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February 26, 2018

Sober up, Balala tells politicians threatening KWS over wildlife attacks

Tourism Cabinet Secretary  Najib Balala with Pride Inn Paradise Beach Resort General Manager Mohammed Omar on January 27, 2018. /BRIAN OTIENO
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala with Pride Inn Paradise Beach Resort General Manager Mohammed Omar on January 27, 2018. /BRIAN OTIENO

Politicians ultimatums and threats will not help stop the human-wildlife conflicts which have caused loss of lives and property across the country, Tourism CS Najib Balala has said.

Balala said this on Tuesday, noting the need for politicians to sober up and accept there is a problem which needs to be solved.

“There is a solution when we engage,” he emphasised during an interview on Citizen TV,

The CS defended the Kenya Wildlife Service saying it is not entirely to blame for the encroachment of farms by wildlife.

“It’s easy to put blame on that (wild animals invading farms). But it is humans who have occupied animals’ land. We have blocked their corridors,” the CS said.

Balala reported that the ministry was working on strategies to end the problem as wildlife is important to the economy.

“We need these animals as our heritage. It is easy to get frustrated when people die and property is destroyed [but] let’s be more sober; no ultimatums, no retaliation. It’s not going to help us."

On January 17, Kajiado Governor Joseph ole Lenku gave the KWS two days to get elephants off Maasais’ farms, failure of which the people would defend themselves.

Days earlier, Maasai morans in the county had killed two jumbos from Amboseli National Park in Imbuko Location after initially warning the service against letting the animals stray into their farms.

Read: Kajiado drives elephants back to Amboseli after Ole Lenku's ultimatum

Balala said his number one agenda for the next five years is to engage stakeholders on lasting solutions.

The Wildlife docket was reintegrated into the Tourism ministry following separation during the Grand Coalition Government by then-President Mwai Kibaki and then-Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Regarding compensation, Balala noted the KWS is struggling with outstanding bills of Sh15 billion, most of the victims - 70 per cent - having suffered snake bites.

These bites, he said, can attract compensation of up to Sh3 million.

“We don’t have a budget for it,” he said. “We have to delist snake bites as part of compensation or else this country will go bankrupt."

More on this: Sh1.5b snakebite compensations cripples Environment ministry

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