Thursday, April 10, 2008

This is rare. . .

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

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


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. . .

. . .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

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

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?

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


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


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