Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Stephen Fry in Kenya

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Stephen Fry is in east Africa filming a follow-up to Last Chance to See, the excellent 1980s book (and radio series I think?) that was presented by Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy author, the late, great Douglas Adams, about endangered species. His blog is worth following and he recently posted this camcorder clip about ivory and rhino horn.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Obama-Muslim-conspiracy theorist kicked out of Kenya

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Kenya's record on freedom of speech is improving, so some might see the expulsion from Kenya of American anti-Democrat Jerome Corsi for trying to promote his conspiracy-theory book about Barack Obama's imagined links with Islam, terrorism, Raila Odinga and all things ungodly as a step in the wrong direction. But it looks like Obama's presence on the world stage (assuming he wins) might actually be a force for good, bringing the US some long-overdue respect and credibility and even putting a soft-focus spotlight on Kenya for the duration of his time in office. I haven't read Corsi's book, but I'm instinctively glad he's not being given the chance to talk rubbish in a fragile democracy like Kenya. It's bad enough when the likes of Sarah Palin do it in the US. Yes, I know: what about freedom of speech? Well sometimes (and this time, clearly) saying whatever you like, voicing an opinion, or making things up, serve to act against freedom from mobs, hunger, disease and death. I think the Kenyan authorities made the right call.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Watching the migration in the Maasai Mara

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It's hard to tell from the President Kibaki story how much he really saw of the drama of the migration itself. Kicheche Camp's always readable Spot of the Week this week reminded us what a truly sobering, numbing experience it can be to witness one of the river crossings, where dozens of animals die in a natural, chaotic, cacophonous event - while you watch. You almost want to go down there and shoo them back. Watching the deer in Richmond Park it ain't. . .

"Despite their determination to cross, the logistics of getting 20,000 animals across a raging river, each animal seemingly intent on taking the same route as the animal in front of it, means a large amount of patience will be required from those wildebeest bringing up the rear. Patience is a virtue wildebeest have in only limited amounts and once the first animal launches into the muddy depths of the Mara the word soon gets back to 19,999 and 20,000 in the queue and then the push is really on! The first 200 wildebeest perish immediately. Choosing a fatal course across the river they fall victim to the awesome power of the Mara's current and are drowned downstream. The leader of the next throng chooses more carefully but just when it seems his inbuilt radar has found a safe passage, the Mara river deals another killer blow, this time in the form of its most brutal resident - the crocodile. Seeing a kill is brutal regardless of which predator is doing the killing. With big cats there can be moments of finesse and majesty leading up to the gore of the kill itself. However with crocodiles the unadulterated brute force on display possesses a malevolence that is blood chilling. The vehicle is silent except for the occasional whir of the shutter release."

"Tourist Number One" (President Kibaki) gets down with the crowds

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The annual wildebeest migration through the Maasai Mara National Reserve has had more than its usual publicity this year. President Mwai Kibaki made an unusually informal publicity trip, which can only have done his image good.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Nairobi blogs

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Photo: Carnivore
Most visitors think of getting out of Nairobi as fast as possible, or enduring the city if they're based there, and making frequent forays to the parks or down to the coast. A couple of excellent blogs, written by Nairobians, help to humanise and promote the city in a really constructive and appealing way. (I accept, by the way, whatever I may have said in the first edition of the Rough Guide, more than 20 years ago, that the term "Nairobian" is in use, and means something these days.) They'll make you see the city in a different light.

Chick about Town, run by a sassy hedonist nicknamed Biche, concentrates on products and services, ranging from the best auto repair shop to her favourite contaceptives, and from the rise of the Nu Metro cinema chain to her favourite (and not-so-favourite) restaurants and clubs. All her posts are delivered in a gloriously enthusiastic, upfront and refreshingly detailed style.

Nairobi Now is a collaborative blog, doing for Nairobi's arts and culture scene what Biche does for the equally important business of having fun – though both blogs happily overlap. Live music and club nights, new theatre, fashion shows, book launches, gallery events and new movies are all flagged up. Fancy attending (or performing?) at an open mic poetry session at Club Soundd? Or retreating from the city with some Liszt and Schubert at the Italian Cultural Institute. It's all here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Scrap the lunatic line - here's another of those visions

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Now this is exciting, if it ever happens: Mombasa to Kampala in ten hours. It's part of Kenya Railways Vision 2050 (funny how the target year keeps receding). Wider track and bigger trains would be more likely to be useful in the 22nd century, never mind the 21st - and an average speed of 110kph (68mph) isn't exactly high-speed.

