Gwaza Mthini(Amarula festival)
The Amarula festival
is on its way and the air around is full of the Amarula spirit. Party with a
reason has been a theme of the ultimate walk for humanity and this time we
focus on the orphans.In partnership with CCSR of Ernesto Chaukwe, Marracuene
Lodge of Neves Joaos and friends of Marracuene. We have a list of artists who
will be using their native talents to support and raise awareness while
creating publicity and encouraging more conversations on the role of orphans in
our society, while at the same time focusing on the vulnerable members of our
human family.For more info on the Amarula festival please visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/298760796842459/.
We are also hoping to launch The Divorce with a read from the Author, who has been
walking for the preservation of the unique self, the native values of our
individual being and the general society. The Divorce emphasizes on how to get
to your special purpose, what the engraved designs of your finger print means
and your ultimate walk for humanity.
The Divorce gives an account of the events that
lead us to be who we really are meant to be. The small little details, which chronicle
our special journeys as spiritual beings of creation, knowing that there is no
mistake in life, but lessons to be learnt. The Spirit that the Divorces opens in
us, is of marriage and partnership to our unique purposes and goals in the
being that we are today. It supports us to define our own borders, their reasons
and the results that they bring to our human nature and the spirit accompanying
that human kind and its Noble ultimate contribution towards a civilized
humanity. For info about The Divorce visit http://theultimatewalk.blogspot.com/ and
A Diary of a journey by a native soul in Africa on foot.The Divorce is a tool that will guide us to our eventual marriage to the self.
It will awaken you, to your journey´s ultimate unique purpose of your ancestral calling.
It will walk with you through those hidden corners of your journey.
It will inspire that hidden positive side of your Native existence, enabling you to
make decisions that have clarity of your vision. Tuning you back to the power of Intuition and instincts.
The book is about all of us and our many journey´s that we have traveled together
without noticing that uniting intention and destiny. This is a gift to all that have been
supportive and partnered in our Ultimate walk for humanity. Back to the native self being.
Killed for protecting their land from miningOn
June 5th, World Environment Day, Peruvian security forces killed at
least two dozen indigenous people protesting to protect their lands
around Bagua in the Peruvian Amazon. In the violence, nine policemen
perished as well. The protesters were opposing the Peruvian
government's opening of the region to oil and gas drilling and mining
-- supposedly conditions of the Peru-US trade agreement.
Land will continue to be an issue and cause of conflict as long as we continue owning it according to imaginary money value which denies the natives usage of their ancestral inheritance, rendering them poor and beggars in their own land.
Overthe past three weeks, Kenyan government forces have launched a seriesof ongoing assaults on the indigenous Samburu people in the remotenorthern region of the country, using helicopter gunships and armedground forces to attack several villages. The police, claiming to beafter cattle bandits, strafed unarmed villagers from the air and usedclubs to beat villagers on the ground. The attacks have so fardisplaced more than 2,000 Samburu and government forces confiscated allthe communities’ cattle, leaving them with no food source. According toRaphael Letimelo, member of parliament for the Samburu district, theassaults are not finished yet. “There have been reports and threats ofpossible mass executions and removal from of indigenous people fromtheir traditional homelands throughout the Samburu District in the nextfew weeks,” he said. On March 5, unidentified assailants in Nairobiexecuted two prominent Kenyan human rights activists who planned topublicize the situation in Samburu District.
“Atfirst, the community thought the police were here to help us and ranout to greet them,” said Sammy Lepurdati, one of the villagers presentduring the attacks. “When they initially started shooting, everyonetried to convince them they were making a mistake, but instead thepolice kept circling the bomas in helicopters, firing deliberately atinnocent people. It was a nightmare. People were screaming, running inevery direction. Those who survived fled to the bush and nearbymountains.” The Samburu, who are cattle-herding people closely relatedto the Maasai, shocked by these unannounced attacks. The number of deadis not yet known because police are preventing outsiders from enteringthe area.Helicopters drop soldiers near a village after shootingvillagers
The government claims it was trying to flush outbandits and seize illegal guns used in cattle raids that are common inthe area. But the particular cattle raid that prompted this series ofattacks appears to have been staged. It was ostensibly committed bySomalis trying to reclaim cattle taken by the Samburu earlier. But thenature of the raid is atypical of Somalis, and the cattle in questionwere documented animals that had been donated to the villages bynonprofit organizations in the wake of the devastating drought of 2006.The government’s instantaneous and substantial response in such aremote area also calls the claimed motivation into question.
