Words from Kenya

Trouble in Northern Kenya

Northern Kenya was always regarded as being more trouble than it was worth but now that oil, water and logistics are making the north more valuable, will administrative attitudes change? During the colonial period northern Kenya was closed off and mostly left to fend for itself. It seems that for the limited value the harsh arid land had to offer, it wasn’t worth the effort to subdue the natives. This attitude doesn’t appear to have changed all that much since independence, and consequently development in the north has lagged significantly behind the rest of the country. However, despite the unpromising environment, the rate of population increase has been dramatic, both in northern ... Continue Reading

Solar Eclipse 2013 at Allia Bay on Lake Turkana

It’s no use pretending otherwise, the eclipse was a terrible disappointment. Everybody gathered at Allia Bay had invested a lot of time, effort, and in many cases a large amount of money, to be in the right place at the right time to see the full solar eclipse or (as I now know to call it) totality. None of us did. A sandstorm, on the leading edge of a lot of cloud and wind but very little rain, swept across the flat volcanic land. It swept across all of us peering skyward in Allia Bay and then it swept out over Lake Turkana and it swept across the sun only minutes after it first met the moon. Just before totality there was a small break in the clouds, but not over the eager (desperate ... Continue Reading

The man who ran down and caught a cheetah.

This story gets to the very heart of human wildlife conflict in northern Kenya. Here in the north people live in wild areas, and many of us would like the wildlife to stay living in these areas too, but what happens when wildlife destroy a man's livelihood? In most cases the man simply kills the offending wildlife, and in these remote places nobody is any the wiser. But this man did something amazing, he brought the cheetah in alive. Yet the government, who owns and prohibits harm to all wild animals, will not compensate him for the loss of his livestock. So why should he, or anyone else, bother to take the very great risk of bringing such an animal in alive again? The people involved in ... Continue Reading


It’s been two months since the fighting that left many dead in Moyale, there has been little news from the town since and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the problems had been solved and that people had moved on with their lives. Sadly that is not how things are. In my last visit there, a few weeks ago, the town was trouble free but the tension was all too obvious even to an outsider like me. Moyale has a lot in common with Isiolo. A small pastoralist town (though Isiolo is not so small any more) inhabited by many different tribes. They are also both border towns, which adds a certain frisson as they are transit points and the location of businesses that connect different areas and ... Continue Reading

Samburu, Security and a Solar Eclipse

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 ... Continue Reading