabit, Samburu and Laikipia, where NRT has appointed its own managers who are in charge of the day-to-day running of the conservancies.
Besides the managers, there are the members of the Board and grazing committees who are, on paper, supposed to be making decisions that suit the needs of the true owners of the land.
However, there is evidence that main decisions are made by NRT and that the organisation has maintained little or no engagement with the owners of the land and local public institutions.
Besides the US, NRT’s activities are funded by a host of other private companies and bodies in the West. Some of the principal donors to NRT include the Danish Development Agency (DANIDA); the Nature Conservancy (a US-based international NGO); and Agence Française de Développement (AFD) of France. NRT is also bankrolled by other donors who fund its long-term programmes – including Fauna & Flora International, Zoos South Australia, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ of Germany), US Fish and Wildlife Service, San Diego Zoo, International Elephant Foundation, Saint Louis Zoo, Running Wild and others. These latter donors have boosted what NRT terms a pooled conservation fund that has a lifespan of more than five years.
The Tullow Oil Company, that has been involved in oil prospecting in Turkana County, has funded NRT to the tune of $11.5m in a five-year project meant to aid the latter in establishing and operating new conservancies in Turkana and West Pokot counties.
Seventy per cent of the money was meant to go directly to community conservancies’ bank accounts for meeting operational costs (i.e. staff salaries, the purchase and running of vehicles, the acquisition of computers and other equipment), while 30% was to enable the formation and management of the conservancies.
The NRT has maintained little or no engagement with the owners of the land and local public institutions
But this did not go down well with the Turkana County government, which declared the relevant conservancies illegal, with the County Executive for Energy, Environment & Natural Resources ordering NRT to stop its operations there.
Later, the County Governor, Josphat Nanok, termed NRT’s move to establish conservancies in Turkana as “ill-advised with a hidden agenda”.
Dr Ogada believes that the millions of dollars in grants given by the US and other countries in the West have made NRT a “launch pad” for what he terms “a new conservation paradigm” in East Africa.
“NRT has championed this model of conservation very actively for the last decade [resulting] in a situation where challenges or mistakes aren’t spoken about by donors or implementers because of the sheer scale of professional and financial investment in an institution [which like all others] does have inherent weaknesses,” he added.
The NRT’s security function is considered one of the most controversial aspects of the community conservancy movement in Kenya. Usually, maintenance of security within countries is a preserve of governments. But on its website, the organisation says that it inspires community conservancies to “tackle insecurity holistically”.
This includes conducting anti-poaching operations, wildlife monitoring and providing what it terms “invaluable [support] to the Kenya Police in helping to tackle cattle rustling and road banditry”.
The organisation says that by 2014, it had facilitated the training of 645 rangers who operate in the conservancies while Dickson ole Kaelo, the chief executive of the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association, reported that over 2,300 community rangers have been trained so far.
Normally, the organisation selects community members and takes them for training by the KWS’s personnel at the wildlife agency’s Manyani Training School, close to Kenya’s biggest national park, Tsavo.
Here, the rangers are taught “bush craft skills, as well as how to effectively gather and share intelligence, monitor wildlife and manage combat situations”. The involvement of KWS in the training of the community rangers was confirmed, but downplayed, by Michael Kipkeu, KWS’s Senior Assistant Director in charge of the Community Wildlife Service. “The KWS law enforcement academy provides tailor-made community scouts’ training.”
After being trained by KWS, the rangers are given more advanced training than what is posted on the NRT’s website. For instance, according to the Save the Rhino NGO, the rangers are given Kenya Police Reserve accreditation and “sufficient weapons handling training”.
Such advanced training involves tactical movement with weapons, ambush and anti-ambush drills, handling and effective usage of night-vision and thermal-imaging equipment, and ground-to-air communications and coordination.
There are also suspicions that the bigger scheme is to ensure that Kenya unwittingly “forfeits” some of the lands under the NRT by getting them declared by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.
The scheme to have UNESCO declare some of the biggest private game ranches and wildlife conservancies in Laikipia, Samburu, and islands in the Coast as World Heritage Sites is now being pursued in earnest.
“Legally, the move may not amount to much but knowing how lobbying is done, if the government were to [seek to] change ownership, listings would be put up to demonstrate how special these ranches are and why they should remain with the present landowners,” said Njenga Kahiro, a former Programme Officer with Laikipia Wildlife Forum. The aim, Kahiro avers, is “to create a super-big protected area … all of it [covered by] the World Heritage Convention.”
The attention of the Independent medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) has been drawn to a statement you are said to have issued during a peace meeting in Isiolo on Thursday 12th November 2015 authorizing shoot-to kill-orders against anyone found carrying firearms.
This order, in your view would contribute to curb general insecurity and cattle rustling in Isiolo County. Whereas we condemn crime in all its manifestations, and appreciate you efforts in enhancing public safety and security, it is our considered opinion that your orders are in total disregard of the Constitution of Kenya and the law and will only contribute to aggravating insecurity.
