Kenya: Tourism Ministry Accused of Frustrating Tsavo Revenue Talks

The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife has been accused of dragging its feet in the talks to end a dispute over Tsavo National Park revenue with Taita Taveta county.

The ministry officials failed to appear before the Intergovernmental Relations Technical Committee (IGRTC) last week to resolve the dispute between the county and Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) over Tsavo revenue.

The county government wants a share of proceeds from the park claiming it occupies more than 63 per cent of its land yet residents get no benefit from the resource.

Last week’s meeting was convened by IGRTC in Nairobi but only the county government officials led by county secretary Liverson Mghendi attended.

Mr Mghendi said he led a county delegation of eight members but the ministry officials were no show.

“They said some of their team members were sick that is why they failed to attend the meeting,” he said.

The talks commenced early last year after the county government petitioned the committee to intervene.

IGRTC resumed the meetings last month after a year of interruption due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Mghendi, however, said it was too early to conclude that the ministry of Tourism lacks “goodwill” to resolve the matter.

The mediator, IGRTC had already met the two parties separately in previous meetings.

Last week’s sitting was a consultative meeting where the two parties were set to set mechanisms towards finding the solution to the revenue row.

“We are waiting for the mediator to convene another meeting,” he said.

In 2019, the county government sued the State in its push for a share of the park benefits.

Mr Mghendi said the court case is still ongoing and ruled out any possibilities of withdrawing it to pave way for the ongoing talks.

“IGRTC has requested us to withdraw the case but we will not do so until we are sure that the other party is willing to embrace negotiations to solve this matter,” he said.

Previously, governor Granton Samboja attacked Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala for declining to meet the county team despite

President Uhuru Kenyatta directing him to resolve the matter.

Mr Samboja has also been accusing KWS of failing to contain the wildlife thereby causing frequent invasions and worsening cases of human-wildlife conflicts in the county.

Recently, the governor said they had requested former Prime Minister Raila Odinga to intervene to end the stalemate.

“The CS is the one who is derailing this process. Our people are suffering yet he is not doing anything to save us from the wildlife menace,” he said.

“We have agreed with Mr Odinga that he will help us,” Mr Samboja told journalists in a previous interview at Voi Wildlife Lodge early this month.

The Ministry has been arguing that Tsavo revenue is not enough to share with counties that border the park.

Tsavo neighbours Taita Taveta, Tana River, Kilifi, Kwale, Kitui, Makueni and Kajiado counties.

“Political leaders should instead help us in conservation efforts instead of inciting residents,” Mr Balala said during a previous interview with journalists at Taita Hills Lodge in Mwatate.