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DR. RICHARD LEAKEY

Dr. Richard Leakey

Richard Leakey has made international headlines for over 30 years serving his native Kenya as a senior government official, a member of parliament, an opposition political activist, a conservationist, an administrator, a museum director, a scientific researcher, an auditor and a farmer. Leakey has had tremendous successes in most of the roles he has undertaken but needless to say, his numerous undertakings have led him to some controversial situations every once often.

Leakey is the son of the famous Dr. Louis B and Mary Leakey. He is reputed worldwide as one of the best Paleoanthropologists and has been credited with some of the most significant fossil discoveries of the 20th century. Leakey's stand in Kenya's politics is one thats very clear to all Kenyans. He has put the issue of corruption, especially by government officials, at the forefront of his political agenda. Leakey has always blamed corruption for the sad state of affairs the Kenyan economy finds itself in. In 1989, he was appointed director of Kenya Wildlife Service(KWS), a corruption-riddled organisation at that time. The corruption was centered upon the big business of poaching elephants for their ivory tusks. Leakey, as head of the KWS, led a crusade that led to a ban in the trade of ivory. This effectively put an end to elephant poaching and led to a significant rise in elephant populations in Kenya. In addition to this, he rallied the international community and helped raise $150 million for wildlife conservation. Leakey is revered more in Kenya as a conservationist than as a political figure, similar to Professor Wangari Maathai another reknowned Kenyan conservationist. Leakey's tenure at KWS came to an abrupt end in 1993, when he was involved in terrible plane crash that claimed both his legs. There have been allegations that this might have been an orchestrated attack on Leakey for his succesful fight against corruption at the KWS, but nothing conclusive ever came out of the investigations.

In 1995, Leakey ventured into mainstream Kenyan politics when together with prominent lawyer and opposition figure Paul Muite, they launched SAFINA, an opposition party that aimed at uniting the opposition forces in the country against the ruling party KANU. SAFINA generated a lot of interest among Kenyans who for long had been waiting for a truly national and united opposition party rather than the tribal-based parties that were present at that time. But KANU would not take this challenge hands-down. KANU went on the defensive accusing Leakey of being a racist, who wanted to re-introduce white-man rule in the country. As outrageous as this sounded, it worked among a large section of Kenyans who still had bad memories about the colonial period. SAFINA saw its popularity plummet and Leakey took a backstage in politics for a while. Leakey re-emerged in 1998, when he was called upon by the government to take over his former organization KWS. Although the KWS was on the brink of bankruptcy, Leakey took up the government offer and put the institution back on proper footing. The following year President Moi appointed leakey to the powerful position of Head of Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet. Leakey's mandate was primarily to rid the civil service of corruption, which the International Monetary Fund(IMF) was growing concerned about. Leakey's appointment might have well been a condition for aid by Kenya's foreign donors. Leakey once again did a very superb job, streamlining the various ministries and eradicating the over-employment that had become customary among such ministries. But as is expected, Leakey's efforts did not please everybody in the Moi administration and this put a lot of obstacles to his efforts. In 1991, the frustrated Leakey was forced to resign.

Richard Leakey has authored over 100 scientific articles and books, including The Sixth Extinction, Origins, Origins Reconsidered, The Origin of Humankind, and One Life. He has presented several television programs, including the 5-part Making of Mankind and NBC's Earthwatch. His latest book, Wildlife Wars: My Fight to Save Africa's Natural Treasures, continues the story of his life, focusing on his tenure as Director of Kenya Wildlife Services. A major motion picture inspired by Leakey's life is in development with Columbia Pictures. He has been profiled on 60 Minutes and was included in Time Magazine as one of the Century's 100 Greatest Minds.

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