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Moving Ahead - Gerhard R. Damm

You are here: Kenya Wildlife News Moving Ahead - Gerhard R. Damm

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Posted by  Wednesday, 21 March 2007 08:32

Moving Ahead - Gerhard R. Damm

The Kenyans are also moving ahead.

Oops – I should rather have said side- and backwards.

A “Draft National Land Use Policy” which virtually nobody had heard of; which proposes to abolish freehold tenure in favor of 99 year leasehold; which tries to marry African customary law with modern British law; which demands that land can be sold only with the approval of family members, etc. came to light. A Central Land Board made up of politically appointees with judicial powers superior to the country's legal system is slated to have control over all land issues, and would be able to levy taxes.

There are three significant shortcomings in this policy. First, a profound ignorance of the history of land issues in Kenya, of the policies towards to these issues adopted by successive Kenyan governments, and of the workings of current land law. Second, by concentrating almost exclusively on minority issues (important though they are) at the expense of the majority it will create greater injustices than those it seeks to redress. Third, by undermining one of the pillars of the Kenyan economy – security of private tenure and the unencumbered transfer of property rights -- it will hinder the creation and accumulation of wealth by Kenyan citizens, thus exacerbating and perpetuating poverty. Finally, implicit in the Draft Land Policy is the prerequisite for deep and radical amendments to the Constitution – a process already soundly rejected by the citizenry of Kenya (Mike Norton-Griffiths, 2007 – see also 

Kenya’s population largely abandoned communal tenure in favor of private tenure and freehold within an enlightened land tenure system. Private title deeds facilitated the access to capital, due to the unencumbered transfer of such rights. Kenyans and similarly South Africans and Namibian are light years ahead of the rest of the continent with this proven system. Mugabe’s disastrous experiment in Zimbabwe certainly does not invite any imitators, yet the proposed Kenyan land policy will dispossess millions of land owners and in its wake, will create, accentuate and perpetuate both rural and urban poverty.

It transpires that it is an NGO called ActionAid founded 1972 in the UK and now one of the UK's largest development agencies with its international secretariat based in South Africa, who invented this neo-Marxist document. ActionAid’s primary motivation seem to be issues of minority land rights and a wish to redress real or perceived injustices dating from the colonial era, yet the new policy launches an outright assault on private property rights, on the security of such property rights and on the free and unencumbered transfer of such property rights, without offering any sensible alternatives. The European Parliament should have a look at ActionAid’s activities and how the UK government is being dragged into these schemes.

I suggest that this issue is also of importance for the preparations of the CITES Conference of Parties (CoP 14) in The Hague later this year. Kenya's published proposals for CoP 14 show an expansion of the unholy alliance between IFAW and ActionAid towards wildlife policies not only in Kenya but across Africa. The alliance obviously held the Kenyan hand which drafted yet another set of ill-conceived proposals. ActionAid's interest in wildlife and the clandestine cooperation with and funding of IFAW has gone a long way: Their combined message: “don't go near utilization – it is a plot by wicked colonialists” is accompanied by some staffers’ private statements that they have the Minister in their pocket, as well as the Vice President and the President!

What a surprise that an obviously IFAW-leaning writer of the Kenyan paper The Nation decries on February 20th in several articles that USAID partly financed a draft policy that asks the Kenyan Government to allow sensible and regulated sustainable extractive use of wildlife! John Mbaria of The Nation applies two yardsticks at his convenience, when evaluating policy proposals – wherever it serves IFAW’s ill-conceived objectives, foreign funding is welcome, but on the matter of USAID involvement it’s considered foreign meddling! IFAW’s vociferous opposition to the proposed granting of user rights to land owners and communities living in wildlife areas; the refusal to empower them to participate in decision-making processes and to allow them to benefit from the use of wildlife resources is obviously not considered foreign meddling by Mbaria. There is anyhow a logic flaw here – in the land policy document expansion of minority rights are sought, whereas the wildlife policy objective of IFAW provides just the contrary.

It is rather strange that Mr Mbaria labels the consultative process regarding the formulation of a new Kenyan wildlife policy “Behind-the-Scenes Foreign Efforts to Change Policies” yet he conveniently forgets the four decades of constant meddling of American and European IFAW staff in alliance with the likes of the UK-based Born Free Foundation and the US-based Humane Society (HSUS). He also forgets to mention the disastrous losses which Kenya’s biodiversity had to suffer during the all-permeating influence of international animal rights organizations during the past thirty years and the dismal record of incompetence of the Kenyan Wildlife Service under IFAW guidance. He further forgets to mention the condescending attitude of the animal rightists, who corrupted untold numbers of Kenyans with easy handouts and money.

It is quite ridiculous, when another editorial of The Nation by an unknown author, published on February 26th, claims that wildlife numbers in Kenya increased since the ban on sport hunting in the late seventies. Empirical evidence shows that quite the contrary is true! The review of wildlife policy though a process of national workshops and regional seminars, and visits by the National Steering Committee to neighboring and southern African countries, was actually motivated by the loss of some 70% of all wildlife in Kenya over the last three decades – an unprecedented feat achieved nowhere else in Africa except perhaps in countries ravaged by civil strife.

