Decisive step ahead against Kenya/Thai wildlife deal

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Decisive step ahead against Kenya/Thai wildlife deal

- Kenyans, incl. two Kenyan organizations, went to court to stop the dreadful wildlife deal with a Thai fun-fair zoo -

WTN - correspondents - Nairobi / Bangkok - 14.12.2005

"Enough is enough!", said Kenyans, and have now applied to the courts in Nairobi, Kenya to end the dreadful saga about the ill-conceived wildlife deal with a Thai zoo, which is based on a simple and not legally binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between two ministers. Such a declaration of intent, however, can not be misinterpreted as an international treaty between the two states, as some might try to suggest in order to derail the process against the deal or to helplessly safe the face of government officials.

A treaty is a legally binding agreement under international law concluded by subjects of international law, namely states. A treaty is for example the long-running treaty for British soldiers to train in Kenya, which is just now in a stage, where a majority of Kenyan parliamentarians question if Kenya should prolong it.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) is a legal document describing an agreement between parties. It is a more formal alternative to a gentlemen's agreement, but less formal than a contract.

Examples of simple MoUs - like the Kenya/Thailand deal - include e.g.the Oil for Food program, for which Iraq signed a MoU in 1996, and which has seen a senior UN official being suspended for corruption as well as the son of UN Secretary General Kofi A. Annan being implicated, and which has therefore undergone many changes to the original text. The recently signed Kenya/Thailand MoU therefore can likewise easily be amended or relieved of certain parts - like the now contested wildlife deal - contained therein. The Kenya Society for the Protection and Care of Animals (KSPCA) and the Council of Community Based Organizations (CBO Council), both representing the majority of Kenyan citizens who are against the capture of free ranging wild animals from the Kenya wildlands and their deportation into the man-made confinement within a disputed Thai fun-fair facility, must be applauded for this step, because they actually also contribute in terms of control of damage to the reputation of both countries. But as further this issue is pushed by certain government officials in the service of either side of the deal, as more economic and face loss is created.

The constant and desperate pushing by the Thai Ambassador to Kenya, however, to get the Kenyan governance moving in terms of capturing now 175 wild animals for the Thai night zoo in Chiang Mai against the will of the Kenyan people is contradicting what Thai Senator Senator Pensak Chagsuchinda (Howitz) stated publicly during her visit to the country. The Senator, who was accompanied by Senator Niboon Shamshoum on a fact finding mission, had proclaimed profoundly that it was not in the interest of the Thai Government to insist on getting wildlife delivered from Kenya.

The senators admitted that their Prime Minister was looking for animals for that private facility in Chianmai, in which he has personal stakes, but they declared that, if the Kenyan people were not in agreement, they would not force the "donation" and would advise the Thai senate to restrict their PM in his dealings of such kind. Apparently the opposite of what was laid out by the senators is true and therefore the persistent pressure by the Thai official shows nothing less than the disrespect of the will of the Kenyan people. That certainly is not a good base for the proclaimed "friendship" between the two so different states and their people.

That the Kenyan people are ready to stand up for their wildlife has been not only clearly shown by the numerous protest rallies of various peoples in the country and the present legal challenge but even through a TV documentary delivering the numerous arguments of the wildlife conservation groups, which was aired by Reuters also into the far corners of Thailand and therefore made it known to the Thai people themselves. Even though the Thai senators did not succeed to have their PM reprimanded by the senate so far, the Thai organizations are urged to step up their side of the protest and to support the head of the Thai senate's environmental committee, Kaewsan Atipho, who want their house to become clean and to scrap the wildlife deal.

The wanted friendship between the people of both countries involved is also not changed with fake "letters to the editor", publicizing in local newspapers the opinion of staged pro-deal supporters allegedly writing from China or elsewhere. All the manipulation will only worsen the rift between the people of Kenya and Thailand and bring more supporters to the internationally called for boycott of Thailand's wares and services.

In order to show their real friendship with the people of Kenya, the Thai governance should have since long stopped to pressurize the Government of Kenya for these animals from the wild, not at least because the Kenyans actually have different and more severe problems at this time after a referendum rejected the proposed new constitution and a deep rift between governance and people's will.

The Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, who had received during the last 10 days twice delegations from the international and the national consortia of organizations, who stand and protest against that deal, had in addition to the numerous legal, ethic, economic, and moral arguments against the proposal outlined in the MoU, to hear eye-witness reports from people who actually had visited the Thai zoos and reported that animals are kept there under the most horrible conditions. One witness spoke of the worst zoo ever she visited anywhere in her entire life and that in Thailand she saw even a majestic tiger, who was not only just kept in a tiny cage, where he couldn't turn, but in addition was chained inside that cell.

The arguments against that shabby Kenya/Thai wildlife-deal are numerous and the background of the whole story are at least dubious, as one can study on the website of an international wildlife protection organization:

If the Thais really wanted to show true friendship to the Kenyans, they would abstain from insisting on the wildlife-deal outlined in that memorandum, which hangs like the sword of Damocles over the wild animals of Kenya in their free wildlands. The Thai government representatives could concentrate on actually helping Kenya without such shady deals and without that they force poor local organizations to engage in costly and time consuming campaigns and legal battles to restrain those who believe they could get benefits out of Kenyan wildlife, captured from the wild and confined to a life behind bars or early death due to neglect and distress during the shipment as well as inside Thailand.

And if the Thai people really would care about the plight of Kenyans and their state they would by all means stop their government officials to engage in such shameful exercises and force them to offer true help without selfish and greedy agendas. Kenyans therefore hope that their true soul-mates in Thailand will now likewise turn up the heat and force the Thai officials to come clean.

Kenyans stand as one people against the capture of even one animal from the wildlands of Africa and its transfer into that night-zoo in Thailand, like they stand against the capture and transport of any African girl into a brothel in Bangkok. The abduction of wild animals from Kenya to Thailand also must be seen in the context of bio-piracy and openly violates the Biodiversity Convention, which actually is a treaty to which both countries are signatories.

Kenyans feel that it would be the biggest shame to allow such also because 19 men on official duty to defend Kenyan wildlife were felled by the merciless bullets of unscrupulous wildlife killers and murderers since 1990 alone and many more in the years before. The death of these honourable men would have been meaningless and useless, if what they defended on behalf of all Kenyans and the natural world heritage at large, could just be signed away today.

Kenyans do also not support the shady deals of some politicians on both sides either, who seem to have an additional, hidden agenda in their co-operation and they speak out against those Kenyan parliamentarians, who just want to buy for Kenya a seat at the UN Security Council and try for this task to gain the support of foreign civil servants by intransparent measures like "pleasing" Thai officials with the signing away of Kenyan wildlife into a private zoo in Chiangmai. And neither do they support the apparent private business-relationships of officials like Thai PM Thaksin, who in his business life is a mobile phone and communications tycoon, with former Kenyan Communications Minister Raphael Tuju, who was now even promoted as Minister of Foreign Affairs by the embattled NARC government of Kenya's President Kibaki.

But while in Thailand even His Royal Highness The King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej has granted leave to his citizens to criticize Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, already death-threats are issued in Kenya to people, who only defend their natural heritage and stand against the cruel export of wildlife from their homelands into an appalling zoo-facility in Thailand, which triggered an international call to boycott Thailand over this.

The boycott of Thailand - that is for sure - and maybe in future also Kenya has gained now another boost.

© WTN 2005


Groups contest Thai wildlife deal

Kenya Times
15. 12. 2005

By John Osoro

WILDLIFE conservationists yesterday moved to court seeking to stop the government from translocating 175 animals to the Kingdom of Thailand.

The lobby groups want a memorandum of understanding entered into between the government of Kenya and Thailand stayed until their application is heard and determined.

The applicants — Self-Help Community Based Organisation (CBO) and Kenya Society for the Protection of Care for Animals — say that the Minister for Tourism and Wildlife and Kenya Wildlife Service had no powers to enter into an agreement with the Minister for Natural Resources and Environment of the Kingdom of Thailand over the translocation of the animals.

The conservationists say in their suit papers that the defendants had breached the Wildlife Conservation Act by allowing to donate and translocate the wildlife to a foreign country.

The plaintiffs in their application filed under a certificate of urgency say the respondents undertook to offer the animals without following the laid down procedures as contained in the Environmental Management and Coordination Act, 1999.

The Act provides that the government of Kenya ought to have assessed the impact caused by the translocation on the biological diversity on the parks and other areas where the animals might be removed to.

