Kenya Prime Minister Raila Odinga has urged neighbouring Tanzania to destroy its stockpiled ivory amounting to 90 tonnes to curb poaching.
“I don’t want to dictate to Tanzania to burn its ivory stockpiles but Kenya had burned its ivory stockpiles na huo ni mfano mzuri wa kuigwa (and that is a good example to follow),” Mr Odinga said during the World Economic Forum on Africa in Dar es Salaam Thursday.
He said the Kenyan Elephant population had been dwindling as a result of poaching but this was reversed after a ban was slapped on ivory trade.
“When trade in ivory was banned the elephant population started rising. We should not mess up with the rare privilege entrusted to us of hosting rare wildlife.”
But in a swift rejoinder, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ms Shamsa Mwangunga, said there was no way Tanzania could burn its ivory.
“It doesn’t bring sense to burn 90 tonnes of ivory stockpiles,” she told The Citizen when contacted on phone.
“We are making new proposals to CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species) requesting the convention to allow us to sell the ivory.
Ms Mwangunga said the proposals will be submitted before the next CITES meeting to be held after three years from now.
Addressing a press conference, Mr Odinga denied reports that Kenya had sabotaged Tanzania in its bid to sell its stockpiled ivory.
The Kenyan Prime Minister was replying to a question by The Citizen asking him to comment on recent accusations by some Tanzania MPs that Kenya had betrayed Tanzania and it was not committed to the spirit of the East African Community (EAC) following its recent action to block its neighbour from selling its ivory.
“Kenya is committed to the spirit of the East African co-operation,” he said.
In the late 1980s Kenya, under the administration of former president Daniel arap Moi, burned tens of hundreds of tonnes of ivory tusks recovered from poachers in its attempts to stop poaching of the African Elephant.
Tanzania had lobbied to the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to allow the country to sell off its ivory stockpiles saying the money could have been used to boost wildlife conservation.
However, CITES turned down Tanzania’s request at its 15th meeting in Doha, an action that led Tanzania to blame Kenya for spearheading negative propaganda.
African Elephants are classified in CITES Appendix I, in which ivory trade is prohibited.
Tanzania and Zambia have been lobbying for the Elephant to be down-listed from Appendix I to Appendix II, which covers endangered species but in which limited international trade is allowed.
Mr Odinga called for the need among EAC member states to have similar conservation policies, something he said had not taken place ahead of the CITES meeting in Doha, Qatar, in March, this year.
Wildlife stakeholders across the world argued that lifting the ban on ivory trade would have sent a message to the syndicates involved in elephant poaching to intensify their activities.
They further argued that the proposal by Tanzania did not meet the criteria for amending relevant parts of the convention to allow the ban on ivory trade to be lifted.
The CITES regulations require that effective enforcement controls be in place before such a proposal is made, which is not the case in Tanzania.
Tanzania submitted its request to the CITES to lift its ban against the backdrop of massive poaching in the Selous Game Reserve, one of the largest fauna reserves of the world, located in the south of Tanzania.
In March, the Government of Tanzania expressed its disappointment over the decision by the CITES to reject its plea to sale 90 tonnes of stockpiled ivory.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Ladislous Komba, was quoted as saying the government was planning to renew the request, saying that misinformation had failed the proposal.