Kenya: Kibaki's Crackdown Order On Illegal Logging

Nairobi — President Kibaki has ordered a crackdown on illegal felling of trees.

Kibaki said the drastic move was necessary to defend the country's dwindling forest cover and told chiefs and forest officers to arrest those defying the directive.

He said the Government would be watching how trees on private land are utilised.

"We have a right to arrest and jail anybody who is found destroying our trees and let nobody found engaging in such destructive practices complain later," he said.

The President said rampant deforestation , most of it from uncontrolled cutting of trees or illegal logging, was proving too costly to government because of the successive years of drought and failed crops.

"Whenever rains fail as a result of human activities, the Government is expected to import close to four million tons of grain, depleting the much needed foreign ex-change," he said.

The Head of State, who was launching this year's National Tree Planting Season at Ngong Road Forest, wondered how the Government was expected to improve the welfare of the common man if it has to use tax payers money to import grains.

During the launch, also attended by the Environment minister Kalonzo Musyoka and Assistant minister and Nobel Laureate Prof Wangari Maathai, Education assistant minister Beth Mugo proposed that the President considers defending his seat in 2007.

President Kibaki, however, did not respond to the request in his speech.

He warned parents who refuse to take advantage of the free primary schooling by taking their children to school that they risk being prosecuted.

Nairobi PC Francis Sigei had said that the number of school-going children in slum areas in Nairobi was declining.

President Kibaki asked Kenyans to support the Government in its efforts to defend forest cover from further destruction by naming those involved in illegal logging.

He asked the Provincial Administration and the Ministry of Environment officials to ensure they tree nurseries were established in the country.

Maathai warned those putting pressure on Musyoka to open up forests for cultivation to keep off.

Describing herself as the "watchman", she said Kenyans risk being pushed out of the country as a result of desertification, should they continue destroying the forests.

Musyoka said the disappearing snow cover on both Mount Kilimanjaro and Kenya was a grave sign that everything was not going well with the region's eco-system.

He said Kenya, and by extension, the region, would suffer irreparable damage, should such key resources as Tana River dry up.

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