But it's the right idea, isn't it? Get people moving, working, trading, with low-carbon emissions, and bring tourists through one of the world's most fabled landscapes in comfort, maybe calling at a new Maneater's Hotel in Tsavo. I hope I'm still around to see it.

But first Kenya, Uganda and South Africa have to sort out this mess.

Restaurant prices in Kenya

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Kenya is experiencing the same price rises in fuel and commodities that are hitting all the world's poorest economies hardest – Restaurant prices in Kenya are notably higher than in the current edition of the guide. Still good value – tourists won't find them unaffordable – but more than ever out of reach of 95% of Kenyans.

Photo: "Carnivore", Langata, Nairobi

Slum TV in Mathare, Nairobi

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Interesting recent audio report from the BBC World Service about a new TV station in Nairobi's Mathare slum: SlumTV

Roots of the Rift Valley violence - Kalenjin and Kikuyu

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Land and water rights in the Rift Valley lie at the heart of the post-election violence. But there's something deeper and less material going on as well, according to this detailed and thoroughly researched article by Horace Njuguna Gisemba. It implies that something in the "soul" (?) of some young Kalenjin men has made them bloodthirsty attackers of non-Kalenjin, and particularly of Kikuyu. Certainly, the Kalenjin were brutally treated by the British a century ago. Punitive expeditions massacred about 1000 Kalenjin warriors at the end of the nineteenth century, and the account by Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen (who murdered the Nandi leader during a meeting) makes chilling reading (Kenya Diary). But Gisemba implies there was organization behind the anti-Kikuyu violence and says we'll have to wait for the findings of the proposed Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission. That could take years: I'd like to hear from an alternative viewpoint.

Barack Obama slurred by link with Odinga slurred by link with Obama

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It's dig-the-dirt time again in American politics and Barack Obama, part Luo like Raila Odinga (but not Odinga's cousin in the American sense of the term "cousin") is accused of very close ties with the ODM leader (they're part of some "socialist/Sharia law" conspiracy). Who in turn is accused of accepting an unfeasibly large donation from the Democratic contender. It's all some sort of desperate Republican smear.

And it seems to have backfired quite spectacularly on the Republicans with the disclosure that one of Republican nominee John McCain's senior advisors, Charles Black, was a lobbyist for the Daniel arap Moi government in the late 1980s and early 90s when the former Kenyan dictator was in power.

To draw the conspiracies out to their illogical conclusion, it's important to recall that Moi's greatest support came from the same powerbase in the Rift Valley and Western Kenya as Raila Odinga's.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sustainable Mara

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It's all happening. . .

An excellent initiative in the Maasai Mara:

"The Mara Conservancy, a not-for-profit conservation management company based in the Masai Mara, has launched a new Responsible Wildlife Tourism Award, aimed at encouraging tourism best-practice in Kenya. Sponsored by international wildlife charity and long-time friend of Kenya, the Born Free Foundation, the award is aimed at protecting Kenya’s wildlife from the potential negative impacts of increasing visitor numbers in the region. . ."

Read the full story here, at TravelMole.com.

The award is being judged by Cheryl Mvula, who featured in the Observer recently, in a piece about the Maasai benefitting properly from tourism.

Photo: Mara Wildebeest © Irv Weissbart

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Return of tourism also benefits agricultural exporters

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It's not just the tourist industry that will benefit from the return of charter flights. Lake Victoria's Luo fishing communities depend partly on tourist charter flights for their livelihood. Local food exporters have been hit very hard by the cancellation of the tourist flights in whose holds they normally ship fruit, vegetables and fish to Europe.

Mike Wooldridge on the future for Kenya

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Mike Wooldridge's thoughtful, if disturbing two-part series for Radio 4
is being repeated on the BBC World Service. Or is it the other way round?

Anyway. Listen out for the crystal tones of Nairobi Kiss FM's Caroline Mutogo - breath of fresh air: "Every cabinet minister's on a million shillings. . .[but] I am optimistic, not about the politicians, but the Kenyans. . .What's slowly becoming clear to us as a people [is] don't ever put all your eggs in one basket and let that basket be Mister Member of Parliament. Ever."

