Paula Kahumbu, executive director of WildlifeDirect, reports on what occurred in the Kenya Parliament this week :

Today in Parliament, the Hon. Chachu Ganya presented a motion to “increase the number of rangers in game parks, and to come up with more punitive measures to deter poaching”.

The motion was discussed for close to three hours and attracted over 30 contributions from MP’s. In fact, the Speaker had to cut short the discussion due to such huge interest.

The MP proposed 15 year jail sentences and/or 10million shilling fines. A number of MP’s felt that was too lenient and wanted life imprisonment and even the death penalty.

I was very impressed with the quality of the debate and the level of awareness of these politicians. The motion was seconded by the MP for Butere Hon. Toposo who spoke very eloquenty about the crisis and how parliamentarians have a duty to Kenyans to enact legislation that protects Kenya’s wildlife as stated in the constitution. He spoke about how Kenya’s wildlife heritage is threatened and what this means for tourism and the economy. He also predicted that if this parliament didn’t protect wildlife, we would end up like Europe with saving the last of our wild species in cages and zoos. He said it was late for Kenya to enact this legislation because our “soft belly” had already attracted traffickers and poachers.

Every MP thanked the Hon Chachu for his motion and all agreed that protecting Kenyan wildlife needed legislative measures.  Most referred to Vision 2030 and the ambition of receiving 3 million visitors by 2017 – and that this would not be possible if we lose our elephants. Many of the MP’s talked about corruption in state agencies as a major cause for concern.

Here are some quotations of the discussions:

“Poaching threatens not only our biodiversity, but our political stability because wildlife is linked to our economy and that means jobs”
“We need a comprehensive review of the Wildlife sector”
“Kenyans need to be educated to appreciate nature”
“Pastoralists don’t kill wildlife unless someone outside wants it”
“Poachers are enemies of the economy”
“Any danger posed to our greatest tourist asset, the big five, of which elephants and rhinos are a part, is committing sabotage against Kenya”.

When the speaker rose to move the motion the Yay’s were loud and from both sides of the room filled the room, the nays – well, there was only 1 lonely soft “Nay”.

This is really important : what it means is that the motion brought by an ODM MP was fully supported by all MP’s from the ruling party! For once, something that everyone agrees on and the usual politics was completely absent.

Paula Kahambu, May 22