Words from Kenya

Samburu, Security and a Solar Eclipse

The road from Maralal to Baragoi

The Kenyan Tourist Board, along with many local and international travel companies, have done a great job of promoting the total eclipse of the sun due to occur on the shores of Lake Turkana this coming Sunday.

Unfortunately the main overland route to what appears to be the most popular viewing location, Sibiloi National Park, goes through an area currently suffering from insecurity. The overland route that most individuals and companies seem to be taking goes via Maralal and on up through Baragoi to South Horr and from there to the shores of Lake Turkana. The recent bout of insecurity has been centered on the area between Baragoi and South Horr. However the entire stretch from Maralal to South Horr has been more or less insecure for years. Cars are regularly held up on this stretch of road and many locals take long winded detours on awful tracks to avoid using it. Today violent protests erupted in Maralal town in relation to the ongoing insecurity, cattle theft and the suspicion by locals that the some police may actually be aiding the livestock thieves.

Over the last few weeks there have been reports that more police have been drafted into the areas suffering from the worst violence. So the question is, will there be sufficient security for the tourists who will be passing through the area over the next week as they travel to and from the eclipse on Sunday? And will they have to travel in convoy to ensure their safety? If they do it will severely limit this event as an opportunity for individuals and travel companies to explore this beautiful region. Of course if something were to happen to any of the tourists it would not only hit the emerging tourist industry in the north but it would affect tourism to the country as a whole (not what is needed in year where it has already suffered from an election and a terror attack).

But there is something else, if the police are able to ensure the security of the tourists what will happen when all the tourists leave? Will it be back to business as usual? Will the locals continue to face the fear of insecurity on a daily basis? Will the locals continue to die from this unchecked violence?

The tourism industry in Kenya is very important but so are the everyday lives and security of Kenyans themselves.

(P.S. Samburu is a stunningly beautiful part of northern Kenya and it deserves to be a top travel destination. The people are friendly, the culture fascinating and the scenery is spectacular from forested mountain top to wildlife filled acacia plains; its all just too good to let a few insecurity hot-spots get in the way of a visit there. You can see some of my photographs from the area, both on this site and in my Samburu set on flickr here. Happy travels to you all!)

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