By Mordecai Ogada
There was excitement in the conservation fraternity when it was reported in the Standard on May 2 that the DPP, Keriako Tobiko, had declared that he now regarded wildlife poaching as an economic crime.
As an organised crime, coordination with other government agencies is needed, the problem being too big to be handled by KWS alone. Social media was abuzz with gratitude for the DPP and the Judiciary.
I cannot participate in the praise fest. The Judiciary is only now doing what they should have done years ago. The legal protection of my natural heritage is my right as a citizen and not a privilege for which I must sing in appreciation.
It is appalling that our Judiciary has only realised in 2013 that poaching is an economic crime, because I was aware of that more than 25 years ago as a schoolboy. The Judiciary has been the weakest link in the cooperation to defeat wildlife crime. There are myths of the need 'for awareness and education' of judicial officers, for 'stiffer penalties in law', for better handling of evidence, etc. These myths have persisted because they are based on little grains of truth, fertilised with mounds of myopia and watered by many litres of corruption.
Why does any judicial officer need to be 'made aware' that poaching is a crime? Why does he or she not need to be made aware that auto theft, bank robbery or drug smuggling is a crime?
We do need stiffer penalties, but we have evidence from court records that even the current maximums are very rarely (if ever) applied.
The Judiciary is misleading the nation. The maximum fine for ivory poaching or smuggling is a paltry Sh40,000 but the highest fine in the court records from the Mt Kenya area over the last 10 years is Sh20,000 and the average is just under Sh7,000. How can they talk about evidence handling when Kitir Ringel was found at Ol Moran with a tusk having poached an elephant, convicted at Nyahururu Law Courts (Case 646/08) and only given a year's probation? Was it worth the KWS ranger risking his life to arrest this man and coming to court to testify? There are many other examples in court records. More....