They say that the respondents ought to have submitted such report to National Environmental Management Authority as required under the Act.

The suit supported by an affidavit by the CBO Chairman Mr Tom Ondiba Aosa, further points out that the action by the defendants to donate and translocate the animals to zoos in the Kingdom of Thailand contravenes the International Trade in Endangered Species of wildlife.

He said the agreement was entered without following the procedures that regulate translocation of such animals from their natural habitat.

When the applicants appeared before Justice Joseph Nyamu, they sought the court’s intervention over the purported MoU entered into between Kenyan Minister for Tourism and his counterpart from Thailand.

The plaintiffs, through their lawyer Mbugua Mureithi, submitted that procedure was not followed when the said MoU was signed.

Justice Nyamu, however, ordered the applicants to serve the application to the respondents and directed that the matter be heard inter partes on December 20.

Mr Aosa says that the defendants ought to have obtained approval from Parliament before the deal could be entered.

The applicant further wants the decision entered on November 9, 2005 be stopped until the suit filed against the respondents is heard and determined.


Lobbies ask court to stop wild animals deal
Daily Nation Story
Publication Date: 12/15/2005

Two wildlife conservation lobby groups have moved to court to stop the export of wild animals to Thailand.

Nairobi CBO Consortium, and Kenya Society for the Protection and Care for Animals filed an application at the Nairobi High Court and were allowed to sue the Government over the deal.

But the court declined to grant their request to stop relocation of assorted animals to Thai zoos over an agreement between the two countries.

After hearing the submissions by their lawyer, Mr Mbugua Mureithi, judge Joseph Nyamu said the court would not be keen to interfere with a treaty between two countries.

The court could not review treaties between countries unless the provisions were incorporated in the Kenyan laws or passed as Acts of Parliament, he ruled.

The controversial agreement was sealed on November 9 by Tourism and Wildlife minister Morris Dzoro and the Thai minister for Natural Resources and Environment Yongyut Tiyapairat. It was signed despite protests by the local and international wildlife conservationists, who claimed the transfer would violate the animals' welfare.

It was signed at State House, Nairobi, in the presence of President Mwai Kibaki and Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Mbugua told the court that the conservation and management of the wildlife was legally under the Kenya Wildlife Service and the minister was only required to give general or special directions to the KWS director.

"The national heritage of this country should not be left to the disposal of one person or one arm of the Government," he argued.

He said the deal was signed without consulting the KWS, Parliament, other interested organisations or the public.

The process of identifying and capturing the animals for export to Thailand had began, the court heard.

Judge Nyamu noted that the issues raised by the applicants were of national importance. He asked them to serve the documents to the minister and the KWS so that the other parties could go and argue on how the court would treat the memorandum. The case will be heard on December 20.


Groups sue over Thai game deal
Wednesday December 14, 2005

By Judy Ogutu and Renson Mnyamwezi

Controversy surrounding the decision to export 175 animals to a zoo in Thailand has spilled over to the courts.

The Kenya Society for the Protection and Care for Animals and two other organisations have filed a suit seeking to stop the deal.

The three applicants want the court to issue an order temporarily stopping the deal reached in a Memorandum of Understanding between the two Governments on November 9, 2005.

The lobby group, Nairobi CBO Consortium and Thomas Ondiba Aosa wants the court to give them the go-ahead to seek for orders prohibiting the Minister of Tourism and Wildlife from shipping the animals to the Asian country. The Kenya Wildlife Service was named in the suit as an interested party.

The applicants also want the court’s permission to quash the decision to export the assorted animals from Kenya to Thailand.

In an urgent application, their lawyer Mbugua Mureithi says the minister has commenced steps to identify, capture and move the animals.

Justice Joseph Nyamu declined to issue any orders, but directed the parties to serve the suit papers and appear before him on December 20 for an inter parties hearing.

Meanwhile more than 1,000 residents of Mwatate Division in Taita Taveta District on Wednesday demonstrated against the intended export of the animals.

Led by Youths for Conservation Programme official, Joseph Righa, the residents asked President Kibaki to shelve the programme and consult widely.

‘’Tourism is an integral part of Kenya’s economy and we must keep our wildlife as protected heritage for our own benefits,’’ said Mr Wilson Mwangombe, the Kenya Wildlife and Conservation and Management Network co-ordinator.




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