December 20, 2018
The last year has not been kind to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) or perhaps it is more appropriate to say that KWS has not been kind to the last year. From the secretively planned Hell’s Gate National Park amusement centre, abruptly cancelled when publicly exposed; to a damning audit report by Price Waterhouse Coopers detailing major KWS operational and managerial deficiencies, and of course, the rhino translocation project that turned into a debacle when all 11 black rhinos died.
Equally disturbing, but what didn’t make the news, was the quietly executed, November 2018 deportation of a South African national who had been working with KWS in an official capacity since May. Kenya Immigration alleged that the individual had been working in Kenya illegally.
The story actually begins in mid-2017, in a housing estate close to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. On June 27th, acting on intelligence gleaned from a Ugandan ivory seizure four months previous, police officers of the Kenyan Special Crimes Prevention Unit (SCPU) swooped down on a home in Utawala and found 216 kilogrammes of ivory. By the time the initial investigation had been finalized, seven persons had been charged for being in possession of and dealing in wildlife trophies.
It became clear that the seizure, although considered small by normal investigative standards, had tentacles stretching from Kampala, to Mozambique, Somalia, Thailand, China and even Canada. The SCPU, with neither the time or resources to further the investigation, handed it over to KWS.
It did not take long for KWS to identify a number of financial links between some of the accused and various commercial entities. But again, KWS did not have the expertise or experience to capitalize on this information. Enter the Basel Institute on Governance, a Swiss based but independent, not-for-profit group, established to counter corruption and related financial crime internationally with private and public partners. One of their specialized units, the International Centre for Asset Recovery (ICAR), who had an already established working relationship with KWS and EACC, offered to fund for KWS, “an Investigation Specialist to be embedded as an advisor with the Kenya Wildlife Service in Kenya to support them in their (financial) investigations of large scale international wildlife trafficking and related money laundering offences, and guide them on international intelligence and judicial cooperation in these cases”, as was worded in the posted job advertisement. KWS agreed to the proposal.
ICAR hired Isaac Muloyi (not his real name), a South African, with considerable investigative experience and particularly relating to organized and financial crime. Muloyi began his official duties in KWS Langata Headquarters in May with a 6 month contract, subject to renewal. Muloyi was not initially issued a work permit, but the application was duly submitted on arrival in Kenya with the understanding by all involved that the application was in process and would be duly issued.
By October, there was still no work permit although an agreement had been reached between Basel Governance and KWS to extend the contract into 2019. Then, on a mid-November Thursday afternoon, Muloyi was contacted by Kenya Immigration and asked to attend their offices. Expecting to receive his long overdue work permit, Isaac Muloyi instead received his official deportation notice purportedly for working in Kenya without a permit. Two days later, he was enroute to Cape town. Despite protestations from Basel Governance, the deportation order has yet to be revoked.
The issuance of a work permit to a foreign national adviser in this situation should have necessitated no more than a “rubber stamp”. There was a documented agreement between Basel Institute of Governance and KWS. The objectives were in black and white, and included strengthening the investigational capacity of KWS, mentoring investigators, supporting cooperation between KWS and other law enforcement partners, and completing a needs analysis of KWS investigational capabilities. The embedded investigator came at zero cost. Under the circumstances, it is simply inconceivable that the deportation of Isaac Muloyi by Kenya Immigration was done without the knowledge and support of person(s) in the highest echelons of KWS.
It is, in fact, more than likely that KWS instigated the deportation process. Perhaps they finally realized that Basel Governance was providing expertise without the oft included, no strings attached, cash or materials. Perhaps Isaac Muloyi was cramping the style of senior KWS investigators, or perhaps KWS, with recent changes in both their Board and senior management, felt that they no longer wanted to include financial crime investigations in their investigative repertoire. After all, it is the Directorate of Criminal Investigations that handles the serious wildlife trafficking cases, not KWS.
For a Kenyan parastal that relies on almost 60% of its budget from outside sources (tourism and donors) this deportation is beyond troubling. Can the Kenya Wildlife Service be trusted? Are they really committed to their mission of “To sustainably conserve, manage, and enhance Kenya’s wildlife, its habitats, ……..in collaboration with stakeholders for posterity”. It would appear not.