Tired of living in fear due to a pack of stray lions, some Taita Taveta residents want Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala to resign.
In a Monday morning demonstration in Mwatate, they also called for the resignation of Wildlife Principal Secretary Margaret Mwakima, whom they termed incompetent.
MCAs Christopher Mwambingu, Juma Mwamba, Frank Kichoi and Annastancia Wakesho led the protests alongside Lands executive Claris Mnyambo.
Wakesho, a nominated ward representative, said that in June and July, residents lost more than 128 cows, sheep, goats, donkeys and dogs, all worth over Sh1.2 million, as a result of wildlife attacks.
She added: “KWS has illegally allowed grazing in Tsavo National Park and Sarova Wildlife Sanctuary thereby causing serious human-wildlife conflicts in areas bordering the park.
“The lion menace has caused serious disruption of learning in all schools as students in affected areas have to report late and leave very early.”
The demonstrators paralysed business along Voi-Taveta –Hiolili road with their march to the county commissioner’s office.
Those who spoke to the Star said Balala and Mwakima have failed to protect them and that Kenya Wildlife Service has not addressed the issue of human-wildlife conflicts in the county.
Beatrice Mjomba, a human rights activist, said many residents no longer farmed due to fear of attacks.
In a petition presented to Taita Taveta Deputy Governor Majala Mlagui, the residents asked for compensation by KWS for the losses they have incurred. They further want KWS to immediately seize and relocate the marauding lions to other parks.
“The National Assembly should enact a legislation to convert the expansive Tsavo National Park into Tsavo Game Reserve to ensure local management and benefits to Taita Taveta residents,” their petition also stated.
Mwatate Deputy County Commissioner Kenneth Muriungi told the protesters that KWS rangers were trailing the lions. He asked them to immediately report attacks to the service.
Speaking in his office on Monday, however, Voi lawmaker Jones Mlowa accused KWS officials of failing to perform their duties.
“We don’t need Parliament to pass new laws on this issue. It is clear that the implementation wing of the government has failed to enact the wildlife act,” he said.
He added that the compensation process has been “delayed maliciously” despite massive destruction, deaths and injuries.
In February, the CS said politicians’ ultimatums and threats will not help stop human-wildlife conflicts.
He noted the need for politicians to sober up and accept there is a problem which needs to be solved.
The CS defended KWS saying it is not entirely to blame for the encroachment of farms by wildlife.
By Solomon Muingi
~ The Star
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