Video:Kenyan Govt snub US Independence Day celebrations

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The government Wednesday gave a wide berth to the US independence celebrations at the US embassy in Nairobi, even as the US envoy in Nairobi asked for tougher laws on poaching.

At a function in which top government officials were invited, there was no president, his deputy, cabinet secretary or principal secretary at the function.

The celebrations came just two days after President Obama completed his Africa tour without setting foot on his father’s soil -Kenya.

The Jubilee government sent Senate Speaker Ekwe Ethuro and a number of junior officials from the Foreign Affairs Ministry. There were several constitutional Commission heads such as Charles Nyachae of the Constitutional Implementation Commission (CIC).

There was no immediate explanation on why top government officials skipped the event.

However, Cord leader Raila Odinga and United Democratic Front party leader Musalia Mudavadi were in attendance.

In his recent African tour, President Obama skipped Kenya in what he argued was because of the ICC cases facing Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto. But he promised to visit before his term expires in three years.

Wednesday, despite the glaring absence of the Jubilee government officials, Speaker Ekwe Ethuro said there would be something Kenyans would learn from the US’s endurance in their 237 years of independence.

“We are just 50 years old, but we can learn that there is life after 237 years,” he said.

US Ambassador to Nairobi Robert Godec insisted that Kenya remains a crucial partner in fighting global threats that also affect the US.

“It is important to underscore our friendship and the 50-yar partnership we have had and build on that partnership going forward,” he said.

Mr Godec said Kenya should have tougher anti-poaching laws in place as a way of taming the vice.

“Yes, I would encourage Kenya to increase the penalty. I look forward to that happening. It is important to increase the penalty against poaching,” he said at his residence in Nairobi.

The US recently announced a $3 million (Sh255 million) sponsorship to Kenya in fighting animal poaching and trafficking. In an Executive order by President Barrack Obama, the US announced the money last weekend to combat wildlife poaching and to help Kenya to build institutions to fight the vice that has threatened to eliminate elephants and rhinos.

Despite the move, Kenya’s laws are still too lenient to those found in possession of illegal wildlife hides, ivory or rhino horns. For example, most of those recently found with illegal ivory have been fined just Sh30, 000 yet a kilo of ivory goes for Sh40, 000 in the black market.

At the US Independence eve Wednesday, Mr Godec said it would be important for Kenya to have heavier laws, besides having the financial muscle to combat poaching.

“The threat poaching poses to Kenya and other countries means it so important to get the penalties in place to deter poaching, and to put away all those who are responsible for it.”

“Already, I have been very pleased to see the commitment shown by the government of Kenya and the Kenya wildlife service and by many civil society organizations and partner governments including the United States to combat wildlife trafficking.”

 

Poaching has been on the rise lately, with the Kenya Wildlife Service announcing that it loses at least 200 elephants annually to illegal hunters.

Earlier this year, the service announced it would add 1,000 rangers to protect the country’s reducing number of elephants, now estimated to be at 35,000.

However, lenient punishment provided by the Wildlife (Conservation and Management) Act of 1976 makes it easy for poachers to continue killing wild animals even as they pay the fines.
The heaviest fine the Act provides is Sh65, 000 but most offenders may get away with just Sh2, 000 meaning an offender may be rearrested and be fined the same amount.
At the moment, a draft law pending in Parliament proposes a fine of Sh50 million or jail terms of more than 20 years.
In February, the US elevated poaching to the same scale as drug trafficking.-nation.co.ke

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