Virgin kicks off the return to Kenya

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Good to see Virgin Atlantic airlines helping to revive the Kenya tourist industry with a big UK press and underground poster campaign featuring the wildebeest migration. Richard Branson was in the Maasai Mara at Sekenani village near Sarova Mara camp at the weekend, where Virgin made a £60,000 donation to Sekenani village school.

Meanwhile, Gordon Brown has apparently invited Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga to talks in London. Is that good? Let's hope they meet David Miliband.

Monday, May 19, 2008

"Behind the Smile: the Tsunami of Tourism"

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Tourism Concern's brilliant photo essay, "Behind the Smile: the Tsunami of Tourism", is back on the Tourism Concern site once again, having been inaccessible for some time. The photos by John Wright, part of an exhibition originally shown at London's Oxo Gallery in early 2006 (which also included photos by Jenny Matthews from tsunami-affected areas of Thailand), are a stark indictment of the rotten end of Kenya's tourist industry: untenably low wages, callous disregard for human dignity and scant concern for maintaining a sustainable hospitality culture. John Wright's explanation of the "quote cards" held by the subject of each photo is eloquent. Kenya desperately needs its tourists back –  tourists who are happy to tip, leave the hotel, bargain for souvenirs, jump on local excursions as well as pre-booked safaris, and generally get stuck into the country. People returning from visits say the parks are incredible with so few visitors, and the welcome as warm as you could imagine.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

National Museum reopens in Nairobi

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Nairobi's national museum, the city's most important tourist attraction, and a good museum in its own right, has recently re-opened after more than two years' closure for refurbishment. Thanks to Mark Fairweather for the news - the National Museums of Kenya site is still saying it's going to reopen at the end of 2007. . .

Thursday, April 10, 2008

This is rare. . .

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The trial has started of two policemen accused of murdering two demonstrators in Kisumu in January. It's rare that the police go on trial for human rights offences – and any observer of the Kenyan scene knows how brutal and undisciplined Kenya's police can be (there are many good police officers, but the bad ones are extraordinarily brazen) – so this trial, of a shooting that was witnessed by the world through  KTN footage (relayed by the BBC) is very welcome. 

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Elgon – stay away

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One area of Kenya you don't want to be wandering around in at the moment is Mount Elgon. The Sabaot Land Defence Force are a particularly unpleasant gang of thugs – whose original grievances about land-grabbing and resettlement have been muddied by post-electoral reprisals and counter-reprisals – but the Kenyan military's clumsy intervention and clear evidence of abuses by legitimate government forces needs to be exposed. The Human Rights Watch report makes chilling reading: there's a sense that the armed forces think they'll get away with murder while the world is watching Kibaki and Odinga, and if anyone notices, the even worse atrocities committed by the SDLF will cover for them.

Castle Forest Lodge and Karen Blixen Camp

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Map detail from Rough Guide Kenya & Northern Tanzania map



Castle Forest Lodge up on the southern slopes of Mount Kenya (on p.179) is not very well known, though it gets a good write-up in the Rough Guide.


Meanwhile, yet another new lodge, the Karen Blixen Camp, has opened outside the Mara. Not good timing, perhaps, but by all accounts visitors to the area are sharing it with very few other tourists and getting unusually good service.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Kenya fuel price rises. . .

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. . .and inflation passes 20 percent and ranges up to 30 percent regionally.

If you're driving in Kenya, expect to be paying around Ksh100/litre in Nairobi and up to Ksh200 or more (€2) out in the sticks.

Kenyan authors and publishers losing out, and students losing out even more

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Book piracy is a worldwide problem, but particularly acute where there are hundreds of thousands of school students, most of whom don't have the money to pay for one $5 book, let alone two. So this story is bad news for Ngugi Wa Thiong'o and Ibsen's estate, but East African Educational Publishers should have been quicker off the mark if they wanted to sell The River Between and An Enemy of the People to 700,000 form 3 and 4 students. But rather than trying to compete conventionally with quick-witted (if evidently semi-literate) publishing pirates, with all the print bills, shipping costs and accounting that traditional publishing entails, they should look to install print-on-demand sites with low unit costs for schools. Students and teachers with extra cash could then buy more books, and everyone gets English literature – and more – without the pirates' typos. In less than a decade, the set-up costs would be repaying publishers (and country) with book-buying adults and a literate workforce.

