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Cabinet decision to extend the ban on logging good

Thursday December 5 2019

GICHU KIHORO
By GICHU KIHORO
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The recent Cabinet decision to extend the ban on logging for another year received few headlines. It was largely met by a collective shrug by many, except those directly affected by the ruling.

However, perhaps we should see in this decision something very interesting about the nature of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s leadership and how he approaches policy decisions.

LONG-TERM

Most politicians see the short-term. They know that they need immediate credit in order to win support for re-election or to create a legacy of some sort. They are rarely interested in long-term strategies because they know that it is highly unlikely they will be in office to reap the results.

A leader, in direct opposition, sees beyond their own personal political needs and studies what is necessary to improve the lives of the people they govern, today, tomorrow and in the future.

The President is clearly such a leader, and many of his supporters have seen in his Big Four Agenda, war on corruption and Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) proof that he is working to ensure long-term societal change that will leave a foundation for progress and development long after he has left State House.

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Perhaps this is why he is a threat to those who see themselves succeeding him in the presidency.

SLOGANS

They attack the core elements of these initiatives because they want to try and disprove their concept, even if they are essential for Kenya’s future.

Notice the complaints surrounding these initiatives are rarely substantive but merely slogans.

Nevertheless, the decision on the continued suspension on logging breaks the paradigm.

In Brazil, there was recent controversy when the country’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) agency said deforestation had reached 9,762 square kilometres, up 30 per cent for the 12 months through July 2019. This is in great part thanks to a change in policy by President Jair Bolsonaro who came into office at the beginning of the year.

LIVELIHOODS

President Bolsonaro openly favours developing the large Amazon area economically and has decided that for financial reasons a large amount of logging must take place, overturning his predecessor’s decision who limited logging because of its environmental effects.

Whether one agrees with this decision, it can be put down to whether it is better to ensure short term economic stability or long-term sustainability.

Kenya’s forests and other woodland areas are our patrimony for our children.

Improper or the over-usage of logging can have severe ecologically effects on the immediate environment and beyond. It can depreciate the soil, impact the wildlife, much of which many Kenyans rely on for their livelihood, and has an impact on climate change by increasing the amount of free carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

DISASTROUS

Greenhouse gas effects can be further compounded when more carbon dioxide is released into the air, sometimes as a result of fires which frequently go hand in hand with logging and deforestation.

These disastrous environmental and ecological effects will probably not be fully felt by many, possibly not even during our lifetimes.

However, the cost for future generations will be immense.

So, President Kenyatta has to make a decision whether to go for the immediate win and allow logging, which might help buttress the economy and industries that require wood in the short-term, yet would darken the clouds for our children’s future.

IMPLICATIONS

The ruling by his Cabinet is the right one, even with all of its implications. Equally importantly, it speaks to President Kenyatta’s decision-making and his priorities.

Mr Kihoro is a research and data expert. [email protected]

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