Themore likely motive for the attacks appears to be a desire to clear outindigenous tribes to make way for burgeoning development in the area.The Chinese are funding a major highway through the area to allowtransport of oil from their fields in Ethiopia to Kenya’s ports, andthey have dramatically increasing trade with Kenya to $1 billion ayear. Profits from poaching also may be involved. In the three weekssince the attacks, 57 elephants have been poached in the area (greaterthan the number taken in the country as a whole over the 12 months of2007). China is the top market for illegal ivory, and the kickbacksfrom that trade may be prompting some Kenyan government officials toremove local environmental control. The Samburu maintain severalwildlife conservancies in the area, and part of the police actionincluded shutting all of them down and confiscating all communicationsequipment and anti-poaching gear.
RosemaryLekali from Save the Children urged public government officials tointervene. “The Samburu are certain to perish from dehydration andstarvation in the absence of their livestock,” she said.“Cattle notonly represent their most important food reserve, but it is also theirprimary livelihood and currency. When a parent wishes to send a childto school, the bursary or tuition is paid with the sale of cattle. Whena family member has to be hospitalized, a cow is sold. These livestockprovide cultural and traditional ceremonial purposes as well, whichKenya should embrace and preserve as part of its cultural heritage.”
“Manyof us,” says Letimelo, “feel as if the police are treating our districtas a foreign country they are invading, not as their own northerndistrict and citizens, which they are assigned to protect.”
Emergency Response Fund
FINAL THE AFRICAN LAND WILL BE RESOLVEDIt is imperative that we deal with landlessness and land wars. This comes about because land has been transformed into an item of speculation and profit. Members of our communities have to pay fortunes to acquire it. Some in other places did not have any idea of how to put it into use. For majority, mostly the African person, it is too expensive buy.
This is the same land that God gave us to use, as a common heritage.
The Question is:
Why must it be an item of commerce and profit? Where do temptations come from? Who is tempted and what causes them? Is the land acquired put to productive use and to whose standards of good? Should foreigners own land in Africa (ownership)? And who are the custodians of the African land?
I believe that, if we can think as Africans, and not puppets of travelers, the answers to all these questions will come easily.
1. The land encompassed by the indigenous people of Africa or equivalent African tribes.
2. For custody and administrative responsibility and purposes only, the African land shall be vested in the executive in partnership with tribal chiefs. The chief who in his capacity is the representative to safeguard custody of such tribal African land, on behalf of the native people.
3. This custody represents entrusted safe keeping of this asset for the indigenous people of Africa as their sovereign common asset for common use, as opposed to private ownership and exploitation.
4. All African citizens should have unrestricted access to land, whether in the urban areas of in the countryside. After all it´s their land. This should be their unalienable right as native citizens of the continent.
5. Access and supervision to the land in the urban areas shall be the responsibility of the local authorities, whose responsibility will be to vet the need and use of such land; while that in the rural areas shall be vested in the traditional rulers for it´s management for development.
6. Lands shall not be merchandise or perceived as a commodity for sale, but will be available for utilization and exploitation;
7. The African (tribal) territory shall never be the subject of international commercialization. This should preclude or exclude land speculation by both local and foreign agents. No position of the African territory should be set aside for sell; this is predicated upon the principle of continuity, sustainability and preservation of it for prosperity;
8. There shall be clear demarcation, by zones or tribes of all land in Africa in categories as will be delineated on the basis of social, cultural and economic utilization desirability within the urban and rural areas. This demarcation shall be achieved through a comprehensive land assessment survey, based on the utility endowment. Such comprehensive survey to result into ascertaining economic advantage and comparative utility value;
9. African Citizens shall reserve free access to land upon clear demonstration of developmental need by the production of clear project proposal(domestic, commercial or industrial). This principle to apply both in the urban as well as the rural areas.
10. Land shall not be sold to any citizen by any authority, including traditional rulers for whatever purpose or use. And no individual, indigenous or foreign, can sell land, because their will be none on the market. This is both in the urban and rural areas. But land for commercial or business enterprise shall attract a fee to be determined by the authorities in each area.
