On 1st August, 2016 Isiolo County Government sent a terse message to selected individuals. The message read, “The County Government of Isiolo through it’s department of Tourism issued an expression of interest with a view to entering into an agreement for management contracting of two game reserves namely :- Buffalo Springs and Shaba. We kindly invite you for half day leaders consultative meeting to be held at Pan Afric hotel from 9am tomorrow Tuesday 2/8/2016.”
After receiving the above message from my close confidante, I carefully considered an option of attending the said forum (it was not a forum but rather a cocktail party) owing to the fact that I have been passionate about this issue of Game Reserves ab initio though I was not invited by any of the county operatives, mandarins, nabobs and wheeler dealers.
Strangely the meeting was attended by some mean looking suspicious characters of Euro-Indian extraction in the name of “investors”apart from a few participants selectively drawn from Isiolo County.
This reminds me of my village wag who once travelled to a far distant place and he intimated to me that the place had enormous possibilities. He realized that at once. The stream, of course, was perfect for sailing toy boats, for skipping stones, and, in the event of failing inspiration, for falling into. Several of the trees appeared to have been specifically designed for climbing, and one huge, white old birch overhanging the stream promised the exhilarating combination of climbing a tree and falling into the water, all at one time. Methinks, we have all at one time been stranded on islands shouting lies across the seas of misunderstanding, hoping the fog will carry our mischief to the distant ports in people’s minds.
This analogy resonates with the lease of Isiolo game reserves and the famous Teapot Dome scandal that rocked Warren Gamaliel Harding administration, the 29th President of the United States of America.
The Teapot Dome scandal was a bribery incident that took place in the United States from 1921 to 1922, during the administration of President Warren G. Harding . Secretary of the Interior Albert Bacon Fall had leased Navy petroleum reserves at Teapot Dome in Wyoming and two other locations in California to Mammoth Oil and Pan America Petroleum at $404,000 without competitive bidding.
In 1922 and 1923, the leases became the subject of a sensational investigation by Senator Thomas J. Walsh Fall was later convicted of accepting bribes from the oil companies and became the first Cabinet member to go to prison. No person was ever convicted of paying a bribe, however.Before the Watergate scandal , Teapot Dome was regarded as the “greatest and most sensational scandal in the history of American politics”.
The scandal damaged the public reputation of the Harding administration, which was already severely diminished by its controversial handling of the Great Railroad Strike of 1922 and the President’s veto of the Bonus Bill in 1922.The lease of both Shaba and Bufallo springs game reserves is like the teapot dome scandal that shook President Harding’s regime.
Conventionally, money is generated through four principal methods – labour which earns wages, capital which earns interest, land which earns rent and entrepreneurship which earns profits. These are known as the factors of production. Now, if you have no labour to sell, no capital to invest, no land to develop or entrepreneurship skills to earn profit, then you can be classed as ‘absolute poor’ (which according to the World Bank means living on less than $1.95 a day). That aside let’s embark on the subject matter of the day
(i) Apart from the Isiolo county officials and petty nawabs everybody was absolutely against “single sourcing” of the lease of the Isiolo game reserves by the African Park Networks.
(ii) Nominated Senator Hon. Dullo was vehemently against the dubious manner and the opaque process employed by the Isiolo County Government. According to the Senator the game reserves is a major source of revenue to the county.
(iii) The Senator posed some pertinent questions;
(a) What was the total revenue collected by Isiolo County Government from these reserves in 2013,2014 and 2015?
(b) How many people are employed by the game reserves?
(c) What is the total amount in salary are they paid? (d) Which method is employed in collection of revenues
(e) How much money is being pumped into the reserves by Isiolo County Government to manage it?
(iv) The Senator’s parting shot; Facts are important and in the absence of facts the is no need of discussion on the parks issue.
(v) That the session was a smokescreen of a public participation and the county officials should have seriously sit down and take notes from the participants rather treading on panicking mode.