We wish to unequivocally express our dismay at this order that is not only a license for extrajudicial executions but also militates against the rules of natural justice, where one is assumed innocent until proven guilty through a competent judicial process. In addressing crime and insecurity the law has to be safeguarded and such an order is an outright affront to the provision of article 26 of the Constitution on the right to life and an unacceptable violation of the National Police Service Act 2011.
We’d wish to bring to your attention the provisions of the sixth schedule of the National Police Service Act 2011 that sets out the rules and procedures on use of force and firearms by police officers. The law is categorical that force and firearms will only be used where less extreme means are inadequate; ostensibly to protect life and for self-defence. As such, blanket shoot-to-kill orders from anyone must be treated with the contempt they deserve. Any directive contrary to the set legal guidelines must be considered void ab initio. We remain ready to discuss with your good office the possibility of supporting the establishment of the County Policing Authority in Isiolo County with a view to putting in place a more sustainable approach to public safety and security in the county.
We highly value and recognize the critical role played by the National Police Service in fostering public safety and security and it is our considered view that intelligence policing should be strengthened to avert criminal activities not only in Isiolo county but the entire country. Shoot-tokill directives are a thing of the past and should not be replacements to an integrated community driven security agenda for this country.
It is for this reason that we demand that you denounces this directive in order to allay public fears and reassure residents of Isiolo County and Kenyans in general of your commitment to safeguarding the Constitution and the rule of law. We at the same time urge police officers to ignore Mr. Natembeya’s orders and continue serving Kenyans within the ambits of the law.
We appeal to the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate these utterances with a view to instituting proceedings against Mr. Natembeya.
Signed: Peter Kiama,
Independent Medico-Legal Unit
The defection of Isiolo Senator Mohamed Abdi Kuti to Narc-Kenya from Jubilee Party has brought interesting dimensions into the gubernatorial race. The question is; was it strategic or survival tactic?
Kuti is eyeing the Governor’s seat held by Godana Doyo. His defection now leaves former Tana Athi River Development Authority chairman Abdul Bahari as the sole JP aspirant for the seat in the nominations slated for Tuesday.
Two weeks ago, Governor Doyo decamped to Party for Development and Reforms from JP, a move that left the race to Kuti and Bahari.
Kuti, while accompanied by his running mate Abdi Issa and four MCAs, announced his defection at Narc-Kenya headquarters in Nairobi. The Senator claimed he was prompted to make the shift following claims that the Bahari camp planned to rig him out.
“I moved because I lost faith with the election board that was inclined towards my rivals,” he claimed.
Last week, the party dismissed three returning officers but the board chairman Abduba Sama said it was done by the head office.
Kuti on Wednesday wrote a resignation letter to JP after his camp’s plea for their grievances to be addressed fell on deaf ears. Some local pundits view his defection as a way to counter a directive by Borana Council of Elders who last Monday asked all Borana clans to vote for Bahari at nomination stage. The elders led by their chairman Abdullahi Haji Gonjobe summoned all the four Borana aspirants to make the announcement. Apart from Bahari and Doyo, other gubernatorial aspirants who attended the meeting were Hussein Golicha (Kanu) and Adan Kabelo (ODM).
“It was evident that majority of Borana would have voted for Bahari and his running mate (Domiciano Mainge),’’ said Daud Tari, an NGO official.
“His defection is not going to change anything. Our camp still has majority of Borana and non-Borana speakers like Meru, Turkana, Somali clans and Samburu. Kuti has panicked and written his own political obituary,’’ said Jarso Guyo, from Bahari’s camp.
Governor Doyo says he is confident of retaining his seat in the August elections owing to his development projects. “We have transformed our county in just four years and the voters are with me,” he says.
By Salad Malicha
Isiolo Senator, Mohammed Kuti, has picked a former UK-based Doctor as his running mate in the race for the Isiolo gubernatorial seat. Dr Kuti officially declared that Dr. Abdi Ibrahim Issa alias Abdi Kishoto will be his running mate in his bid to clinch the county top seat in the August election.
Strange as it may be, after digging into the background check of one Dr. Abdi Ibrahim Issa alias Abdi Greek Issa’s activities in UK, some shocking revelations according to The SUN Tabloid have emerged that the expose’ might end his prospective political ambition. This has emerged in the wake of new constitutional requirements on integrity for all aspirants participating in the August polls.
The SUN tabloid of 3rd October ran a sensational headline; “LICENCE TO ILL- Investigation reveals dodgy GPs (General Practioners) getting cash to help minicab and Uber drivers fake medical test over fitness to drive”
In United Kingdom, General Practioners (GPs) are required to sign a medical statement that prospective PHV drivers are fit and healthy. But, an undercover investigation found three doctors who allegedly approved minicab medical forms for money.
The Transport for London (TfL) PHV driver licence application asks GPs to check prospective cabbies for details of cardiovascular disease, seizures and problems with eyesight or injuries.
