The Forest of Corruption in Kenya, A call for Effective Policing

Before you label me as corrupt, allow me to sincerely thank all of you. First for nominating this blog as the best environmental blog in Kenya 2018. Second for your continued support through voting me in at the BAKE awards. I’m truly humbled and grateful, please find it in your hearts to understand how deeply grateful I’m. Tomorrow, 07/05/18 is the last voting day and all fingers are crossed. I was in this gratitude mood, minding my own business (of course my daily business involves thinking deeply of how we can at least hold on to the few natural resources that have withstood humanity, and, feeling happy that even the scented madams in Nairobi are beginning to embrace nature, and doing “dirty” work like urban gardening. You see, Nairobian ladies are the most interesting human beings to hang out with-when in the farm, you may easily confuse them for astronauts ready for a moon tour, based on the heavy protective gear they put on just to save their nails and hair. And I’m not talking about everyone, of course we have dutifully objected girls here who never mind keeping short nails that don’t cry too much when immersed in soil.

Besides, I wasting away the weekend with friends (You all know Mike and his drama-so this weekend he decided to host us for a reunion. I can’t wait for the day he will call us for a tree-planting escapade). The volume of wisdom that pours out of this young bachelor after a glass of his favorite is enough to transform the whole world. For a second you can confuse him for a married lad who just won an Oscar. That’s the sole reason I hang out with him but, as the price, I have to first ensure he has drained a few glasses. So we are sited, my ears deeply engaged to Mike’s sense-no sense-sense tales, struggling to save the important and delete the unnecessary. With Mike, it is always a time to edit information. My phone is on silent and in the deep pocket as I have been robbed twice at this joint-the places Mike take us though.

The hotel waitress, a young beautiful piece of flesh, with some well shaved and redone eyebrows, an appealing scent from which cologne I couldn’t guess, deep red lipstick that complemented every smile and the random hugs she gave Mike when taking new orders (Mike is the only friend who takes that long to order something simple-he has to ice each order and give precise instructions like “ensure it has been chilled today for three hours, five minutes”). The blue tight jeans elaborated her so well and made her the perfect description for the job, a low level of attitude that makes her stand out from the rest, and a short flowery top wear that revealed half of her stomach and underwear lining. She was there to supply us with meals and drown Mike, making him even more vocal. We all start with meals except Mike, he eats when ready to go home. His explanation-food should be used a blanket to liquor.

The female version of God’s wonderful creature was kind enough to switch television channels from Arsene Wenger’s farewell match against Burnley to the local evening news. Guess the top highlight- Task Force Reveals Deep-rooted Corruption At the Kenya Forest Service. The news anchor, whose voice was deeper enough and the TV’s volume loud enough to silence Mike’s, clearly explained how the task force mandated to scrutinize the pathetic situation at the Kenya Forest Service had come up with a devastating report.  So devastating was the story that at the end of it, I was ready to join Mike in ranting how useless a government we have-that which has never recognized things until when they are out of hands. As I have always said, our forests will remain a cash cow for some uncouth, unqualified, and tribal individuals at the service until effective and working policies are put in place.

The report presented by the Task Force last week to the minister of Environment gives a deep insight on the fact that while the country is battling the menace of illegal logging and deforestation, the root cause lies within. In just 50 years, we have lost about 5% forest cover, loosely translated to 1% every 10 years. If you have any energy left, you can help me continue with this arithmetic, and extrapolate how much forest cover we will have left 80 years from today, if the current forest cover is 7.4%. Is the answer scary?

Unfortunately, the answer is not frightening enough to a few officials at the Kenya Forest Service, according to the Task Force. In fact, these guys seem to thrive when our forest cover dwindle. With money on their mind and zero experience on the ground, the tribally-appointed officials are quick to dish out licenses to corrupt companies in the logging sector. Besides, while we all are sited here thinking the Service is guided by policies that control forest harvesting, the scrupulous individuals are making extra money (or should I call it extra paper?) by allowing logging that is outrightly not recommended.

Recently, we all saw the photos doing rounds on social media, of government vehicles ferrying timber in various counties, under the watch of the very persons we tasked with the mandate to conserve our forests. That is half surprising to me. What is fully surprising is the extent to which this menace has spread, with some of the top officials being the main castigators. A section of the task force’s report reads: ” By so doing, the service has overseen the immense destruction of our forests, systematically ruining our water towers, and bear the full responsibility of devastating our environment”.
Let’s refresh our tired minds on this issue a bit. In 1986, the then government, which people consider as one of the failed regimes in Kenya, based on its gross violation of human rights, imposed a ban on logging indigenous trees. This was a time when we had less sophisticated tree-felling machinery compared to today, yet the government, corrupt as it was then, saw the need to protect our natural ecosystems. The ban has since been effective. Now, let’s fast-forward our minds to 2018. Could this be the reason why Kenya Forest Service officials no longer see the need to protect our forests? Do they think the 1986 ban expired with the Moi regime?

Well, I admit that I’m pointing the finger so far. And I also admit that some of us are the forces being the unbearable behavior by the Forest Service. Look, we are in 2018 for all sakes, claiming that a certain community fully depends on forests for livelihood and culture is good. Is it also good appreciating that we can live off our forests while still maintaining our cultural norms? Is that statement confusing? Do communities who live deep in our forests do more good or harm? However, one thing is for sure, that forest-based communities in Kenya have a deeper sense of mercy towards our forests than our Nairobi-based Forest Service officials. Once we come up with good answers to some of these questions, that’s when we can fully answer the Sudoku puzzle on why Ndakaini Dam is still empty despite the current heavy rains.

Nowadays, it is relieving and unbelievable when you come across a pristine forest in Kenya. Most of the times when I visit such forests I long to meet the owners and initiate a handshake. Surprisingly, you will note that most of the untouched forests are not under Kenya Forest Service. Is it not surprising? Okay, I’m not surprised by this fact. Well, we all understand the important role played by timber and timber products in our daily lives, but that should not be the reason to cut down the lives of our future generations.

I strongly feel that for a viable conservation body to put in charge of our diminishing, vulnerable, and delicate forests, there is a need for a strong policy framework to be put in place. The new law should ensure that all tenders to private firms in the logging business are reviewed by a committee before being awarded. An individual company should not have an upper hand over the others for any reason whatsoever. Also, the forest services must provide public information regarding logging and how the trees are replaced by new ones. The public should be allowed to audit and make useful comments on areas where logging has been done, for proper restructuring.

The corrupt officials who are ruining generations should not be asked to be asked to leave office. On the contrary, they should be prosecuted and all the looted money recovered, to reclaim the lands that got ruined under their care. The new policy must also look into how recruitment is done at the Kenya Forest Service and the specialization of the employees. Lastly, the government must realize that while Kenya Forest Service is grossly understaffed to the extent of being ineffective, the course has hundreds of thousands of unemployed graduates in Kenya.

Reminder: The National Tree Planting Day will be held on Saturday, 12th May 2018, at Moi Forces Academy, Nairobi. Let’s show up and do our country a favor. You can plant a tree from wherever you are.

Have yourself a treeful day, won’t you?

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