Taita Taveta MCAs teargassed in protest against stray jumbos (Kenya)


Solomon Muingi, The Star

Date Published
See link for photo. 
Police in Voi, Taita Taveta county, on Tuesday lobbed tear gas to disperse MCAs who were protesting against a rise in human-wildlife conflict in the area.

The 32 ward reps barricaded the gate leading to Kenya Wildlife Service’s Tsavo conservation headquarters at Sophia Estate, Voi.

They demanded that the KWS senior assistant director in charge of Tsavo conservation swiftly lead the agency in driving dozens of elephants causing havoc in the area back to the park.

Trouble, however, started when police officers were called in to calm down the charged MCAs and urge them to open the gate.

Voi subcounty police commander Bernastein Sharry ordered the ward reps to immediately vacate the premises, terming the meeting illegal. He ordered his officers to lob teargas at the protesters.

Journalists covering the demonstrations were caught up in the fracas.

The MCAs, led by deputy speaker Anselm Mwadime, accused KWS of laxity and failing to tame the perennial conflict that resulted in huge losses for farmers.

“Despite the agricultural potential of this area, our people cannot produce anything on their farms. We are demanding a lasting solution,” he said.

Mwadime said many schoolchildren were unable to resume classes for third term for fear of being attacked by wild animals.

He said many residents in the county are living in fear of being attacked by marauding elephants, lions and leopards. Wild animals stray from the expansive Tsavo East and West national parks.

“This is a tough moment for residents who have been rendered hopeless due to the frequent attacks. Many children have dropped out of school,” he said.

The areas most affected include Mbololo, Ndii, Ngolia, Sagalla and Kasigau in Voi constituency.

Others are Maktau, Bura, Chawia, Mkuki among other areas in Mwatate constituency, while Kishushe, Paranga and Mlilo are the most affected in Wundanyi.

Wumingu/Kishushe MCA Newton Kifuso said the recurring conflict, if not controlled, will hurt the performance of learners waiting for national examinations.

“It is the right of every student to access education. However, our children have been denied this right since they are out of school. Let KWS come out and rescue the situation,” he said.

Kifuso said if nothing is done to drive the elephants back to the park, parents will be forced to bring all the pupils in the affected schools to the KWS offices to demand their rights.

He lamented that plastic water tanks donated by development partners in the area had been destroyed by thirsty elephants. Kifuso wants the government to compensate them for the loss.

 County assembly speaker Wisdom Mwamburi faulted the police for teargassing the ward reps who had peacefully gone to seek audience with KWS.

He said the use of excessive force by the police was not necessary since the aggrieved ward reps were peaceful.

“As leaders, we have no time to fight with other government agencies. Our duty is to represent the people and that is why the MCAs are pushing for a lasting solution through dialogue with KWS,” Mwamburi told journalists in Voi.

He said the MCAs will hold a meeting with the KWS senior assistant director in charge of the Tsavo conservation area to address the matter.