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KFS culpable for forests destruction, reveals team

George Kebaso @Morarak

Indicted! This is the fate of a number of Kenya Forest Service (KFS) officers including its board and management team who could find themselves behind bars after the report on wanton destruction of forests found them culpable.

According to a task force established to look into forests resources management and illegal-logging activities, the officers should carry their own cross. In a raft of further recommendations, a lifestyle audit would be conducted on serving KFS personnel to determine their suitability to continue serving.

It recommends a public vetting process, to eliminate further malpractice, instill ethical culture within the service and restore confidence in the institution.

Already 16 officers have been suspended pending investigations that are expected to commence immediately. Consequently, the task force wants Environment Cabinet secretary Keriako Tobiko to expedite the constituting of a new KFS board to facilitate speedy investigations.

“We call for urgent constitution of an independent caretaker management team with special authority and comprising of competent persons who meet Article 6 of the Constitution to manage the operations of the service in the interim,” Green Belt Movement chairperson and taskforce head, Marion Wakanyi said while handing over the report to Tobiko.

Present at the NHIF Building during the handover of the report to Deputy President William Ruto included Chief Administrative Secretary Mohamed Elmi and Environment Principal secretary, Charles Sunkuli, among other top ministry officials.

The task force indicated in its findings that illegal logging of indigenous trees is a major threat to forests and is rampant in key forest areas and recommended for immediate removal of all illegal squatters from Kenyan forests.

This will pave way for resettlement of forest dwelling communities next to the forest, Wakanyi’s team indicated. Tobiko promised to have all those teams ready in the next 10 days to pave way for investigations.

To some extent, according to the task force, illegal squatters are found to have destroyed large chunks of the indigenous forest as observed in many critical areas.

“Illegal logging of indigenous trees is a major threat to forests and is rampant in key forest areas,” she said. Ruto said environment issues have not only become national but also international concern that calls for “coherent and punitive measures” to tame degeneration.

The report together with a sealed envelope has unearthed massive exploitation and a system replete with deep-rooted corruption practices.

Findings of the task force that was put in place for one and half months shows that the board and management of KFS are squarely to be blamed as they have “been unable to stem and in some instances have been directly involved in a systemized corruption practices.

“By abating, rampant corruption and abuse of office, they have systematically executed plunder and pillaging of our water towers and bear responsibility for the bringing of our environment to the precipice,” the report stated. However, a sealed envelope said to contain high profile names and evidence of those who have plundered forests resources is yet to be opened.

Deputy President, William Ruto unveiled the task force in March 5, 2018 in his Karen office. Early yesterday morning, the task force members briefed him on the report.

And while commending the team for coming up with the report, Ruto noted that environment issues have not only become national but also international concern that calls for “coherent and punitive measures” to tame degeneration.

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