Government backtracks on Tsavo National Park revenue sharing pledge

Tsavo East National Park

Elephants and zebras at a drinking point in Tsavo East National Park.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife to conduct public participation within three months.
  • Local leaders want the park's management handed over to the county government.

The national government has indicated that it will backtrack on President William Ruto's initial promise of a 50-50 revenue-sharing deal between Tsavo National Park and Taita Taveta County.

Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife Alfred Mutua said a different approach to revenue sharing will be undertaken, stressing the need to take into account the government's financial capacity.

Speaking in Mwatate on Wednesday during his visit to Taita Taveta County, where he met stakeholders on improving the tourism sector in the region, Mutua said a legislative process to legalise the formula will be applied, which will not necessarily be 50-50.

He was responding to Governor Andrew Mwadime's call for the process to be fast-tracked following President Ruto's promise last year.

“It may not be exactly 50-50 but I think there’s going to be a sharing of some sort. There has to be legislation and I think that is under work,” he said.

The CS told journalists there is an upcoming legislation to address the sharing formula for the revenue.

"We are crafting a Bill which we will forward to Parliament then we agree on the formula depending on the revenue and the availability of funds," he said.

Dr Mutua said the ministry will conduct a public participation exercise in the next three months before the formulation of the Bill.

In July last year, President Ruto promised Taita Taveta residents a 50 per cent share of the revenue generated from Tsavo National Pak.

The President had reaffirmed his commitment to ensure the county receives its fair share of revenue from the park.

Since then, county leaders have been relentless in their efforts to ensure that this pledge is honoured. 

President Ruto’s pledge sparked a wave of anticipation and hope among the locals, who have been eagerly awaiting the fulfilment of the commitment.

Governor Mwadime said the pledge aimed to rectify years of marginalisation and inequity.

Tsavo National Park, Kenya’s largest and oldest protected area, encompasses at least 62 per cent of the country’s land. Historically, the revenue generated from the park has never benefited the region.

Governor Mwadime asked the national government to fast-track the process to allow the residents to benefit and, at the same time, raise revenue for the county.

“There has not been an equity share of revenue from this park and there is a need to change this narrative. We wanted to have the park devolved but that seems impossible now. We can start earning the share as we push for the ceding of the park,” he said.

Last year, Members of the County Assembly presented a memorandum to the National Assembly, urging MPs to intervene and ensure that Taita Taveta gets its rightful slice of the revenue.

“We want you to enjoy the benefits of the national park in your county. I urge the ministry to follow up on the memorandum so that we can get our issues resolved,” said Mwatate MCA Keneddy Mwalegha.

Some local leaders have also said the park should be a game reserve and management handed over to the county.

In a recent interview, Senator Jones Mwaruma said such a move would grant Taita Taveta control over the park.

"If the President handed over Amboseli to Kajiado why aren't we getting the same treatment?" Mwaruma posed.

However, neighbouring counties, including Kitui, Makueni, Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River and Kajiado, may also claim their stake by seeking a share of the park’s revenue.