Questions linger over posh café built in middle of Karura forest
Questions have been raised over the legality of the operations of River Café which is located in the middle of Karura Forest in Nairobi.
Chairman of the National Assembly Environment Committee Kareke Mbiuki, who is also the Maara Member of Parliament, told the Sunday Nation that the establishment of such restaurants was responsible for the dwindling forest cover as senior government officials whimsically allocate themselves spaces in the natural resource for commercial gain.
In a classic case of conflict of interest, the café is being run by Mrs Sophie Kinyua, who is Kenya Forest Service (KFS) board chairman Peter Kinyua’s wife.
“He should not hold the KFS position in all fairness and it is unfortunate he continues to operate the restaurant,” Mr Mbiuki said.
APPOINTED BY UHURU
According to the MP, they were expecting the Committee on implementation to enforce part of the report which adversely mentions Mr Kinyua, who was in June last year appointed to the board by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
He said that the House has adopted the report, which found Mr Kinyua guilty of conflict of interest and that it came as a shocker when he learnt that he had been awarded another term at the board.
“It is unfortunate that he was awarded another term in office even after we raised the concerns,” he said, adding that if found guilty Mr Kinyua should be barred from holding public office.
He said that Mr Kinyua contravened section 101 of the Penal Code and Public Officer Ethics Act 2003, as well as the Mwongozo Code of Governance for State Corporations.
Conservationists have in the past raised concerns over the existence of the café saying that the area where it stands was in 2014 designated as a place where indigenous trees would be planted, which led to the felling of trees and space cleared for the project.
Chief conservator of forests Mr Julius Kamau said that there were procedures that one should follow before setting up a restaurant inside a forest. However, when asked about River Café, he declined to comment on the matter.
FRIENDS OF KARURA
On his side, Mr Kinyua referred the Sunday Nation to lobby group Friends of Karura over the matter.
“I can’t comment on that but it is okay if you contact the Friends of Karura they are in a better position to say something about the café,” he said.
While appearing at the National Assembly’s environment committee last year, Mr Kinyua admitted that the joint was being run by his spouse. He said that she had run it for close to two years before he became chairperson of the board.
This prompted members of the committee, including Hilary Kosgei (Kipkelion West), Charity Chepkwony (Njoro) and Sophia Noor (Ijara) to ask the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to investigate the matter and take action.
At the time, Mr Kinyua had accompanied Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko and Principal Secretary Charles Sunkuli to a press conference over the status of the logging ban in the country.
In March last year, a task force formed to look into the issue of forest conservation and management in the country returned a report in which it accused the KFS board of wanton destruction of the country’s forest cover.
The report revealed that the forest custodian had played a part in the destruction of precious trees in the country.
It also stated that the KFS board was unable to deal with the logging menace and had even played part in, abetted, and institutionalised corruption and abuse of office.