Taita-Taveta now roots for a pie of billions from Tsavo

Governor says the parks occupy about 63 per cent of the county but residents have not enjoyed their benefits.

Taita-Taveta Governor Granton Samboja (left) when he appeared before Senate Committee on County Public Accounts and Investments on August 28, 2018. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION 

IN SUMMARY

  • Mr Samboja said: "We have never received a cent of the park fees. We need support from the Senate.”

  • The two parks - Tsavo East and Tsavo West - cover 10 million acres, an area that is slightly more than four per cent of Kenya’s total land mass.

  • Kenya Wildlife Service manages the parks on behalf of the government.

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The Taita-Taveta County wants the Senate to intervene in its dispute with the government over the sharing of revenue from two Tsavo national parks.

Governor Granton Samboja told the Public Accounts and Investments Committee that though Tsavo East and West parks occupy about 63 per cent of the county, area residents have not enjoyed their benefits.

“We have never received a cent of the park fees. We need support from the Senate,” Mr Samboja said on Tuesday.

The two parks cover 10 million acres, an area that is slightly more than four per cent of Kenya’s total land mass.

DRAFTING PETITION

Kenya Wildlife Service manages the parks on behalf of the government.

The governor told the committee, chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang, that his administration is drafting a petition to redress the “anomaly”.

“We intend to present the petition to the Senate soon. We count on your support because the people of Taita-Taveta should benefit from the parks,” Mr Samboja said as he defended the county government’s revenue and expenditure for the 2015/16 financial year.

KEPT WAITING

“I have met Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala over the matter but my efforts have not borne any fruit.”

He said the ministry keeps telling the county government to wait.

“The people of Taita-Taveta cannot wait any longer,” the governor told the committee.

Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina welcomed the suggestion by Mr Samboja.

GAME RESERVES

Though he offered his support, the senator told Taita-Taveta County residents to “stand up and fight for their rights”.

“They must insist on getting what is rightfully theirs,” he said.

The lawmaker suggested that the first step would be for the status of the Tsavos to change from national parks to game reserves.

“That is how (former Culture and Heritage minister William) Ntimama fought for Maasai Mara,” he said.

REVENUE RAISED

Mr Kajwang’ said Mr Samboja’s call is in line with the Constitution but added that KWS should be retained as the manager of the parks should the county have its way.

Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi urged caution, saying a cost-benefit analysis should be done before the plan to take over the parks by the county government is implemented.

“You are already getting an allocation on the land on which the parks stand,” Mr Wamatangi told the governor.

“You must weigh carefully. You may go for a share of the revenue raised but lose out on the allocation due to land mass in the sharing formula.”

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