Words from Kenya


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

Turkana Oil Protests

Poverty and inequity make oil protests inevitable in Turkana, unless both government and oil companies take great care to support local communities in the early stages of exploration and extraction. Putting aside for a moment all other issues, legitimate or otherwise, that surround oil exploration in Turkana there is a fundamental problem that has not been sufficiently addressed. That problem is a perception of inequality arising from extreme poverty and marginalisation and, in the broadest sense, from a lack of cultural understanding. The Turkana people who live in the exploration areas are mostly pastoralists, and extremely poor. Most live in crude houses made of sticks, grass and ... Continue Reading

Cancer in the Chalbi Desert

There has been some long overdue publicity recently about the abnormally high levels of cancer in the Chalbi Desert area of northern Kenya (see this Standard article and this KTN video). There is some evidence to suggest that the high rates of cancer may be linked to toxins in the water. Many people believe that there is a connection between the oil exploration that occurred in the area in the 1980s and the contaminated water sources. It seems important that this should be investigated more thoroughly, both to aid the people who currently live in the Chalbi Desert and also for future generations here and in other parts of northern Kenya where oil is being discovered. How will we know, for ... Continue Reading

The Flamboyant Tree

Outside my house is a Flamboyant tree. It is aptly named. Once a year, near the end of the long six months dry season, when everything, including itself, is just bare gray brown twigs and sticks, it burst into flower. This huge tree, without a single leaf, buds and in the space of a few days is draped with large red flowers. They cover every branch like a heavy red snowfall. No other plants appear even to be alive at this time, in the last week or two of the deepest dryness before the rains. Consequently this tree’s overabundance of flowers becomes a magnet for insects from miles around. During the day it vibrates with wasps and flies of every description but mostly with African honey ... Continue Reading