Ivory Destruction in Kenya: Genuine Campaign or PR Stunt?

Fredrick Ngugi Apr 26, 2016 at 05:45am

April 26, 2016 at 05:45 am | Opinions & Features

Fredrick Ngugi

Fredrick Ngugi | Contributor

April 26, 2016 at 05:45 am | Opinions & Features

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta with the current United States Secretary of State John Kerry in State House Nairobi. (Photo: www.mashada.com)

On 30 April 2016, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to oversee the destruction of one of the largest stockpiles of elephant ivory ever to be burned at once in any country around the world.

The glamorous event, which is expected to take place in Nairobi National Park, will be witnessed by key personalities, including several heads of states and renowned celebrities from Hollywood, according to State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu.

Speaking to the media at State House Nairobi on April 4, 2016, Mr. Esipisu announced that Hollywood actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicole Kidman are expected to attend the star-studded event alongside business tycoons Howard Buffet, Michael Bloomberg, Paul Allen and George Soros.

The State House spokesman further maintained that the event will be enough proof of Kenya’s commitment to zero tolerance for theillegal ivory trade.

“Kenya plans to use the occasion to torch as many as 120 tons of ivory, the largest stockpile of ivory ever destroyed by any country, as proof of our commitment to zero tolerance for poaching and illegal ivory trade,” Mr. Esipisu told the media.

Genuine Campaign or Public Relations Stunt?

As the D-day approaches, critics, commentators and experts have weighed in on the issue of perpetual ivory destruction in Kenya, with some terming it as an elaborate piece of theater.

Renowned Kenyan cartoonist and strategic communications consultant Patrick Gathara authored an emotive piece published by Al Jazeera last year accusing Kenya’s current and previous administrations of using the dramatic pictures of burning ivory to obscure any critical interrogation of actual records.

According to the report, former President Daniel Moi staged a similar ivory burning event in 1989 where he torched 12 tons of ivory while his successor, former President Mwai Kibaki, burned 5 tons of Ivory in 2011.

Despite the perennial destruction of ivory in Kenya, elephants have continued to die in the hands of poachers. Recent reports from Kenya Wildlife Service indicate that over 466 elephants have died in the last two years.

It is this steady increase in poaching that has left many observers with questions as to the efficacy of burning the ivory.

Moreover, President Uhuru Kenyatta has been photographed with ivory decorations in State House. Although it is unclear whether the decorations are real ivory or mere imitations, many have questioned the logic behind the use of such ornaments when the country is grappling with illegal trade of ivory, which is believed to be used in making decorations.   

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