Left cold rainy Nairobi for close to 9 hr bus trip to Mombasa. Didn't seem that long because there was lots to look at along the way - plus Edwin and I were talking about all sorts of topics ranging from Kenya wildlife service to gay marriage to HIV/aids to Kenya's political situation to Rwanda to Somalian pirates. Really interesting to get the story from someone living it rather that the media.
Naturally I began a debate about the definition of safe as the gentleman I sat next to on the flight who worked for the Ministerie l'environnement et forestry de la republic of Congo spoke to me about how safe the Congo was. Interestingly, he knew nothing of the ranger shootings in Garamba National Park, or maybe it was lost in translation with his basic English skills.
So, this sparked conversation naturally on my bus ride with Edwin, as I asked why Kenya was safe yet he and Sisqo kept telling me not to do certain things like - TAKE A PHOTOGRAPH. When I asked “Why is it ok to take one now?” he said, "because we can get away." I couldn’t take any unless they were from a moving car. Having said that, I always felt safe in Nairobi and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. You have to remember, I visited the largest slum in Nairobi as well as several rural locations and national parks. I guess it’s like all over the world, every country has impoverished or unsafe areas.
After some clarification, Edwin said that safe meant "no pirates." Aaaahhhhhh, ok.
Kenya are doing a lot to clean up their image to the international stage and are frustrated with news stories that focus on only bad news. Close to Somalia, the northern Kenyans are bad but it a few. The rest of Kenya is tarred with the same brush.
I have learnt all about the independence of Kenya in the 60s and the 2007 election which was stolen by the current President Mwai Kibaki. He has been to the international crimes court three times. Final ruling in Dec. If he's thrown out then they will elect the Prime Minister Raila Amollo Odinga to take his place, (he will be voted in next year anyway) the Prime Minister is loved by all. He spent 15 years in jail for being on the good side of human rights’ issues and attempting a coup against the government of that time. Unlike the President who urged two tribes to fight, then sent the police in to kill hundreds of one tribe. That's what the crimes court is prosecuting him for. Funny why he still sits in his office.
When the Prime Minister gets in, he is going to change all the systems and eliminate corruption in the government and the police for good. The police that are bribed have had the same postings for as long as 15 years so they are part of the community. Of course they take bribes and don't dob anyone in. There will be massive positive changes which are already taking place.
Now how does this all relate to wildlife? Example: KWS (Kenyan Wildlife Service) headquarters is located in the edge of the Nairobi National Park. The Park is specifically for orphaned and rescued animals from the wild for rehabilitation. Essentially they look after them until they are able to fend for themselves then they release them to the Park. Unbeknownst to me yesterday, this is the road through the big gates that takes you to the David Sheldrick orphan trust (see previous posts). It's also in the National Park. So! Upon leaving the elephant orphans last night, the 7 wild giraffes that decided to pop up and say hi were residents of the park. The largest one walked past the car twice as we sat in awe of this magnificent animal. They really do strut and swing their behinds so well . They, like elephants travel in families so we would have seen a whole family unit. They varied in size which supports this.
Just an aside, when the British built the railway between Nairobi and Mombasa when they settled here, hundreds of men were eaten by lions. Yum yum.
Soo, moving back to my bus trip….now…the story of the Nairobi National Park. When the animals are well enough, KWS return them to where they found them, or a more suitable park. You can visit KWS and do a safari in the park and apparently it is jam packed with animals.
I may get back to KWS yet on my way through in 2.5 weeks time. I hope so, KWS govern all the wildlife in Kenya. You cannot do much as look at a wild animal and they want to know about it. They recognise that wildlife tourism brings in more revenue by far than anyone else so they are doing a lot to protect it.
So back to the President Mwai Kibaki! He decided to illegally "give" a piece of Nairobi National Park to a community - so they sliced off a piece and built residential housing. It was a real blow to KWS and the government. In rides knight in shining armour- the Prime Minister- and has declared that the moment the President gets shown the parliamentary exit from office, they are removing the residents and demolishing the housing. I am loving this guy. Just in the news tonight they were demolishing illegal housing somewhere else in Kenya. Big news.
Wikipedia entry 23/11/11
So watch the Kenyan space. Once Raila Amollo Odinga gets into complete power, it will reform the whole of Kenya; politically, economically, infrastructure, health, etc. Currently, KWS pride themselves in their strict security systems at the airport and seize almost all ivory, horns, skins and meat on its way to China and the Far East.If something gets through, it has to be an individual Police Officer that lets it through. Odinga plan is a new police force - retrained, screened, vetted and higher penalties resulting in zero animal products being exported.
Kenyans really do care about their wildlife and taking these measures including expanding parks everywhere. You cannot ride an elephant here, you cannot conduct breeding programs unless you are KWS and animals cannot be privately owned. All wildlife on a privately owned game reserve fall under KWS. Keep up the good work Kenya!!!!