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Samburu – Police involved again – 13.5 tonnes of sandalwood seized

13.5 tonnes of sandalwood were seized from a police vehicle in Wamba, Samburu County, Kenya


  • Samburu East Police Commander Juma Ombata and two other police officers were arrested on Tuesday September 27th, 2022 found in possession of 13.5 tonnes of sandalwood, loaded in a police vehicle.
  • The accused have been transported to the special court in Kahawa, Nairobi, to face charges under the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act.
  • Experts over the years have continually pointed the finger at enforcement officers, (NPS, KWS, KFS) and county officials as being critical enablers of the illegal sandalwood trade.  
  • In November 2015, 4 men were arrested in the Nakuru area, including one police officer, with ksh 20 million worth of sandalwood.  They were using police lorries.
  • In November 2016, in the Wamba area, 3 men were arrested with 12 tonnes of sandalwood.
  • A few months later, an internal KWS investigation revealed a small cartel operating within the KWS Wamba intelligence cell who were active in smuggling sandalwood. 
  • In January 2018, corrupt officers were confronted by community residents in Isiolo who found ksh 1 million worth of sandalwood in a lorry they were driving.  
Police Commander Juma Ombata on his arrest on September 27th, 2022.

Samburu East OCPD arrested ferrying sandalwood

by Geoffrey Ondieki | Nation Media Group

September 28th, 2022:

Samburu East sub-county Police Commander Juma Ombata was arrested on Tuesday after he was found ferrying rare sandalwood logs in a police vehicle.
Mr Ombata was arrested in Wamba, Samburu East, after officers acting on a tip-off intercepted the vehicle. The suspect was to be taken to Nairobi to face charges, said Samburu County Commissioner Henry Wafula.
“The officer is being escorted to Nairobi by officers from the Serious Crime Unit. It is very unfortunate that he was engaging in such illegal activities. We cannot accept,” Mr Wafula told the Nation.
He said a multi-agency team had intensified patrols in forests to combat illegal harvesting of sandalwood and other indigenous trees.  “We will not spare anyone found transporting the pieces of sandalwood because it is illegal. We will tame the illegal harvesting of the wood here in Samburu,” he said.
Samburu East Sub County Police Commander Juma Ombata, who was arrested while ferrying  sandalwood logs using a police vehicle on September, 27, 2022
Security agencies have been accused over the years of failing to end the illegal sandalwood trade, which has made unscrupulous businessmen overnight millionaires.
Police have been repeatedly fingered for collaborating with sandalwood dealers to fuel the illegal trade in Samburu. The rare tree species is almost depleted and efforts to protect it have been futile.
Sandalwood could be on the brink of extinction as high demand abroad has triggered rampant felling of the trees. It is threatened in Baringo, Samburu, Kajiado and West Pokot counties.
The importance of sandalwood in traditional medicine, woodworking, rituals, pharmaceuticals and perfumes means there is high demand for it worldwide.

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