, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 11 – The High Court has reversed an order issued by President Mwai Kibaki five years ago to downgrade the Amboseli National Park to a game reserve, saying the move was illegal and could not pass the test of the new Constitution.
Lady Justice Roselyn Wendoh made the ruling in favour of conservation groups that had moved to court to challenge the notice that converted the park from the management of the Kenya Wildlife Society and placed it under the Olkejuado County Council.
“This court orders that Legal Notice No.120 published in the Kenya Gazette Supplement No. 70 on 29th September, 2005 is hereby quashed,” ruled the judge. The Gazette notice had been effected by the Wildlife Minister following the President’s proclamation.
The new Constitution states that: “All National Parks would vest and be held by the national government in trust for the people of Kenya and shall be administered on their behalf by the National Land Commission.”
In 2005 the President while giving the land to the community said:
"The land belongs to the Maasai community and we saw that the Government cannot continue clinging to it. That is why we degazetted the park.”
The declaration was made ahead of Kenya’s first Constitutional Referendum in 2005, and was largely seen as an attempt to woo the Maasai Community to support vote for the document.
Amboseli was gazetted as a national park in 1974. It earns the country about Sh270 million annually and is internationally renowned as a home to elephants and big cats.
Lawyer Cecil Kuyo represented the applicants – Nature Kenya, Kenya Tourism Federation, and Eastern Africa Environmental Network.
Nature Kenya immediately welcomed the decision saying: “Nature Kenya firmly believes that the future of Kenya’s wildlife lies with citizens and that local populations who share land with wildlife and often suffer the costs of conservation, must benefit not only from environmental services but also from concrete financial revenues derived from conservation.”
Serah Munguti, the Advocacy Manager said that the decision was a firm reminder that: “Policies must be made clearly and leadership decisions likely to affect the integrity of ecosystems must be made in consultation with experts and not for political benefits.”