11. No land can be sold for home ownership or household purposes. The guarding principle here is that land already belongs to the Citizens. The only fee payable shall be payment for administrative as well as service provision purposes.
12. No portion of land shall be accessed by anyone which does not fall within the jurisdiction authority or the established local master plan.
13. Because of the joint ownership of land by the people of Africa (tribes), access to land under a title deed shall fall away. This is to be replaced by a user document. An individual can not claim ownership of property which is already jointly owned by the rest of the citizens for joint usage. This shall a s , a land user permit , will apply to both local and foreign land users. For foreigner be a land user permit , with a land fee, shall be for a renewable period of 25years. Any foreigner on a land user permit shall surrender such land upon cessation of business.
14. That the 99-year land title deed to be scrapped and replaced by the 25yrs lease, in order to arrest extravagance, land abuse, misuse and a check on absentee land lords.
The overriding obligation in the proposed new African land management policy shall be to prescribe land allocation against utility demand in order to ensure and establish the specific and intended use of such land. This condition should be the only paramount consideration to guide it´s alienation.
Today individuals have custody of expansive tracts of land with no immediate utility or project idea. While others hold land for resale at exorbitant and opportunistic prices. This is tantamount to selling land to the owner. Surely the principle of willing buyer, willing seller cannot work. How can one buy what is already his? Unless someone can tell me that Africans do not own African land.
15. No foreigner shall own any part of African land. They have no earthly reason to do so. The global village does not mean that Africans have to give up their ownership to their God given land to allow any tom, bush, and brown to help themselves to it. Yes, non Africans are free to access and use it at a 25yrs lease. By this formula everybody gets to benefit with adequate security of tenure. Conditions for land utilization should be equal to all, local or foreigner. But ownership if for Africans and not at all foreigners.
16. Under no circumstances should the African governments and administrations allow itself or representatives to engage foreigners (non Africans) to be involved in land discussions. African land can never be on their agenda. It is solely a matter for themselves. It foreign assistance is to be sought this will be acknowledged but resigned upon our request.
17. Land subtended by traditional rulers to receive the same treatment, except that negotiations to access land there shall be conducted directly with the traditional rulers. Any business enterprise shall attract both a user fee and royalty to the chiefdom. This will awaken the slumbering countryside into a vibrant economic land of opportunity.
18. Land enter into the equation of production to achieve this, all applicants for land must show cause as to why they need that land. This shall be demonstrated by mandatory submission or production of development plans. Every piece of land acquired must have a production activity on it. If you are interested in national development you have to start thinking development. African land has been idle for too long.
African people cannot go to Europe, Asia or the Americas and start speculating on land. Yes you will be allowed to own property, which you can sell upon your departure and recover you cannot own land. Why should we deny our grandchildren the opportunity to land usage and preserve it for them?
This proposal aims at making Africans understand their responsibility to land. They must understand that it is their only inheritance. If we can understand this, we alone can decide how we shall use and preserve it. What about our prosperity? Don´t they matter to us anymore? All we need to agree that corruption and unrealistic land policies must be killed. This can be dealt with by elimination of land speculation.
We must remove the cost of land by making it easily accessible to anyone, local or foreign. The only cost is for one to demonstrate why they need it, present a plan document and pay fees.
The principle of utility value of land needs to be embraced. In order for this continent (communities)to grow economically and socially, land must be transformed into a production tool. This is not the case at the moment. In china and India there is no idle land. How do they feed all those billions of people if it were not for land? Africans have become lazy and lavish on handouts, which is also supported by the governments.
The policy and the government and leaders should be at the fore front of its end.
Evict Samburu? over my dead body- KaparoBy TIMES TEAM
AN emotionally charged Speaker of the National Assembly Francis Ole Kaparo yesterday led over 500 demonstrators and declared he was ready to pay with his blood, if the government does not rescind the order to evict Samburus from Rumuruti division of Laikipia district.
And yesterday former President Moi stepped in the eviction row and appealed to his successor President Kibaki to appoint an eminent and impartial person to give the president a factual report on the situation on the ground.
The area has been characterized by heightened tension following a quit order issued eight days ago by Internal Security minister John Michuki to pastoralist communities.
The evictions which started last Sunday and were supervised by District Commissioner Arthur Mugira, involved regular and administration police as well as the Anti-Stock Theft Unit personnel who went round setting ablaze the makeshift structures the herders called home.
