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UN in Kenya recognises champion in countering corruption and illicit trade in wildlife products 

24 October 2022, Nairobi - The Kenya Wildlife Service’s Head of Administration, Mr John Mugendi Gitonga, has today been recognised as a runner-up in the 2022 United Nations in Kenya Person of the Year Award. 

Nominated for the award by UNODC, Mr Mugendi was honoured for his efforts to counter the illicit trade in wildlife products by fighting institutional corruption.

He was presented with a certificate by the Director-General of the UN Office in Nairobi, Mrs Zainab Hawa Bangura, during a UN Day event in Kenya which was also graced by the UN Resident Coordinator, Dr Stephen Jackson, UN Information Centre Director, Mr Nasser Ega-Musa, and UNODC Deputy Regional Representative for Eastern Africa, Ms Maria Temesvari.

“Mr Mugendi is a role model for his unrelenting dedication to wildlife conservation and to countering corruption, especially at a time of heightened efforts to combat corruption in all sectors of Kenya, so this recognition is very well deserved,” Ms Temesvari remarked.

Globally, the illegal wildlife trade is a specialized, multibillion-dollar area of organized crime and a significant threat to many plant and animal species.

Kenya is an origin country for wildlife and wildlife goods where illicit trade threatens the survival of iconic species, including elephants (ivory), rhinos (horns), pangolins (scales) and big cats (skin, jaws, claws and live trade).

UNODC partners with KWS to prevent and counter internal corruption and other aspects of the illegal wildlife trade through our Global Programme on Crimes that Affect the Environment.

In August 2022, KWS was awarded a score of 100 per cent by Kenya’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission for fully complying with the Commission’s guidelines to prevent corruption in government in the 2021-2022 financial year.

KWS is now a benchmark anti-corruption institution and Mr Mugendi has been instrumental in this achievement during his 15 years at KWS, which has included mitigating institutional corruption risks at KWS, for example through a code of conduct, anti-corruption policy and reducing misuse of KWS funds and assets.

Mr Mugendi said he was privileged to have been recognized by the UN in Kenya and paid tribute to KWS. “I’m honoured to receive this award and I want to thank the KWS leadership for their commitment to the implementation of governance structures with the support we have continued to receive from the UNODC as we continue to fight corruption and wildlife crime,” he said.

For over two decades, the award has been annually presented to commemorate UN Day on 24 October and recognize an individual or institution’s efforts to bring to public notice pertinent issues related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and uphold UN principles.

Mr Mugendi was singled out for his contribution to SDG 15 (taking urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna and address supply of illegal wildlife products) and SDG 16 (Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms & develop effective, accountable, transparent institutions at all levels).

“Mr Mugendi has been the strongest supporter of the anti-corruption efforts adopted by the KWS since 2015. His integrity and passion for justice and conservation is contagious and that makes him a real champion in this field. We are fortunate to have found a unique professional like John as our counterpart,” the Regional Head of UNODC’s Environment pillar, Mr Giovanni Broussard, said.

The main award went to agronomist Mr Aaron Nanok who was nominated by the World Food Programme for his commitment to sustainable agriculture and food security in Turkana County, while the second runner-up was the National Environment Management Authority, a government agency charged with the responsibility of coordinating, monitoring, regulating and supervising environmental management in Kenya, nominated by the UN Environment Programme.

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