Leaders protest at delay in settling Tsavo park revenue fight

A section of the Tsavo West National Park

A section of the Tsavo West National Park in January. A broad consensus was that the park should be converted into a game reserve for county residents to benefit from its revenue.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

Leaders in the county have protested at the slow pace of resolving a dispute with the national government over control of revenue from the Tsavo West National Park.

The devolved unit has been embroiled in the row to control billions of shillings in annual revenue minted from the wildlife sanctuary since 2020 when then governor Granton Samboja petitioned the High Court seeking to push the national government to share the over Sh60 billion yearly earnings with the county. 

The court referred the matter to the Intergovernmental Relations Technical Committee (IGRTC) in 2021, putting the case in abeyance for one year pending the resolution of the dispute at the committee.

Since then, officials from the county government and the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife have met several times but are yet to break the deadlock.

In November last year, IGRTC chairperson Saadia Abdi paid a visit to Deputy Governor Christine Kilalo's office in Mwatate and assured her that the matter would be resolved in six months.

County officials and local leaders now see the IGTRC process as a mere ruse by the national government to buy time as the dispute settles into an unbreakable impasse.

“The IGRTC is a toothless dog that cannot bite. The State is using it to take their time in resolving this pertinent issue,” Wundanyi Ward Representative Jimmy Mwamidi declared in Voi yesterday during a meeting between county government officials and local leaders.

Residents to benefit

The broad consensus was that the Tsavo West National Park should be converted into a game reserve for county residents to benefit from its revenue.

The leaders said residents do not benefit from the park, which occupies over 60 per cent of land in the devolved unit. Locals, the leaders pointed out, also bear the brunt of human-wildlife conflict. 

Mr Mwamidi said the park has been a thorn in the flesh for the residents for long yet the State has been pocketing all the revenue, leaving locals to suffer in abject poverty. 

He claimed that powerful people were grazing their animals inside the park and accused the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) of doing nothing to drive them out of the protected area. 

The Wundanyi MCA, who is also the county assembly’s Budget and Appropriations Committee chairperson, said revenue from the park, if given to the county, will go a long way in improving the lives of the residents. 

“Right now, we are experiencing late disbursement of funds from the exchequer. If we could boost our own-source revenues, we would not be complaining because we would have money to pay salaries and undertake development projects,” he said. 

His sentiments were echoed by the assembly’s Deputy Leader of Majority Lawrence Mzugha, who said the leaders will push until their demands are met.

“We have wildlife roaming freely in our villages. Our people are living in perpetual fear because of the wild animals yet we are not getting even a single coin from the State,” he said. He accused KWS of delaying compensation for wildlife attacks.