State House is on the spot for sending mixed messages on elephant poaching. (Photo/Wikipedia)

State House is on the spot for sending mixed messages on elephant poaching. (Photo/Wikipedia)

A photo of President Uhuru Kenyatta and US Secretary of State John Kerry walking between two ornamental elephant tusks at State House has caused a stir online and underlined the tragic irony of Kenya’s fight against elephant poaching. Many Kenyans are shocked that State House would still be hanging on to decorative ivory tusks – authentic or not – given its vigorous campaign against elephant poaching.

That’s not the only irony in the photo though because, just a day before visiting State House, Kerry had taken a photo with a baby elephant at the David Sheldrick elephant orphanage.

It’s a delicious bit of irony that’s hasn’t escaped the attention of Kenyans.

Its not the first time that the presidency’s double-speak on elephant poaching has come to light. In July 2013 it emerged that two security officials at State House Mombasa were complicit in the theft and sale of ivory worth millions of shillings from one of the most heavily guarded buildings in the country. At the time it was revealed that the a GSU officer and caretaker at State House Mombasa had colluded to steal ivory from the building. One of stolen the pieces was said to weigh as much as 100 Kgs.

All these incidents seem to underscore a situation where State House doesn’t walk the talk on elephant poaching.

In early March Uhuru burnt 15 tonnes of ivory as a headline-grabbing demonstration of the country’s zero-tolerance stance on ivory poaching. Nevertheless, the presidency’s wavering support for the fight against elephant poaching has had its effects. Just recently it emerged that some of the ivory pieces seized in Thailand had previously been in the custody of the Kenyan police as evidence.

Its clear that State House is sending mixed messages on ivory poaching. On one front they are saying Kenya won’t stand for ivory poaching while on the other “don’t these tucks looks cool at State House?” Its frankly unacceptable. The president needs to understand that the fight against poaching is a battle for hearts and minds. Its a fight in which a substantial number of people have to convinced that tusks look better on elephants than on humans (or for that matter at State House).