(vi) The County officials were categorically reminded not to be on defensive mode on the lease of the named game reserves.
(vii) It was realised that the county governmet did not carry out any comparative analysis or benchmarking from those in the tourism and hospitality industry. Was it a matter of life and death to lease the reserves to African Park Networks?
(viii) The parks belong to Isiolo people and not the county government.(ix)The idea was perhaps noble but procuring process to lease the game reserves to Africa Parks Network was fundamentally flawed and it will not accepted whatsoever.
(x) The elephant in the room was; did the County government exhausted the existence of Local and National investors before they crossed the border to Southern Africa?
(xi) There were many pending questions, disconnects and missing links than answers.
(xii) That management of the County was one big problem – that things are done topsy-turvy. County oficials are doing things top-up rather than bottom-up. That there shoul be no deal signed without consulting the people of Isiolo County who are bonafide owners of the game reserves.
(xiii) That the County officials are managing the county affairs either by firefighting approach or respond to emerging crisis via knee-jerk reaction.
(ixv) The participants posed the question about how Isiolo Government can seal the leakage in revenue collections and was there capacity building put in place for the current management of game reserves.
(xv) One participant suggested that Isiolo County can make more money by grazing livestock in the parks and allow APN to give 50% of the revenues to Isiolo County government.
(xvi) That according to the draft agreement drawn by African Park Network. That (APN) will get 80%, the local Conservancy will get 10% (Owned by one Ian Craig) while Isiolo County Government will only get a paltry 10% of the sum total of revenue collected from both Shaba and Buffalo Springs for the next 25 years of the lease period.
(xvii) The following parks were once managed by African Parks Network, but failed miserably for various reasons (known to them). African Parks Network stopped managing these parks:
(1) Omo National Park, Ethiopia (January 2006 to 2008);
(2) Nechisar National Park, Ethiopia (February 2004 to 2008);
(3) Dungonab Bay Marine National Park, Sudan (July 2005 to October 2008); and
(4) Sanganeb Atoll Marine National Park, Sudan (July 2005 to October 2008.
RESPONSE BY ISIOLO COUNTY GOVERNMENT
(a) According to the County officials after valuation of all assets when the County Government came into place in 2013, Isiolo County was valued at Kshs 14Billion and Kshs 13Billion of the sum total were the value of the three Isiolo game reserves.
(b) The participants were told negotiations/Interactions with African Parks Network began in 2013.
(c) The Deputy Governor, Chief Warden and CEC Amina were initially duly involved in the process and the Governor was later roped into the process in 2014.
👉DRAMATIC & BIZARRE EVENT THAT UNFOLDED
Interestingly the European racketeers and Indian brokers secretly invited by the Isiolo County government as “investors” and “stakeholders” left the venue in a huff with an elaborate parting shot that they will engage Isiolo County Government at a later date once mutual and conclusive matter is arrived at after involving all relevant stakeholders including the people of Isiolo.
(d) Strangely there were no minutes of the proceedings recorded except live recordings via iPad .The County officials pretended to be smart by avoiding queries on African Parks Network and much more on the defensive mode but they were brutally cut short when they tried to explain the management structure of APN because participant were not interested at all on anything touching on APN.
(e) The County officials avered that the Tourism Finance corporation is ready to pump money into the reserves. Moreover, the Process of stakeholder involvement need to be improved and they are of the idea that the whole process should restart again afresh.
(f) The County officials were heavily tasked on the issue of African Parks Network. Did they carry out sufficient public participation except holding meetings in the Hotels? Was it a matter of life and death to lease the game reserves to APN? Their answers was simply that they will compile a report from all stakeholder meetings and give feedback.
(g)The participants were informed that after the faulty advert on Expression of Interest on management contracting of the game reserves was put on the “Daily Nation”, only AFRICAN PARKS NETWORK expressed an interest, which was quite strange.
