- In a ceremony presided over by the Cabinet secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Forestry Roselinda Soipan Tuya, and attended by the US Ambassador to Kenya Megan Whitman, in the presence of a number of different enforcement agencies, 13.5 tonnes of seized sandalwood were burned at DCI Headquarters on February 28th, 2023.
- While not specifically mentioned, the wood could have come from the arrest of Police Commander Calvin Juma Ombata of Samburu, who was charged in relation to a 13.5 tonne seizure in September 2022.
- That case is presently at Kahawa law courts before Senior Principal Magistrate Boaz Maura Ombewa, who perhaps not coincidentally, was also at the ceremony.
- In 2022, as a matter of public record, Kenya law enforcement agencies, including the joint task force involved in this case, seized over 24 tonnes of sandalwood.
Government officials burn 13.5 tonnes of sandalwood to warn harvesters
by Cyrus Ombati The Star
February 28th, 2023:
Top government officials Tuesday presided over the destruction of 13.5 tonnes of sandalwood as a sign of their seriousness to fight those targeting the trees.
The product was valued at Sh45 million. Cabinet secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Forestry Roselinda Soipan Tuya led the exercise at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.
The woods which are extracted from endangered species of trees around the country’s forests were seized during various sting operations in Samburu County.
Sandalwood oil is extracted from the woods for use and is often cited as one of the most expensive woods in the world.
Kenya banned the harvesting and trade of sandalwood in 2007.
However, the trees continue to be cut for their essential oil, which is extracted to manufacture medicines and cosmetics.
The whole tree is uprooted to access the sandalwood oil, most of which is found in the roots and trunk.
Tuya said the exercise is very symbolic and acts to demonstrate the commitment and teamwork of the various stakeholders present to break illicit networks that continuously seek to benefit from the growing illicit trade of sandalwood and its products.
The CS also noted that the global demand for wood oil has led to the creation of an expansive illicit network of traffickers who seek to exploit community and Kenya Forest Services (KFS) managed forests to harvest the woods.
Further, she maintained that the harvest of sandalwood was banned by the government in 2007, adding that despite the ban, the overexploitation of the tree has continued to prevail.
In that view, the CS noted that the public burning of the woods indicated the commitment by multi-stakeholders including the KFS, DCI, ODPP, Judiciary and the KWS against the destruction of forests through illegal sandalwood harvesting in community forests.
“We are committed to preserving this endangered species. This is our demonstration,” she said.
On his part, the DCI Director Mohamed Amin said that the East African Sandalwood is listed within the Wildlife Conservation and Management Sixth Schedule as an Endangered Species, adding that it is the same status as the White Rhino, African Elephant and Blue Whale.
Amin further noted that the DCI appreciates the need for multi-agency cooperation and collaboration in the fight against wildlife, forestry and fisheries crimes in Kenya, and acknowledged that no institution can single-handedly manage this fight.
The DCI appealed to members of the public to continue sharing information with us through our Fichua hotline number 0800 722 203.
Also present during the exercise was the US Ambassador to Kenya Megan Whitman, KFS Chief Conservator Julius Kamau and Kahawa Law Courts Senior Principal Magistrate Boaz Ombewa among other guests
Whitman said there is a need for a unified effort to eradicate illegal logging.
She said the US had partnered with the DCI and the Kenya Forestry Service in conserving the endangered species.