Kenya: Taita Taveta County Seeks Kenyatta Help Over Tsavo Revenue Row

6 December 2021

The Taita Taveta County government has threatened to escalate the revenue stalemate over Tsavo National Park to President Uhuru Kenyatta after talks with the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife hit a wall.

County government officials have accused the ministry of dragging its feet in resolving the wrangles.

This comes six months after the court suspended a case where the county government had sued the State seeking a share of revenue collected from the expansive park.

The court had referred the matter to the Intergovernmental Relations Technical Committee (IGRTC) for an alternative dispute resolution mechanism and ordered the county government and ministry to resolve the matter within one year.

The case was filed in 2019 at the Constitutional and Human Rights Court accusing the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) of declining to supply or share statements on revenue collected from Tsavo West and Tsavo East National Parks between 2013 to 2018.

Taita Taveta County government also accused KWS of failing to fulfil its statutory obligation to develop a mechanism for benefit communities living in wildlife areas as provided for by the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act.

Before the court ruling, the devolved unit had also petitioned the committee to push the state for a share of benefits from Tsavo in its effort to boost its own-source revenue.

However, the county government now alleges a lack of goodwill from the ministry to resolve the revenue dispute.

Land Executive Mwandawiro Mghanga said despite a series of meetings scheduled by the committee, officials from the ministry declined to attend thereby creating a standoff to resolve the issue.

"We have travelled to Nairobi twice and the ministry officials failed to attend. They kept us waiting the whole day. That shows clearly that the matter is not a priority to them," he said.

He also singled out IGRTC for failing to take any action against the ministry for failing to honour the invites.

"This is a government body but it seems it does not have any powers to press the officials to attend the meetings or even take action when they fail to attend," he said.

He blamed Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala for lack of goodwill to end the revenue dispute.

The CEC said Mr Balala had despised the committee.

"The CS was ordered by the President himself to meet us to end this issue. It is evident that he is not willing to meet us to end this matter," he said on Monday.

The county has been pushing to benefit from Tsavo East and West national parks by getting a share of revenue collected from tourists.

Initially, the county government leaders led by Governor Granton Samboja and Mwatate MP Andrew Mwadime were lobbying to have the park ceded to the community.

The leaders claimed that the county government had the ability to run the park that straddles over 60 percent of its land size.

However, the government has remained adamant that it is impossible to convert the park into a game reserve.

CS Balala and Wildlife Principal Secretary Fred Segor were unavailable for comment when Nation.Africa reached out for a comment.

The ministry's Deputy Director of Public Communication Maina Kigaga said the matter was being handled by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

"Contact the officers from the Tsavo National Park. They are the ones responsible for the revenue issues," he said.

In an earlier interview, CS Balala had asked the county leaders to instead work with the State in protecting the wildlife instead of fighting over resources.

Mr Balala said the county government would not be able to run the park terming conservation as an expensive affair.

"The State itself is struggling to run these parks. The gate fees are not enough to raise enough funds for salaries and operations," he said.

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