Kenya gets live football on TV

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Live Kenyan football on TV? Is this going to come to Setanta? That would be fun. . . And wouldn't cost them an arm and a leg right now. 

Cradle of Man trail?

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An interesting editorial in Nairobi's Business Daily pushing the idea of tourism in the Lake Turkana region. It's true that it's a vast and under-visited region, with some interesting fossil sites and great camel-walking and people-to-people opportunities for determined operators and undaunted visitors. Happily, also, Loiyangalani – the microcosmic "town" of the lake's eastern shore that featured atmospherically in the misleading closing scenes of The Constant Gardener (Fernando Meirelles's adaptation of the John Le Carré thriller about Big Pharma) – is evidently peaceful and secure, having escaped any of the recent conflicts further south in the Rift Valley.

Go there, it's a fantastic region to explore.

Kikoi "brand" threatened by British company

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This is annoying: why would a British company happily trading with Kenya, importing the popular woven kikoi cloths (the sarong-style wraps favoured by the coastal Swahili people) seek to trademark the name kikoi for its own benefit to deprive small Kenyan exporters of access to the European market and squash the competition? It seems that the Swahili word for basket – kiondo – has already gone the same way (to Japan, in 2006). The Kikoy Company took an ad in the Rough Guide too. Perhaps there's an innocent, or reasonable, explanation (anyone?) but I expect they'll want to take their advertising elsewhere next time.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Chinese tourists come to Kenya

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An interesting report in Business Daily. With China's usual (outside Olympic years) censorship of the media, perhaps the market there is less sensitive to Kenya's turbulent reputation. They certainly can't be any more sensitive than Germany, also visited by the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife delegation.

Photo of Chinese tourists in Maasai Mara National Reserve © Business Daily

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"Trees for Peace" - a letter from Petra Allmendinger, Mount Kenya

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Dear Environmental Friends,

This month's meeting will be coming up on Friday, the 28th of March.

We had already two previous meetings to this one. And of course there is no meeting any more where our current problem of Kenya is not in one or the other way discussed. In our last meeting we realized that there is a lot of hatred, jealousy and also remorse for what has happened most receently amongst Kenyan people.

A lot of our group members are accommodating displaced people. Members who are hard up and find it very difficult on top of the additonal economic disaster to feed, clothe and accommodate extra people. But they do it, because lots of people in this country are still suffering very much, as you know.

We decided that we try to join hands and do some fundraising in form of clothes, food and money to assist our friends who are displaced and the ones who help already so much. We will meet on Friday the 28th March in CCF Building, Naro Moru, and would like to apeal to anyone who is able to give something towards this project.

We are not so keen to take money, but have decided that we would use the money towards school uniforms for the Naro Moru Primary School. Most displaced people have no money to afford uniforms and the kids at school stick out at school just for that reason.

And of course for our treeplanting projects. What has this to do with the environment, you might ask? A lot. Peace in this country will be a long process, since peace has to enter the hearts of the people again. With what happened here, this is very difficult, especially when you are the one who has lost, witnessed and experienced all this misery that other people might just have seen on the news.

We would like to make a point from our side of the country and ask for a countrywide tree-planting action. We would like to plant trees for each other. We call our action "Trees for Peace". We would like to unite the people of Kenya through tree-planting. Maybe one small way to do something towards Kenya's peace process.

We are aiming to spread our plan over the next few years throughout Kenya and will plant wherever we can. In order to achieve all this we need some assistance. Please help us with a small donation. With 25 Euros (2500Ksh) for example we can plant at least a 100 trees. But also one tree counts, 25 Euro cents or 25Ksh.

On Friday 28th March we will plant a demo tree in Naro Moru and if you have time and are in the country, please come and join us. Otherwise you can make your donations to myself, Sarah or Ian. Thanks so much for your help!

Looking forward to see you at our next meeting

Time, 9.00 am, end 1 pm

Petra and Sarah

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Upper Hill Campsite has moved

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Mark Fairweather emails news about Upper Hill Campsite (p.119):



"The campsite is closing on Saturday 1st March 2008 and re-locating to Othaya Road (up Argwings Kohdek Rd, buses 46 to Othaya Rd/Valley Arcade. Matatu 48 to Swedish Dental Clinic)"

Our review says:
A small, relaxed campsite, very popular with overlanders. There are dorms and double rooms, hot showers, a kitchen, a bar and a restaurant. Tent rental is inexpensive and security is good.

