Saturday, June 25

Environmental activist shot to death outside his Nairobi home after receiving death threats | Kenya


A prominent environmental activist was shot dead near her home in Kenya after receiving multiple death threats following her campaign against wetland development in a national park.

Joannah Stutchbury, 67, was killed at 10 p.m. local time Thursday as she was returning to her home on the outskirts of Nairobi. His friends said he had stopped his car to clear branches blocking his driveway when he was shot multiple times. Neighbors found her body in the car with the engine still running and valuables still in the vehicle, suggesting that the attack was not a robbery.

Stutchbury had openly opposed attempts by powerful local businessmen to build in the nearby Kiambu Forest and had received death threats in the past.

“It really is horrible. The conservation fraternity is very shocked. It’s devastating, ”said Dr. Paula Kahumbu, executive director of WildlifeDirect, a conservation NGO.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta condemned the murder. “Joannah has long been a strong advocate for conserving our environment and is remembered for her tireless efforts to protect the Kiambu forest from encroachment,” he said.

Although Kenya’s natural heritage is a major source of tourism income, it is threatened by invasions, squatters, and developers, often with links to powerful local politicians.

The Kiambu Forest is located on the outskirts of Nairobi, where land prices have skyrocketed in recent years. “Joannah was a great help to [the Kenya Forest Service] and it was a great voice against the destruction of the Kiambu forest. We need a detailed investigation by the police to find out what happened and what was the motive. People should not forget what happened, “said an official from the service to the local newspaper Star.

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The Stutchbury murder is just one of several violent deaths of conservationists in recent years. In 2018, Esmond Bradley Martin, a Kenya-based American conservationist whose investigations into the trade in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horns were seen as central to efforts to protect threatened species, was stabbed to death in his Nairobi home. His murder remains unsolved.

“A lot of bad things are happening with the environment in Kenya. People are very afraid, even officials. There is a lot of fear, but no one imagined that someone would kill someone like Joanna, an old woman. This was deeply cowardly, ”Kahumbu said.

The Kenya Conservation Alliance, a coalition of NGOs, said the Kiambu forest had been “invaded by land grabbers for housing developments” and said Stutchbury had recently reported a threat from a developer.

Amnesty International’s Kenya branch condemned Stutchbury’s murder and called for a speedy investigation. “Joannah was known for her actions in… Kiambu County. She never turned a blind eye when she saw illegalities inside the forest. We condemn this senseless murder and demand justice for Joannah and all other environmental and human rights activists who sadly lost their lives while defending the integrity of our environment and natural heritage, ”he said.


www.theguardian.com

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