Deadly Kenya protest over ‘stolen’ park fees

Nairobi – At least one protester has been killed in clashes with Kenyan police during a protest over the alleged theft of tourism fees to the famed Maasai Mara wildlife reserve, officials said Tuesday.

Thousands of people, led by local MPs, marched on county government offices in the southern Kenyan town of Narok, some 140 kilometres (85 miles) west of the capital Nairobi and the main town near the Maasai Mara park.

Kenyan newspapers reported that two people had been shot dead and six wounded, although officials said one person had died.

The protesters claim that Narok’s governor, Samuel Ole Tunai, could not account for “billions of shillings” — or tens of millions of dollars — including revenue from tourism and funds from central government.

Kenya’s top detective Ndegwa Muhoro said Tuesday that local leaders “have been summoned” to Nairobi to investigate who was responsible for the protest turning violent.

Foreign tourists pay $80 a day just to enter the park, famous for its vast savannah plains with its giant migration of wildebeest.

The fees that tourists pay play a crucial part in preserving the wilderness and animals threatened by rampant poaching, by providing economic incentives to protect the park.

Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper reported that some 500 police officers, backed by a helicopter, had been deployed to try to stop the protest, using at first tear gas to disperse the crowds, and then firing bullets.

Those wounded included both protestors and police.

Tunai rejected accusations of corruption and condemned those among the protestors he said had become violent.

“It is unfortunate that some leaders would incite peace-loving residents… to engage in criminal actions of attacking police officers who were on duty,” Tunai said in a statement.