And it states: “This form should be taken to a registered medical practitioner who has access to your full medical history, typically your GP, for completion.
“If it is not completed by someone who has access to your full medical history this could lead to delays in the processing of your medical.”
However, an investigation by The Sun newspaper journalist posing as a PHV driver found that Dr Ashraful Haque Mirza, a GP in Morden, South London, allegedly accepted a cash bribe to fake the results of eyesight and blood pressure tests.
The journalist was passed as medically fit despite telling Dr Mirza that his vision, “gets a bit blurry”. To which the doctor allegedly replied: “Right, OK, fine, they won’t give you any problems with that”.
A PHV driver applying for a renewal of his TfL minicab licence was also filmed leaving Dr Mirza’s surgery and said: “I live in Hounslow, my GP said the health checks would cost £150 and take eight days. Here it takes five minutes and £50.”
Another doctor in Barking, East London, also agreed to sign off the TfL forms presented by the undercover reporter and falsely declare he had seen his full medical history.
And it was further alleged that a minicab company had contracted a doctor in Hounslow, Dr Abdi Greek, to fast track the medical forms of drivers without asking to see the medical records of the PHV licence applicants.
A spokesman for Uber said:
‘There should be tough action against any GP who has falsified medical certificates and any test centres found to cheat the system should be closed down.’
Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, also praised The Sun for lifting the lid.
Labour MP and Transport Committee member of House of Commons Graham Stringer said: “This is a serious scandal which is putting the public at risk.”
TfL chief operating officer for surface transport Garrett Emmerson said: “We take all allegations of fraud very seriously and will investigate.”
Chief executive of the General Medical Council Niall Ferguson said the organisation would be investigating the claims, “as a matter of urgency”.
In the wake of such startling revelations the fate of one Dr. Abdi hitherto lies with Multi-Agency Team dealing with matters of those individuals pursuing political office in Kenya.
Dr. Abdi Issa Greek who is a British national according to Public Register had the following registered companies. The first one was dissolved, the second he is active Director till today and the last one he resigned as Director.
BAYSWATER PROPERTY MANAGEMENT LTD (Company Reg. No. 09547015)
116 Clarence Street, Southall, Middlesex, England, UB2 5BW
1st May 2015
COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE
BAYSWATER MEDICAL SERVICES LIMITED (Company Reg. No. 07999401)
Unit 5, Ground Floor,Red Lion Court,, Red Lion Court, Alexandra Road, Hounslow, England, TW3 1JS
21 March 2012
COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE
DARUSSALAM CULTURAL CENTRE LTD (Company Registration No. 06844380)
116 Clarence Street, Southall, Middlesex, England, UB2 5BW
1 April 2013
6 May 2014
COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE
That politicians with ongoing criminal cases, including those battling corruption and hate speech charges, now risk being locked out of the August General Election in an elaborate bid by vetting agencies to comply with Constitutional requirements on integrity. Those with suspicious degrees running for governor and president, as well as their running mates, will not be safe from the hammer.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), and the Registrar of Political Parties, and Office of the Attorney-General said that they will not leave anything to chance in a bid to clean up Kenyan leadership.
Aspirants for political office are asked to declare if they have ever been convicted of any offence and sentenced to serve for at least six months, misused public resources, removed from register of members of professional organisations, dismissed from employment due to integrity, or whether they had been subject of criminal or disciplinary proceedings as public officers.
In this unfortunate scenario, Dr. Abdi Ibrahim alias Abdi Greek alias Abdi Kishoto should brace for hard times ahead with the electoral vetting agencies owing to the fact that he grossly violated basic tenets of Leadership and Integrity Act by engaging in wrongful conduct whilst in the furtherance of personal benefit and much worse falsifying official record.
I hope the vetting agencies will swing into action and deal with this matter expeditiously.
A crowd aboard a lorry during a recent political rally in Isiolo Town. The government has banned night political meetings in Isiolo County, citing insecurity. PHOTO | PHOEBE OKALL | NATION MEDIA GROUP
By VIVIAN JEBET (Daily Nation Reporter)
– He said surveillance on politicians is necessary since some of them incite the public to gain cheap ethnic popularity.
– He said no incidents of incitement have been reported.
But admitted that some locals recently conflicted over sharing of money dished out by politicians.
– The government has banned night political meetings in Isiolo County over security concerns.
Isiolo Deputy County Commissioner Mwachaunga Chaunga, while announcing the ban, cautioned that anyone found conducting political meetings will face the law.
The administrator further disclosed that the government is working closely with the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) to monitor hate speech by politicians.
“We have increased our surveillance countywide to monitor political leaders who spread hate messages and incite the public,” he said.
Mr Chaunga said surveillance on politicians is necessary since some of them incite the public to gain cheap ethnic popularity.
He said no incidents of incitement have been reported but admitted that some locals recently conflicted over sharing of money dished out by politicians.
“Politicians should sell their manifestoes to the public freely but should refrain from inciting youths,” he added.
By Salad Malicha