At last! KWS gets a new boss and board
Wildlife minister Raphael Tuju yesterday appointed a new top team to run the troubled Kenya Wildlife Service – replacing the one he unceremoniously kicked out of office just two weeks ago.
The new man to enter the lions' den – the KWS directorship has become one of the highest risk jobs in the Kenyan public service – is Mr Julius Kangogo Kipng'etich.
Aged 39 and married with one child, he was until yesterday managing director of the Investment Promotion Centre, in charge of marketing Kenya as an ideal place in which to invest.
Previously he was a lecturer in the University of Nairobi's Faculty of Commerce, where he doubled up as director of students welfare.
From Moiben, Uasin Gishu, he replaces Mr Evans Mukolwe, whose team was swept from office in the storm triggered by the rangers' recruitment fiasco, which saw 980 trainee game rangers appointed to fill only 460 vacancies, because of interference by politicians trying to find work for their own relatives, friends and constituents.
Mr Kipng'etich, who had just started his annual leave and was in Lamu with his family, commented: "I am excited. It came as a surprise, but in public service you expect anything and must be prepared."
Asked to state his priority for KWS, he replied: "What it basically requires is a question of set goals for the organisation that must be based on sound strategic management."
Mr Tuju, the acting Tourism and Wildlife minister, also appointed a new five-member KWS board of trustees in a move expected to inject life into the cash-strapped organisation.
The five are Prof Shem Migot Adhola, Dr Hellen Gichohi, Prof George Fungo Chengo, Mr Ololtisatti ole Kamuaro and Mr Allan Earnshaw.
Prof Adhola, long associated with the World Bank, is a former permanent secretary and member of the so-called Dream Team appointed by President Moi to spearhead economic recovery.
His boss in the team was Dr Richard Leakey who, coincidentally, is also a former KWS director.
Dr Hellen Gichohi is president of the respected African Wildlife Foundation, a game conservation organisation.
Prof George Fungo Chengo comes from the Faculty of Arts at Moi University, while Mr Kamuaro is chairman of the Tourism Trust Fund and a consultant of the International Livestock Research Institute.
Mr Earnshaw is a noted conservationist.
The team's appointment was immediate, Mr Tuju said.
It comes two weeks after Mr Mukolwe's team was shown the door following the rangers' recruitment scandal, which raised a furore in Parliament.
Fuelling the fire was a long list of MPs and ministers, which was published to show the number of recruits they were each invited to send for training.
The politicians are said to have forced KWS management to list their friends and relatives, sidetracking the recruitment process.
The Government later sent the rangers home and closed their Manyani training camp.
The scandal began during the tenure of former Tourism and Wildlife minister Karisa Maitha, who died in August while on an official tour in Germany.
Other members of the board sacked with Mr Mukolwe were vice-chairman William Sakataka, Dr Rene Haller and Mr Frederick Owino.
Dr Haller, who launched a conservation campaign by Bamburi Cement, turning a spoil quarry into a model wildlife and garden at Mombasa, was brought in after board chairman Mr Colin Church was suspended, allegedly over his involvement in a controversial bid to privatise the parastatal's money making activities.
The dismissals were triggered by the officials' criticism of Mr Tuju, whom they accused of usurping their role. They questioned the minister's involvement in running KWS and his decision to remove Mr Mukolwe.
They pointed out that it was the board's responsibility and not that of the minister to discipline, suspend or sack any director.
Mr Mukolwe's suspension and eventual sacking drew sharp reactions with concerns being raised in the wildlife business over what many saw as Mr Tuju's meddling in the KWS and disregard for its management structure.
Mr Mukolwe's predecessor Mr Michael Wamithi was believed to have been a victim of a power struggle within KWS, pitting a group allied to Dr Leakey against that supporting former Wildlife minister Newton Kulundu.
Mr Wamithi, who once worked for Dr Leakey at KWS, was regarded by conservationists as being in Dr Leakey's camp, which is frequently accused of trying to impose its influence on the organisation and Kenya's conservation movement.
Commenting on the new appointments, the board's recently dismissed vice-chairman, Mr William Sakataka, wished the new board well, but questioned the legality of the appointment of Mr Kipng'etich as director.
"According to the rules signed by the President, it is the board that appoints the new director and I wonder which law the minister followed," he said.
He said he still did not understand why Mr Tuju had sacked the previous board and demanded to know his reasons, "as he failed to meet us despite numerous requests".