Words from Kenya

The Great North Road – A trip through the wild splendour of northern Kenya.

The 'great north road', also known (less romantically) as the A2, links Nairobi, and the rest of East Africa, with Ethiopia. It does so by traversing some of the most dramatic and inhospitable parts of the northern half of Kenya. The 507kms between Isiolo and Moyale take you through the Kaisuit Desert, over 1500m of volcanic mountain (topped by thick forest) and on through the Dida Galgalu Desert and the Shinil Plains, before climbing again into the low hills around Moyale, where the road passes into Ethiopia. When I first travelled this road you considered things were going well if you made the trip from Isiolo to Moyale in 2 days. The rough corrugated dirt road, strewn with either rocks ... Continue Reading

An uneasy silence has settled over the village as we wait to see if the election will bring peace or chaos.

In the village on the border of Isiolo and Laikipia counties the last two weeks have been relatively quiet. With just a few minor livestock raids in the area and whole days without the sound of gunfire, by the standards everybody has become used to, this has been a peaceful time. It is a blessed relief to be able to walk a short way beyond the homesteads without searching the bushes constantly to see if a gun is trained on you. To even step outside at night, almost casually. The days are getting harder in other ways, the water is gone, people are trekking just to get something muddy and stinking, but better than nothing. Hunger is creeping in as well. The livestock is too skinny to ... Continue Reading

Brazen and deadly: Today’s livestock raiders are often acting with extensive support and powerful backing.

This morning's livestock raid in Burat, Isiolo County, was unusually brazen and ambitions. At around 7am a group of men attacked bomas at the western end of the hills that make the fine backdrop to Isiolo town. Reports suggest that there may have been as many as 100 involved in the raid and subsequent ambushes. Over 200 head of cattle were taken. Certainly they needed both a significant number of well armed men, and a great deal of confidence, to pull off such a large scale raid in broad daylight. Especially one so close to Isiolo town and all the security forces located there. Normally raids are undertaken at night, often around midnight, giving the raiders plenty of time (under the ... Continue Reading

Could community buyouts help deal with the land problem in Laikipia?

In an in-depth article for The Elephant I discuss whether the kind of community buyouts that have helped to deal with a history of land injustice in Scotland could work in Laikipia and elsewhere in northern Kenya. https://www.theelephant.info/dispatches/2017/05/18/land-reform-could-the-scottish-model-work-in-kenyas-northern-rangelands/ ... Continue Reading

Focusing on the violent attacks against white ranchers in Kenya is a dangerous mistake

The shooting of Kuki Gallman was a terrible thing and it made international news. It was not terrible because she is white, or Italian (though now a Kenyan citizen) or because she is famous (Kim Basinger played her in the movie) or because she is rich (I don't actually know if she is but it certainly appears that way). It's not even terrible because she has made an important contribution to wildlife conservation in Kenya. It's terrible because it was a violent crime and all violent crime is terrible. Since the ranch invasions in Laikipia made the headlines many people have voiced the opinion that the violence is in some way understandable, or even justified, because “colonial white ... Continue Reading