Dr Stephanie S. Romañach wrote in the last issue of African Indaba (Vol. 5, No. 1) that Richard Leakey, former Director of Kenya’s wildlife regulatory agency commented on the unsustainable illegal bushmeat trade during one of the hearings, stressing that hunting in some form has never stopped in Kenya despite the ban and is widespread and out of control. Leakey further said “that decision makers should consider a policy to regulate hunting, make hunting sustainable, and to allow people to derive value from wildlife”.
Some Kenyans fear that trophy hunting will provide an opportunity for a foreign industry to exploit local resources. The Nation’s journalists constantly pour oil into this fire. Yet they fail to mention that it is Kenya’s much-lauded photographic tourism industry which suffers badly from leakage of revenues to overseas accounts and from the absence of devolving adequate benefits to communities. John Mbaria does not seem to have either an economist’s nor a conservationist’s knowledge, since he upholds that “non-consumptive tourism” is the proverbial golden goose. He omits to address the unsustainability in photo-tourism – even for the casual observer it is obvious that the hordes of tourists in their zebra-striped minibuses operating from ever-expanding lodges are extremely consumptive of Kenya’s most picturesque biodiversity hotspots and are negatively impacting on the behaviour of all animals as well as on their habitats. Mr Mbaria, don’t you know that most of the Kenyan lands suitable for wildlife (around 95%) are never visited by your much lauded photo tourists? The consequence is obvious – if the current restrictions on income generating opportunities from wildlife are not lifted – whatever is left of wildlife there will disappear. Will IFAW still be around to take the blame? Or will they have shifted their attention and funds elsewhere?

It will be a conservation disaster if the IFAW people and their Mbaria-minded helpers are successful in subverting the entire Wildlife Policy Review Process with their rent-a-mob crowds and misleading briefings to the President. Dr. Mike Norton-Griffiths wrote on his website “I return here to the essentially economic basis for the catastrophic loss of wildlife in Kenya, and to IFAW’s role in trying to prevent one of the few remedial actions that has a chance to redress the situation, namely to reintroduce consumptive utilization. IFAW has every right to its opinions, but they should not use their financial muscle to subvert the representative democratic process in Kenya and usurp the powers of the elected Parliamentarians. Furthermore, IFAW’s only objective is to stop consumptive use: they offer no alternatives and clearly do not mind if all wildlife outside the protected areas is consequently lost from Kenya.”

Mr James Isiche, the regional director of International Fund for Animal Welfare in East Africa focuses on his dislike of sport-hunting in an article published in The East African Standard on December 12th last year as a reply to an editorial opinion by former EAWLS leader Dr. Imre Loefler (see Vol. 5, No 1, Page 12 for Dr. Loefler’s article). Isiche follows a well used IFAW-pattern: Focus on consumptive use, rail against hunting with half-truths and distortions and use statistics like Sir Winston Churchill in order to incite emotions where rational analysis should prevail.

Dr Loefler replied Isiche in January saying “Sport hunting is a side issue. Isiche tries to portray me as an arch advocate of hunting. I am not. I am not a hunter I am [even] apprehensive about sport hunting for a number of reasons among them my dislike for killing for pleasure and the knowledge that sport hunting is open to multifarious abuses. Notwithstanding my reservations, in line of my responsibilities in the conservation arena, I have undertaken to learn about sport hunting as much as I could. I have accompanied hunters, I studied the hunting arrangements in several countries and I familiarized myself with the thinking of hunter and anti-hunter. Anti-hunters believe that individualized, platonic ethics apply to animals as well as to humans and hence the killing of animals is unethical. The anti-hunting front is not monolithic, however, and not all anti-hunters are vegetarians, yet their thinking, at least with regard to wildlife is strongly anthropomorphic. In contradistinction to platonic ethics, utilitarian ethics seeks the maximum benefit for the maximum number, be it people, or, indeed as in this case, species.”

And Dr Loefler concluded his reply with these remarks: “Sport hunting, properly organized and regulated and free of corruption can create wealth in rural areas but in order to do so, a number of conditions need to be met and they are not easy to meet. In utilitarian terms sport hunting can benefit people and wildlife but not just everywhere. The debate on sport hunting should not be allowed to derail the wildlife policy review. Discrediting the rational discussion about the wise use of wildlife and discrediting the proponents of wildlife husbandry is a tactic animal welfarist and animal rightists often apply, one fine example being Isiche's essay.
Yes, there is a paradox in the notion that the saving of species may depend on the killing of individuals. A paradox, by definition, is an apparent contradiction, not a true one. Those who may have difficulty in comprehending the paradox may consider the status of the humble goat. Goats are everywhere. They are bred, attended to, traded and cherished because they have a value. If goats were declared wildlife, under the present policy they could not be owned, killed, eaten and their skin would be worthless too. The bush meat trade would quickly decimate goats and within a few years we would have to establish goat sanctuaries to save the species.”

Mbaria deplores that many African countries, Kenya included, do not have the capacity to adequately monitor the activities of extractive use. Shortcomings in this respect need and are being addressed. But, Mr Mbaria, do the Kenyans have the capacity exercise control over IFAW? I suggest that IFAW’s destructive actions at the time of the GG Kariuki Bill find continuation now: IFAW funds legions of so-called stakeholders – mostly urban, many non-Kenyan – and skillfully manipulates Kenyan and global media to block any rational new Kenya wildlife policy.

Move aside IFAW – move ahead Kenya. Today’s rational conservationists look at a triple-bottom-line of social, economic and ecologic results. Kenya and its wildlife deserve a fresh start!

Gerhard R Damm

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