The week-long operation has seen hundreds of families spending nights in the cold as the administration officials drove them out of Suguroi, Simba, Mutara, Maundu-ni-Meri, Thome and other areas of Rumuruti division.
And reacting to what he termed inhuman treatment of Kenyans, a tearful Kaparo said he had not taken part in a demonstration before, but was ready to fight to the last drop of his blood, adding that the Samburu could not be dictated by a government or a minister.
Yesterday´s demonstrations were ignited by the ongoing pressure to have Samburu leave Rumuruti division and the Saturday incident where a former Army Commander General James Lenges escaped death narrowly after being shot allegedly by police in controversial circumstances.
Eldoret North MP William Ruto, former Samburu West MP and a brother to former army General, Mr Peter Lenges and a Nakuru Lawyer Juma Kiplenge were among those who participated in the demo.
Ruto wondered under which law, a self-respecting government could torch the houses of hundreds of her own citizens and render them homeless. The ODM-K presidential candidate wondered how a government drawing legitimacy from the people who had elected it could put her people under siege and reduce them to second class citizens.
Ruto further demanded how whole communities could be told to move and be turned into refugees in their own country by their own government, terming the eviction move unacceptable.
Said Kaparo: "We are not going to obey the order to leave Laikipia. The order is illegal and the government should be prepared to expand police cells in Laikipia", he said daring the government to arrest the Samburus for defying the eviction order.
Former President Moi called for investigations to unearth the root cause of ongoing bloodletting and general insecurity in parts of Laikipia and Samburu districts adding that the real security problems in the two districts should never be ignored.
Mzee Moi noted that the continual harassment of retired General James Lenges might be perceived as outside the process of maintaining law and order.
Mr Moi who made the remarks through his press secretary Lee Njiru said Gen Lenges was not only retired army commander but also a highly respected community elder. There has been a wave of violence between the Pokots and the Samburus in Laikipia district which has over the past five months claimed 50 lives and left scores of others injured. The herders, estimated to at between 1, 500 and 2,000, had come to Rumuruti to look for pasture due to drought in Baringo, Samburu and West Pokot districts. Many were also fleeing from hostilities in Baringo and the fighting between the Pokot and Samburu which has been going on since last year.
Samburu West MP Simeon Lesrima described the government´s forced eviction as strange. "There are over 10,000 people who have bought or leased land from individuals and land buying companies in Laikipia district", he said "These people have title deeds or have lease agreements to show they should be there.
"The government is aware of this the minister is also aware of this. Why then has he gone a head to deploy armed police and other security agents to get rid of these people from Laikipia?. It is unfair, illegal and inhuman. These people are not aliens; they are Kenyans.
He says the situation had been politicised, and that the indiscriminate evictions were politically motivated.
THE UNITED NATIONS: A SANTUARY FOR HYPOCRITES & PARASITESby Miyere ole Miyandazi & Ngunyi Wambugu
Recently the United Nations (U.N.) has been under the spot and in all fairness it has been utterly disappointing. Nonetheless, it has to be argued that the spotlight has helped expose the real agendas behind the organization or lack of them.
Looking at the Wikipedia, the background behind the formation of the U.N. is an antithesis of how it currently operates. It is stated that the UN is an international organization that aims at facilitating co-operation in international law, international security, economic development, and social equity. This is an organization that was founded in 1945 after the end of the 2nd World War by the victorious allied powers. This was in the hope that that it would act to prevent and intervene in conflicts between nations and limit the possibility of future wars. Its structures still reflect the circumstances of its founding, with the five permamnent members of the U.N. Security Council with veto power, being the main victors of World War II or their successors: People´s Republic of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the Unites States of America. However, an organization that was formed with the aim of unifying nations and aiding in arbitration during times of crisis has metamorphosised into a vehicle of parasitism and has become a flag bearer for the agendas of the "powerful nations" under its umbrella.
Rwanda brings to mind a time when the U.N. abdicated its responsibility and left the Rwandans to suffer under the scepter of genocide. The U.N. conveniently argued that Rwanda was a sovereign state and as such had to deal with its own problem. What a load of bullocks! This is the same U.N. that partnered NATO during the Serbian massacres in the Bosnia-Herzegovina crisis in a bid to ameliorate that volatile situation? Was it a subtle statement stating the inferiority of Blacks in the broader U.N. agenda?
