Joannah Stutchbury, a prominent environmental activist, was shot dead on July 15 while driving home in Nairobi, Kenya. The incident has been condemned by local environmental activists, who are calling for justice in response to the murder.
Dr. Paula Kahumbu, CEO of conservation NGO WildlifeDirect, says the country’s entire conservation community is shaken following the murder. “It is really awful. The conservation fraternity is very shaken. It is devastating,” said Kahumbu.
Before her murder, Stutchbury had strongly opposed several projects slated to encroach on protected land. Stutchbury was vocal against private developments in the Kiambu Forest, which lies on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. It is believed that she was targeted because of her activism.
Her body was found in her car, with the engine still running and all essentials intact. This indicates that the murder motive was not robbery.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta also condemned the murder, calling Stutchbury a champion for her work. “For the longest time, Joannah has been a steadfast champion for the conservation of our environment and is remembered for her relentless efforts to protect Kiambu forest from encroachment,” Kenyatta said.
The Kenya Forest Service has also spoken out and called for urgent investigation. Stutchbury’s efforts were a big help to the service in conserving forest land under threat from businessmen and politicians. “Joannah was a big help to [the Kenya Forest Service] and was a big voice against the destruction of 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,” an official from the service told a local newspaper.
Environmental activists in Kenya have been under threat for a long time now; Stutchbury’s murder is just one of several violent killings of environmental activists. In 2018, a Kenya-based American conservationist Esmond Bradley Martin was stabbed to death in his house in Nairobi. Martin had been instrumental in protecting threatened species by shedding light on the ivory trade in the country.
“There are a lot of bad things happening to the environment in Kenya. People are very scared, even of officials. There is a lot of fear, but no one imagined that someone would kill someone like Joanna, an old lady. This was deeply cowardly,” said Kahumbu.
Via The Guardian
Lead image © Facebook / Joannah Stutchbury