State grappling with Sh14bn victim claims (Kenya)


Gilbert Koech, The Star

Date Published

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The government has an unsettled backlog of Sh 14 billion for victims of human-wildlife conflict.

The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013 requires Sh5 million to be paid for human death, Sh3 million for injury with permanent disability and up to Sh2 million for other injuries, depending on their extent.

On May 5, Tourism CS Najib Balala urged nature lovers to work with the government to enhance public-private partnerships that curb such conflicts.

“Mitigation measures are short term. The dialogue needs to dive deeper in terms of financing, mapping, and taking stern but crucial decisions for the conservation of our wildlife,” he said.

“Let the global community fully support the elephant conservation efforts in word and in kind.”

Balala said setting aside funds for compensating human-wildlife conflict victims remains a tall order.

The CS made the remarks during a webinar that saw the screening and discussion of ‘Living on the Edge’, a documentary film by Black Bean Productions that highlighted the plight of Africa’s elephant crisis. The webinar, moderated by Elephant Protection Initiative’s Foundation Director of Government Relations, Winnie Kiiru, featured dialogues by eminent wildlife and conservation policymakers, experts, investors and regulators.

Elephant Protection Initiative comprises 21 African countries, including Kenya, determined to end the killing of our elephants. Most surviving elephants live in these countries.

Kenya has about 35,000 elephants, with the majority being in the Amboseli ecosystem. Balala said human-wildlife conflict remains the greatest threat to the conservation of wildlife, particularly elephants. “Agriculture and conservation are competing. Climate change has also worsened. In 2017, more than 400 wildlife were lost because of drought.”

The human population has also been increasing. In December 2019, the ministry gave Sh569 million to compensate victims of human-wildlife conflict.

Victims were compensated in three instalments of 30 per cent of the total claim and the final chunk paid once. The cash was shared among 4,752 out of 13,125 victims whose claims have been approved. The total cash to be paid in compensation is Sh1.5 billion.

While 4,722 victims claiming up to Sh1.8 billion reported cases were deferred until all documents needed were provided, 3,651 cases amounting to Sh1.5 billion were thrown out. Some of the reasons include documents without signatures and failing to report the matter to the police station.

Balala said a lot of attention has been given to wildlife yet the livelihood of the people also needs attention. “If an elephant dies, choppers belonging to the government are used and the culprits are arrested. If human life is lost, nothing will happen,” he said.

Balala said there is a need to strike a balance between livelihoods and wildlife conservation. He said the government is looking at how best to compensate human-wildlife conflict victims. Balala said the government is weighing on allowing an insurance company to settle such claims. However, premiums to an insurance company are also high.

He said the government is considering roping in the international community as the government alone cannot compensate. The CS said the ongoing conflict risks diminishing the goodwill of those communities hosting wildlife, which threatens Kenya’s conservation agenda.