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Kenya: Wildlife conflict victims waiting on Ruto’s compensation promise

By Victor Abuso

Posted on February 16, 2023 15:15

 © Will the Ruto adminstration come through on campaign promises to compensate victims of  human-wildlife conflict? (Andrew Oluoch, Wikimedia Commons CC)
Will the Ruto adminstration come through on campaign promises to compensate victims of human-wildlife conflict? (Andrew Oluoch, Wikimedia Commons CC)

President William Ruto’s administration faces a litmus test of implementing its campaign promise to prioritise compensation for victims of human-wildlife conflict across Kenya as cases increase.

Plans are underway to seek a long-term solution of developing an insurance scheme that will help settle pending cases of unpaid victims, according to the wildlife ministry.

Meeting victims and community leaders in Northern Kenya’s Laikipia County, one of the areas hardest hit by human-wildlife conflict, Wildlife Principal Secretary Silvia Museiya said KSh1bn ($7.9m) has been set aside to begin the process.

Museiya stressed that victims will be fully compensated, the same promise previous governments have failed to deliver, due to funding shortfalls for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

“Payment of compensation is a priority, especially in neighbouring game parks and animal reserves,” she said.

The ministry is assessing different ways to ensure wildlife conservation becomes a source of income to communities around wildlife sanctuaries.

“Communities should benefit to support their livelihoods,” she said.

The Kenya Wildlife Management and Compensation Act of 2013 stipulates payment of KSh3m for an injury that has led to amputation of a body part, while next of kin are to receive KSh5m for a family member who died as a result of wild animal attack.

Livestock compensation is pegged on the current market rates.

Compensation alone not a lasting solution

The move by the Ruto administration is welcome, but it has to be followed through, says Samuel Githui, an expert on human-wildlife coexistence at Space for Giants, an NGO in Nanyuki.

“Government should ensure all victims are compensated as the law states,” he tells The Africa Report.

It shows that the government cares for animals and humans, even though victims may not understand why it takes time because of an increase in cases, he says.

I don’t trust politicians. It’s been a campaign tool, nothing is done

Last year, the finance ministry announced the release of KSh200m for compensation cases from 2014 to 2021 in Taita-Taveta County after more than 10 people were killed and their farms destroyed by wild animals. However, not all victims have been paid.

Githui says due to the effects of drought in various parts of the country, wild animals are forced to leave their natural habitat in search of pasture and water, leading to attacks on residents.

“[The] government should construct more dams and fill them with water, to keep the animals in the parks, and also ensure security in parks and game reserves,” he says.

Some victims distrust the government, others hopeful

In Laikipia County, Joseph Mwangi, a local leader in the Pesi area, says victims can only hope that the new government will keep its promise.

In 2019, he says a middle-aged teacher was attacked by an elephant, but his family is yet to be compensated.

“The victim’s family continue to suffer, their breadwinner died, the government should walk the talk,” he tells The Africa Report.

Peter Maina, a maize farmer also in Laikipia, says he does not trust these promises of compensation. “I don’t trust politicians. It’s been a campaign tool, nothing is done,” he says.

Odhiambo Ochol, a hawker in Western Kenya’s Kisumu town says his neighbour, a fisherman, was maimed by a crocodile on the shores of Lake Victoria. He registered the complaint with KWS and is hopeful the new government will act on its word.

“I believe the Ruto government promise[d] to care for the poor,” he tells The Africa Report.

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