Kitui and Nzambani rock

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A nice email from Peace Corps volunteer Nick Demille, based in Kajiado in Maasai-land, about a recent trip in the Akamba country, east of Nairobi. His thoughtful blog Salamu Kenya! is well worth a visit.

"If you're looking for "deluxe accommodation" in Kitui, head for the Parkside Villa. You'll find sprawling grounds, several bars, a playground for the kids, a great sound system and Kitui's best nyama choma [roast meat]. The rooms are small but clean, and they have mosquito nets and hot showers when the electricity is up. A room for the night cost 700 shillings (£5/$10), but if you need a quiet break from the road, this is it. The grounds are on the north side of town past a school for the blind, but simply asking locals will get you there as it's tucked back on a side road. If you're feeling a bit more adventurous, and want to rub elbows with the local crowd, head down the hill from the end of the tarmac surface and across from the Pastoral Center to Kitui’s own Tourist Hotel. This is a clean and comfortable guest house where 400 shillings buys you a bed with a mosquito net and hot water for bathing. They also have a rather nice garden patio bar area where lively locals, Akamba music and a pool table can be found – as well as Kitui's coldest Tuskers. They also serve breakfast her, included in the rate, and the staff are friendly.

Approaching the Tourist Hotel, you can see an enormous, oddly sited boulder on the eastern horizon – Nzambani rock. This prized local attraction makes a great half-day excursion. If you have a few hours, head out onto the dusty Mombasa road, just down from the Kitui Medical College, and catch yourself a matatu headed east to Chuluni. On the way you pass through the town of Wikilili (several small stores, and some good places to catch a quick bite to eat – not gourmet cuisine, but cheap and with exceptionally friendly service). Once you're in Chuluni, ask the matatu tout to drop you at the road to Nzambani rock, where, you should be able to see the conspicuous landmark. From the road – a wide, dirt single track heading into the bush – you get the most stunning views. Once you get nearby, you see that you have to pay to climb the boulder, but but it's very much up for discussion – haggle like you would for anything, and don't pay more than Ksh200.

There's a final ¼ mile to walk to the base of a rickety metal staircase scaling the rock. The concrete and steel supports are loose and decaying, and the entire structure sways in the wind, so take care. Once on top, you can wander freely, soaking in the panoramic views across the district. To the west you look towards the hills of Machakos, and to the east is the South Kitui National Reserve. This is Wakambani at its best, scattered with small villages and chiefs' camps. The boulder isn't a must-see, perhaps, but it makes for an unforgettable little back roads adventure.

Local Akamba legend has it that if you run round the top of Nzambani seven times, you will change sex – fortunately, there's no danger of accidentally performing this unappealing feat. More prosaically, there's a small snackbar on the summit, but it doesn't offer much and is often closed. As well as bringing plenty of sunscreen, glasses and hats then (there's no shelter from the equatorial sun, and you will want to linger for photos), you'll want to bring snacks and drinks."




Photo © Nick Demille

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Kenya: anyone got a vision?

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What a disaster. What a self-inflicted nightmare.

There's too much to say and too much backstory already for any sort of "commentary" here, now, but the former anti-corruption tsar, John Githongo, now based in Britain and apparently an angry and disgusted man, has written this succinct piece in this week's Time magazine. Who knew that Gordon Brown had been so active in helping to broker a compromise?

Photo: Mombasa highway, near Makindu


It's not the first time it's happened. Kenya has never been an "oasis of stability and peace" as the mainstream media kept reporting (there were few headlines when hundreds were killed by the police in a gang crackdown in Nairobi last summer). For forty years it's been a seething mess of contradictions, held together, and even made to prosper in parts, by some of the nicest, most forgiving, most patient people in the world. There was an explosion of ethnic tension in 1992 in the run-up to the first "democratic" elections, which Daniel Arap Moi managed to win. I remember driving one evening back across the Rift Valley, from Kakamega to Naivasha, and the fires of burning huts were clearly visible out on the plateau, especially south of Eldoret. I didn't feel personally threatened. There were no barricades - the violence was happening in the countryside, not in the towns. It's reckoned at least 3000 people were killed in ethnic clashes during the 1990s, and around 300,000 displaced. So the recent violence isn't quite so bad (though it happened very quickly, very brutally, and under a lot of media attention which wasn't there to the same degree in the 1990s), but the refugee problem is much greater this time – as many as half a million people – and the political/ethnic demarcations much more starkly mapped.

