There was jubilation outside the Voi law courts after a court dismissed charges of incitement leveled against Sagalla Member of County Assembly (MCA) by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) over claims he had directed local residents to kill elephants that had become a menace.
Resident Magistrate Fredrick Nyakundi said the court had found no incitement in the utterances by Mr. Godwin Kilele, the Sagalla MCA.
While delivering the ruling on Friday, the magistrate noted the remarks were uttered in December 2019 yet there had not been any reported incidences of public disorders or criminal activities linked to the MCA’s utterances.
Mr. Nyakundi further noted the MCA’s statements regarding the killing of elephants in self-defense were part of the Wildlife Management and Conservation Act 2013 and as such could not be taken to imply that by quoting that act, the accused had encouraged the local residents to kill wildlife.
The court further noted that in the absence of actual recording of the exact words uttered by the MCA, it was impossible to sustain the incitement charges.
The court observed that Sagalla had been an epicenter of human-wildlife conflict with deaths and destruction being reported in the past. These conflicts were caused by wild animals straying from Tsavo National Park into human settlement areas.
Speaking outside the courtroom, an elated Kilele said he was happy with the ruling in a case that had taken toll on his duties as a local leader.
He stated that his duties as an MCA involved speaking out against injustices meted out to his electorate and he cited the perennial human-wildlife conflict without recompense as a major injustice.
He further said that he would embark on an expansive civic education campaign to educate people in his ward about their rights and responsibilities as far as wildlife was concerned.
“Our stand is as it has always been. Let KWS take responsibility and ensure elephants do not stray into people’s farms,” he said.
He disclosed that any promised compensation after death or destruction of crops often took too long that it eventually became meaningless.
The MCA stated the residents had been suffering for ages and there was no respite largely because KWS did not remit any royalty to the county to compensate for any losses.
Mr. Fredrick Mwabili, the lawyer for the accused, said the ruling was welcome noting that the challenges of human-wildlife conflict needed to be addressed by leaders without intimidation. He added that there was a need to amend the law and put timeframes on issues of compensation to avoid endless waits.
“Compensation often takes too long. The law should insert deadlines to state when the money will be given to the victims of human-wildlife conflict,” he said.