Taita Taveta County's persistent efforts to obtain a fair share of revenues from the renowned Tsavo National Park have finally yielded success, as President William Ruto has acceded to the county's petition.
The much-awaited announcement came during a church service on Sunday when President Ruto directed the Ministry of Wildlife and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to convene a meeting and create a comprehensive plan for implementing the new directive.
Under this directive, Taita Taveta will retain 50 per cent of the revenues generated by the park.
"We want you to enjoy the benefits of the national park in your county," Ruto said.
Taita Taveta Governor, Andrew Mwadime, expressed his elation at the President's decision, stating that the prevailing revenue distribution system was deeply unfair.
Governor Mwadime pointed out that despite the vast amount of land occupied by national reserves in Taita Taveta County, the revenues collected from Tsavo National Park were not proportionately allocated to the county.
"The constitution in the country equalizes everyone in the country, but our county is different as a vast amount of people's land in this county is in the park and the shares from it are not equal to other counties," the president said.
Mwadime noted that numerous discussions have taken place with intergovernmental organizations, yet a mutual agreement remains elusive.
“We have held several talks with the intergovernmental organizations, and we seem not to come into an agreement but if you intervene, we believe we will get a better share from what we are getting now that will compensate us," he said.
The longstanding dispute between Taita Taveta County and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) reached a turning point in 2019 when the county assembly passed a motion urging the KWS to remit a minimum of 30 per cent of the park's annual collection, which amounts to over Sh60 billion, to the county.
The county's leadership had also advocated for Tsavo East National Park's conversion into a game reserve, with management responsibilities handed over to Taita Taveta County.
The President's recent directive addresses these concerns and paves the way for a more equitable revenue allocation system.
Furthermore, Ruto emphasized that the Kenya Wildlife Service will allocate 40 per cent of opportunities during ranger recruitment to communities hosting national parks and reserves, in line with an affirmative action plan.
However, the allocation of revenue has also raised questions about how the earnings will be divided among the other counties bordering the expansive Tsavo National Park, which includes Tsavo West National Park. Kitui, Makueni, Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River, and Kajiado counties, in addition to Taita Taveta, all share boundaries with the park and have expressed their desire to benefit from its revenues.