Opinion: KWS could have avoided the extrajudicial killing of two men in Wajir if only they had been more than just “protectors of the wild animals”
By: Abdullahi Yunis
For hundreds of years, the giraffes have been a common sight in Wajir and it’s environs. During this long period, the animal naturally lived with the local people. This is a clear indication that the local community conserves them without the involvement and knowledge of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) or any other external intervention.
That is why the giraffes survived even during the long severe drought when 70% of the local livestock population died. Giraffes cannot survive in a hostile community such as Somalia which borders Wajir County to the East. Since the collapse of the central government in the early 90’s and the breakout of the civil war, the majestic animal has reached the point of extinction.
However, in a drought-stricken community where hunger is looming, you may find some individuals that hunt giraffes as a source of food. Except for this type of illegal hunting, the area has no organized poachers that are connected to an international market. In every 10km of these areas, again, there are locations and sub-locations where government chiefs are employed. This makes the area totally unconducive to an orgernised poaching and it’s trade.
KWS is mandated to conserve and manage wildlife in Kenya. But the only tangible service they perform in the pastoralist community is the provision of compensation to persons injured by the wild animals. KWS failed to establish and support community conservancies. By building the capacity of the local community or at least piloting revenue-generating projects, KWS could create and reinforce the existing local culture of giving peace to giraffes.
It could also collaborate with local chiefs to arrest those animal-hunting criminals. Unfortunately, some officers in the organization are not aware that they are no longer masters but servants of the people according to the new Constitution.
In Kenya, a person can kill or capture an animal under the authorization of a game licence in a specified area other than a National Park. I don’t think that KWS tried to operationalize this policy permission in pastoralist communities.
Police, angry Wajir residents clash over the death of two men shot dead by Kenya Wildlife officers in suspicion of being poachers. @KenyaKwskenya pic.twitter.com/jRwDwaGXNb
— Kulan Post (@kulanpost) May 4, 2023
The recent killing of two men who were allegedly hunting giraffes by KWS officers sparked unprecedented anger in the local populace. People are aware that even real poachers are not punishable by death in the Kenyan law. They have to face fines and prison sentences. It is illogical to protect wildlife at the expense of human life.
To address this tragedy, a joint committee of KWS, County Government and community leaders shall be formed to reach the depth of the matter. The aim is to establish facts so as to reach an amicable solution and justice. Let ‘Justice be our shield and defender.”
The views expressed in this opinion article are that of the author