The Diplomatic Theft of Kenya's Plants

The Diplomatic Theft of Kenya's Plants Photo by distelAPPArath

Lusaka’s (Not his real name) food was untouched as he told me about the high drama that took place in the 90s in a certain Forest Research Institute. At the time, he was a young man in his early twenties and was working at the Institute. More than thirty years later, he is now a seasoned expert at UNEP, the world’s premier Environmental Organization. Pardon this secrecy. The position he holds at his current employer doesn’t allow him to reveal his identity. But I swear he is real, not imagined.

“They would cart away plant samples from forests like Kakamega Forest in their diplomatic luggage,” Lusaka told me and paused. He looked pained, and for a while, I thought he would shed a tear. He didn’t, but proceeded to explain in some detail how the Kenyan Government closed down the European-led research after it got wind of the diplomatic theft of Kenya’s plant samples.

"I dream of an Africa which is at peace with itself." Nelson Mandela

The long and short of Lusaka’s story is this: in the 90s, a European Country set up a research shop in a Kenyan research institution. It proceeded to provide research funding, four-wheel-drive vehicles and a host of research equipment. Once research began, the Europeans who were leading the research ran a tight shop and kept their Kenyan colleagues mostly locked out of their research mission and findings. Unbeknownst to them, some of the local colleagues discovered that they were misusing the cover of diplomatic immunity to ship Kenyan indigenous plants out of the country. Consequently, the Kenyan government shut down their research mission despite their threat to cut research funding to the institution and take away all the four-wheel-drive vehicles they had donated. True to their word, after their research licenses were cancelled, they ferried away everything that they had brought.

Diplomatic Theft 2Photo by PDPhotos

I love to eat. So despite the shock of Lusaka’s story, I continued chomping down the lamb chops that were on my plate. The spinach was lukewarm, so I would carefully navigate around it and zero in on the mutton. But I was shocked that such diplomatic theft of our natural resources could actually take place.

Our natural resources, our indigenous plants, are our priceless wealth. We must value them as such and do everything possible to protect and propagate them.

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Last modified on Sunday, 24 October 2021 16:28

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