Meanwhile, although the country is suffering terribly because the tourist industry has collapsed, it's clear that tourists themselves are not in any danger, and I've not heard any reports of tourists physically harmed during the recent troubles. In fact, people who have been visiting, seem to report a better time than ever, with very quiet conditions. Have a look at this feedback from recent guests at one of my favourite camps, Kicheche in the Mara. If there was ever a time when a country needed you to visit on holiday, it's Kenya, in 2008. Now if the Foreign Office travel advisory would just catch up. . .


Photo: staff at Il Ngwesi lodge, Laikipia

If Time pull the article at some point, here's the text:
Kenya: From the Ground Up
March 17, 2008 By JOHN GITHONGO


The ethnic political violence that convulsed Kenya after disputed elections on Dec. 27 shattered the nation's image as an oasis of calm in a turbulent corner of Africa. Perhaps no one was more shocked — or had more to lose — than members of Kenya's middle class, who seemed comfortably ensconced in Westernized modernity after more than 40 years of economic growth without major political trauma. They watched as ethnic clashes left more than 1,000 Kenyans dead and hundreds of thousands displaced, and as those decades of hard-earned economic progress threatened to unravel. The violence had assumed an unsettling ethnic character that saw neighbor turn against neighbor with machetes and other crude weapons. As militia mobilized on both sides, Kenyans began to self-segregate along ethnic lines.

It took an unprecedented concert of international diplomatic pressure, united behind former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to force Kenya back from the precipice. In a power-sharing deal, opposition leader Raila Odinga will now serve as Prime Minister while the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki will remain in that post. All of Africa and Kenya's friends abroad breathed a sigh of relief when the deal was signed.

If the peace is to hold, however, it is important to understand the forces underlying it — to recognize that Kenya's near-death experience was caused not by ethnicity alone, but by its toxic mix with politics. Because Kenya's constitution vests disproportionate powers in the presidency, the ethnic group to which a President belongs — in Kibaki's case, the Kikuyu — has typically been seen as the beneficiary of unequal access to justice and economic opportunity. Combine this with a corrupt political élite given to extravagant displays of consumption, and it is no wonder that powerful resentments have built up in Kenyan society, not least among the Luo who backed Odinga. In this environment, even Kenya's booming economy — with growth surpassing 6% in 2007 — adds fuel to the fire. Many Kenyans felt that this prosperity was passing them by while others were getting more than their fair share. Ethnic inequality is a dangerous and highly effective tool for politicians keen to whip up resentment.

Annan's mediation process did two critical things: it temporarily stopped the violence and it created an opportunity to resolve some of Kenya's fundamental problems. We now have a coalition government that was forced on the Kenyan political élite by the international community. Had it not been for the vigorous intervention of Kenya's neighbors, and of the wider world — particularly Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who worked the phones ceaselessly — the belligerents would not have set aside their differences. The upside of this is that the Kenyan crisis has empowered the region and the African Union to intervene robustly when things go badly wrong in an important member country. The downside is that the giant sucking sound when the Annan deal was signed was Kenya's sovereignty being flushed into the global diplomatic ether. As a Kenyan, I worry that it could take a long time for us to regain our confidence in our ability to manage our own affairs without robbing ourselves silly, turning on each other along ethnic lines, and practicing a politics of brinkmanship. For our leaders, we can only hope that the humbling experience of international intervention will prove instructive as well.

In order to work, the new arrangement first has to remain in place — no mean feat given the pressures it is meant to dispel. A critical test will be what the coalition government does to facilitate the speedy return home of more than 300,000 displaced Kenyans from all ethnic groups — women and children in particular. The title deeds they hold to land now occupied by others must be honored; if they are not, the viability of the Kenyan state and the rule of law itself will be called into question.

The new situation carries with it risk and opportunity. Cynics can argue that the coalition government has pooled all of Kenya's rotten political eggs into one noxious basket, and is therefore bound to fail. On the other hand, Kenya stared into the abyss and was finally pulled back. That presents a chance to refashion the Kenyan state itself and to address the systemic issues — inequality, land rights, corruption and the constitution — that gave rise to the crisis in the first place.

John Githongo is Kenya's former anticorruption chief and a fellow at Oxford University
© Time magazine