The same can be said of the DRC where pockets of rebels and guerillas continue to spread their terror, inhibiting peace initiatives. And not to forget Uganda where the Lord´s Resistance Army has continued its rape and plunder campaign to the detriment of progress in Northern Uganda. All this while the U.N. has been sitting and watching. And looking at the Middle East one wonders whose interest this body represents?
We believe that in order for peace to genuinely be upheld the individual should be involved and not be blinded by the existence of the U.N., which only has one goal. To control and dictate whilst camouflaging its abuse of the mandate given to it by its members. We need to open up our eyes and realize that we have many other ways of tackling our problems.
Looking towards the U.N. for redemption only makes us relax and stop thinking of the other numerous alternatives at our disposal. It has never had the interest of Africa at heart, although it has managed to accommodate the interest of our selfish leaders, offering them high perks as payments to the detriment of the denizens of their respective nations.
Instead of addressing pressing issues that besiege most of its member states such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic, matters of poverty alleviation, and advocating for generic medication to be ratified for African companies, the U.N. has allowed itself to become a vessel of spreading propaganda and pushing agendas that benefit mostly the U.K. and to a greater extent, the U.S.A.
To hell with the U.N. Africa arise and find your own solutions. Africa you need to realize that the rest of the world seeks to live off you. The rest of the world does not want to see you emancipated, for to do so is to render them hungry and destitute. We are the hosts and they the parasites. Unless we forge new avenues of combating the problems visited upon through histories of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism, we shall forever be consigned to the pits of drudgery and squalor.
NO BORDERS - Exhibition
The NO BORDERS exhibition is an endeavor to dismantle the everyday boundaries that besiege our lived realities and restrict our individual freedoms.
It is an effort to express the elementary basics of life namely water, earth and fire, which in themselves are "un-bordered" and accessible to all and sundry, albeit in varying degrees.
It is a pity that even access to some of these elements, more so earth, have over time being restrict to a selected privileged few, and the worry is that this is bound to expand to other spheres of our lived necessary existence.
NO BORDERS seeks to highlight the BORDERS that the "modern" world has imposed on our progeny and the masses at large, especially the voiceless and downtrodden people.
Present day society is under a scepter of control facilitated through the mass media, suspect governments and other paraphernalia that threaten to alienate us from our fellow human beings, confining us to our four walled realities.
A host of negative "phenomena" knows NO BORDERS. The HIV/Aids pandemic, for example, has NO BORDERS in its speedy quest to annihilate humankind. Polluters have NO BORDERS in their capitalist greed to the detriment of our precious Ozone Layer. Indeed, environmental degradation is governed by NO BORDERS, leading to acres of wastelands across the globe. Yet, we coil up within our constructed BORDERED realities, seemingly hoping that all these problems will sort themselves out, or just pass away, naïve of the grim futures we are quietly accepting for the next generations and us.
NO BORDERS is a journey to the cognitive mental borders that have culled our freedom to think critically. It is a clarion call to humankind to re-waken and garner for emancipation from our "cultural and ethnic prisons". It is a cry for reclaiming voices of the exploited and marginalized members of our society. It is the raising of a new flag, for a new space…with NO BORDERS.
In this exhibition, we shall have artists performing, a thematic photo exhibition and also various organizations will actively engage in educative discussions with the public on their NO BORDER cause.
A Maasai market will also be on site for those who would like to acquire art and craft from across BORDERS.
We invite environmental organizations, human rights organizations and spiritual organizations, which have NO BORDERS in their work and mirror similar ideals to ours.
It is through unity that problems will be solved…commencing by the defenestrating of all BORDERS.
To the Maasai it's the place where the land runs on forever, but beyond the protected core of this iconic landscape, the land is running out.
The Maasai people of East Africa, who have always gone their own way, do not count the years as others do. For them each 12-month span contains two years—a year of plenty, olaari, coinciding with the rainy season on the immense Serengeti Plain and Crater Highlands of Tanzania, followed by a year of hunger, olameyu, commencing when the rains cease, the streams run dry, and the great wildebeest migration, more than a million strong, thunders off toward the north in search of food and water. Then the Serengeti grass turns the color of toast and crackles underfoot, and the Maasai herd boys and warriors embark on long, loping marathons to find sustenance for their beloved cattle, which remain the measure of wealth and well-being in this pastoral society.
