Lobbies call for withdrawal of GSU officers from Mara

Wednesday January 4 2012

File | Nation Narok residents protest outside a Maasai Mara gate against the use of a smart card system of collecting revenue last month.

Narok residents protest outside a Maasai Mara gate against the use of a smart card system of collecting revenue in December 2011. Photo/FILE NATION MEDIA GROUP

By GEORGE SAYAGIE [email protected]

Civil society groups want GSU officers sent to a game reserve to protect tourists from mobs protesting against the use of smart card revenue collection system at the gates.

The officers were sent to the Maasai Mara game reserve last month.

According to the protesters, who have been turning away tourists visiting the reserve, the Narok County Council introduced the system without consulting them.

At the same time, the civil society groups want the police to withdraw “fabricated cases” against activists, who had been charged with participating in the protests.

Resolve standoff

Some area leaders have also been demanding that the electronic ticketing system be withdrawn until all stakeholders were consulted.

National Council of NGOs in Kenya chairman Ken Wafula said they had given the council two weeks to resolve the standoff over the new ticketing system or else they mobilise residents to continue with the protests.

“We demand that the GSU officers be withdrawn and dialogue between the residents and the concerned parties commences,” he said in a statement.

The NGO council termed the contract between Narok County Council and Equity Bank on the installation of the smart card system unconstitutional.

Mr Wafula noted that improving revenue collection through installation of electronic systems could be appropriate but such a move “must be above board”.

“If the deal was above board, why are citizens being harassed, arrested, charged in court and police used to suppress them when they raise questions?” he asked.

Mr Wafula, who is also the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy executive director, noted that Article 10 (2) (a) of the Constitution emphasised people’s participation in decisions that affect them.

“The revenue collected in Narok belongs to the residents. The Constitution accords all sovereign power to the people,” he said.