The Case Against Private Conservancies, and Dissolution of Parliament

Mwalimu Mati, is a lawyer and governance consultant with over 25 years of work experience in the fields of economic governance, anti-corruption, research, advocacy and publication. Mwalimu’s life mission is to empower citizens to demand accountability by sharing knowledge.


The Case Against Private Conservancies, and Dissolution of Parliament

Occasionally, some of us get to legally breach the fences of private wildlife conservancies which apparently hold up to two-thirds of our wildlife and occupy over 7.5 million acres, for example, to watch the 2023 WRC Safari Rally live. For the rest, streamed dashcam footage placed us in the driver’s seat at thrilling speeds. But our eminent ecologist  Dr. Mordecai Ogada poured cold water on it all when he shared a video on Twitter of a herd of scared zebras being chased down a bush track by a rally car. 

His harsh opinion was that “these WRC videos of stressed wildlife are the most accurate indicator of intellectual paralysis of any country having a ministry of “tourism and wildlife”. That’s why foreigners’ demented Tarzan dreams will always be prioritized over the welfare of our natural heritage. Kumbaffu” Dr. Ogada triggered a brief but stormy discussion that ranged between equitable and sustainable land tenure, private fortress conservationism, the ecology and wokeness.

The totem of private property was raised early after independence. Vast farms and ranches were transferred to our new elite, together with the large populations of wildlife upon them. Near where I live there are still a few multi-thousand-acre private wildlife sanctuary ranches. But development is winnowing the animal numbers at an alarming rate. One used to encounter zebra on my road every day. That’s a rumour today. 

The highways have killed dozens of zebra and other slow moving animals. Dr. Ogada’s complaint that we are cheering on the potential destruction of our already stressed ecological system for privatised sport may be a valid entry point to a discussion about values, value and relative value. 

What do we care about truly? Do we care for a real land reform that will end the speculative hoarding of land by a few families? Do we care for our constitutional institutions?

Do we care that national infrastructure, financed by way of massive debt, has been inevitably guided directly to, or suspiciously close to, some leader’s private property? 

Hidden profits by trustees are generally prohibited by law, but in Kenya our leaders have with impunity allocated themselves the best land in the nation, rigged the compulsory acquisition process for major projects for decades; connived for water and sewage works to be placed to the advantage of their private developments; and even public hospitals to be converted to benefit the residents of the large estates they are building. 

They can stretch the concept of public private partnerships to establish 30 year toll road concessions at a cost higher than officially approved; to allow favoured commodity brokers to monopolise the importation of rice, beans, cooking oil and fertiliser. The leaders who dictate policy keep a constant finger on the scale “to prevent consumer exploitation”, but as the good book says “ye shall know them by their works.” 

Inevitably, all efforts to stabilise or lower prices lead to scandal, shortages and price rises.

Is it corruption? Is it incompetence? Aren’t these in any case not one and the same thing? Corruption – the inevitable result of propelling the least competent and honest to the top echelons of government in election after election? And when we are done ranting about Moses Kuria being Moses Kuria and his latest outrage against public decency and conscience, what do we do about the heavy stuff we have to contend with?

To love a country and its people is the epitome of good citizenship. To allow people who love neither to ruin your country is the epitome of cowardice and civic negligence. So if you are one of those people who did not vote on August 9th 2022 because the choices were mediocre and beneath you, shame on you. You should have formed a party and nominated “good candidates” or even sponsored independents. They may not have won against the big boys but they would have the opportunity to learn what it takes to succeed ahead of the next battle.

The indefatigable Cyprian Nyamwamu is co-convenor of a group now calling for Kenyans to join a third liberation with action expected to kick off from Saba Saba (7th of July). Please give him and the Kenya Bora Tuitakayo assembly a serious hearing. This could be the last chance for another decade to seriously discuss political change in a civilised fashion. We have seen what happens when we leave the bully boys to do all the talking for the rest. They mess it up a la Sudan. But we must be careful not to abandon constitutional structures because we are frustrated about our current situation. 

I accept Kenya Bora Tuitakayo’s point, elucidated in a press statement on June 26th this year that Parliament must represent the will of the people. There is abundant anecdotal evidence to support their view that the real will of the people is that much of the Finance Act 2023’s tax proposals should be withdrawn. The MPs are alleged to have abandoned their constituents in favour of William Ruto, and voted themselves a tax waiver on their mileage claims. In their statement, Kenya Bora Tuitakayo concludes that  “from 7/7 we shall embark on closing down and dissolving Parliament while invoking the Article 1 powers of the people of Kenya.” I don’t know whether this is political hyperbole, but the statement is right and wrong at the same time. 

The people may be rightfully disappointed by the 13th Parliament; but the people elected the 13th Parliament only ten months ago, for a five-year mandate. The problem is they elected faithless representatives and a lot of rogues. This is the nature of the beast. Garbage in, garbage out as I used to hear people say. Parliament cannot be “closed down” and should not be disbanded because it is passing unpopular tax proposals. That would leave us in a lacunae situation where we deny ourselves representation in toto, possibly for an indeterminable length of time. Countries without parliaments, even bad parliaments, are usually dictatorships of the absolute kind. Those that are not dictatorships are failed state basket cases which do not deserve the appellation “state”. 

Besides, there is a Finance Bill every year and properly organised groups can alter the tax regime if they make the case to all the real power centres of decision making. And here I would argue that a case must be made to external and domestic creditors to the Kenyan government that give and take is necessary for all-round-peace-and-quiet.

Let us not throw out the baby with the bath water. Parliament is actually a safeguard against autocracy and one-man rule. We certainly may need better parliamentarians but I have difficulty following the logic of the implicit end game in a “shutdown parliament” mobilisation.

The very existence of Parliament is a national value not to be trifled with.

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Mwalimu Mati, is a lawyer and governance consultant with over 25 years of work experience in the fields of economic governance, anti-corruption, research, advocacy and publication. Mwalimu’s life mission is to empower citizens to demand accountability by sharing knowledge.

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