(h) Doyo has reiterated that Bisanadi Game Reserve too has salient issues and it was handed over to Kenya Wildlife Service to manage it on behalf of Isiolo County Government.
(i) The County officials were abit crafty and slippery about the way forward but they avered that they will compile a comprehensive reports on all stakeholders participation which includes people of Isiolo County ,former councillors, conservationists, pastoralists, local Non-Governmental Organisations and national govt and share the reports publically with the people of Isiolo County without fail.
(j) Doyo’ parting shot was categorically that they have not entered any agreement with African Parks Network and people of Isiolo County are against the idea, he SHALL abide by so.
(k) Doyo said he has powers on behalf of Isiolo people to enter into any contract whether public or private in the interest of Isiolo but he was challenged that All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya and shall be exercised only in accordance with this Constitution.
(l) Doyo categorically said that Rhinos and Leland’s are becoming extinct in our game reserves.
(m) Doyo said that the Isiolo game reserves does not have vehicles, no communication equipments and gadgets, the rangers/warders are sort of night watchmen. He further said that the rangers/wardens are living in inhuman conditions and therefore the county repaired buildings and bought them shoes.
(n) Doyo said that he was tasked by the Senate during Audit query and asked why he contracted KATO (Kenya Association of Tour Operators) and yet their contract expired in 1997?. Why do KATO deduct their commission which is more than 4%at the source? He responded that KATO is his lifeline in collection of revenue and marketer though it is against the law because his Administration does not have a capacity to do so.
(o) It was unanimously agreed that the current situation of the said game reserves requires urgent overhaul and restructuring even if it can be done locally.
THE LACUNA IN LAW OVERLOOKED BY ISIOLO COUNTY GOVERNMENT
The new Constitution lays the basis for the development of a policy framework on citizen participation. Key provisions pertaining to this are:(a) Article 1 (4), that Sovereign power of the people is exercised at the (a) National level and (b) the county level;
(b) Article 6 (2), the governments at the national and county levels are distinct and inter-dependent and shall conduct their mutual relations on the basis of consultation and cooperation;
(c) Article 174, the objects of devolution are to (c) give powers of self-governance to the people and enhance their participation in the exercise of the powers of the State and in making decisions affecting them;
(d) Recognize the rights of communities to manage their own affairs and to further their development. d) Article 184 (1), which states that National Legislation shall provide for the governance and management of urban areas and cities and shall in particular (c) provide for participation by residents in the governance of urban areas and cities;
(e) Article 196 (1), which states that a county assembly shall conduct its business in an open manner and hold its sittings and those of committees in public, and facilitate public participation and involvement in the legislative and other business of the assembly and its committees;(f) Transparency and provision to the public of timely and accurate information.
(g) Fourth Schedule Part 2 (14) which stipulates that the functions and powers of the county are to ensure and coordinate the participation of communities and locations in governance at the local level. Counties are also to assist communities to develop the administrative capacity for the effective exercise of the functions and powers and participation in governance at the local level.
👉Contravention of Section 75 of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013.
👉Breach of Section 87 of the County Government Act, 2012.
👉Violation of Public Procurement and Disposal Act, section 78.
👉Contravention of the provisions of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act, 2003.
Finally, nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast. The only thing more frustrating than slanderers is those foolish enough to listen to them. A rumuor is a social cancer: it is difficult to contain and it rots the brains of the masses. However, the real danger is that so many people find rumors enjoyable. That part causes the infection. And in such cases when a rumor is only partially made of truth, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where the information may have gone wrong. It is passed on and on until some brave soul questions its validity; that brave soul refuses to bite the apple and let the apple eat him. Forced to start from scratch for the sake of purity and truth, that brave soul, figuratively speaking, fully amputates the information in order to protect his personal judgment. In other words, his ignorance is to be valued more than the lie believed to be true. In this regard, Isiolo County Government should come clean and put an end to this dense cloud hanging over the lease or what they call management contracting of Shabba and Buffalo springs game reserves.