The year of hunger was several weeks old by mid-July, when the clouds tumbled and split over Ngorongoro Crater, illuminating a drama already in progress on the crater floor.
There in the yellow light a pride of lions padded up out of a streambed, intent on a herd of grazing zebras; a lone hyena, big shouldered and narrow hipped, maneuvered among skittish warthogs; and a pair of cheetahs sat alert in tall grass, almost invisible as they scrutinized a hundred Thomson´s gazelles with professional interest. Sharp-eyed vultures surveyed the morning from above, wheeling through white salt clouds whipped up from Lake Magadi.
The night belonged to the animals, but morning brought people down into the crater—Maasai to water and browse their hundreds of cattle, biologists to study the rhythms of life among elephants and lions, tourists to ogle the Maasai herders and the varied wildlife for which this part of East Africa is justifiably famous. People, wildlife, and livestock all converged here on a typical day, living in a workable—but inevitably wary—coexistence.
The first cattle appeared about eight o´clock, inching in single file down the steep, narrow track to the crater floor, urged along by a Maasai warrior named Moma, who would walk for 12 hours with his herd on this long day. A red cumulus of dust marked Moma´s progress down the escarpment trail; he made a melody of clanging cowbells, singing, and urgent whistling, which grew louder as he trudged into view, first to arrive on the crater floor. Like most Maasai, he was lean from a meager diet and much walking, and he looked like a biblical prophet in his dusty sandals and red toga, which billowed and flapped in the cold wind. He carried a long spear in one hand as he whistled his herd of 80 down to the spring, left them guzzling there, and strode over to take his measure of the pasty looking tourists who had just arrived in the crater, the first of hundreds who would spend the day there.
They brandished cameras when they saw Moma, who struck a proud pose with his spear, his plaited hair bright with beads and bars of aluminum that caught the sun, his earrings dangling from pendulous lobes, his skin smeared bright with animal fat.
"Man," cried a distinctly American voice behind one of the cameras, "this looks just like a National Geographic picture!" Moma stepped over to view his own image on the camera screen and to relieve his portraitist of a thousand Tanzanian shillings (about a dollar). He collected similar sums from two other tourists.
"What would you do if a lion attacked your cows?" someone asked.
"I would put this spear right in him!" Moma declared, banging his weapon on the ground to emphasize the heartfelt sentiment. Maasai have never been hunters, but they are fierce in their defense of the herd, and they kill a lion or two when circumstances require it.
Moma stuffed the shilling notes deep inside his robe and, morning rounds accomplished, reentered the world of his ancestors: a gaunt figure guiding his herd through another dry winter in a land haunted by lions and hunger. The khaki-clad tourists, meanwhile, popped open the top hatches of their Land Rovers, emerged from the roofs like tank commanders, and rumbled off in a haze of diesel fumes to hunt for other exotic sights.
They would find the wildlife thriving on their safari, much as it does elsewhere in the heart of Serengeti National Park and its companion Ngorongoro Conservation Area, contiguous protected regions comprising more than 8,000 square miles (21,000 square kilometers) of rolling grassland, acacia woodlands, and mist-draped volcanic highlands in northern Tanzania. This area sustains the largest community of migrating ungulates in the world, as well as its greatest concentrations of large predators.
Surveys show the wildebeest population at about 1.2 million, a recent high number for this keystone antelope species, which annually renews the Serengeti´s pastures with its massive grazing, trampling, and droppings; the shaggy wildebeest also provides ready prey for lions, hyenas, and other predators. Healthy populations of zebras, numbering more than 200,000, hold steady throughout the region; elephants, which virtually vanished during the ivory-poaching days of the late 1980s, have bounced back, now totaling more than 2,000; black rhinos are stable; lions are on the upswing, numbering 3,500, despite earlier setbacks from disease; populations of impalas, topi, eland, gazelles, giraffes, and Cape buffalo are at healthy levels and rising. The only animals in decline seem to be the wild dog and the warthog. On a continent where much of the wildlife has been wiped out, the picture remains generally favorable in the protected areas.
"The Serengeti itself is in good health," said Christiane Schelten, a program officer with the Frankfurt Zoological Society, which advises the Tanzanian government on conservation. "It´s intact, and it seems to be working."
It would be nice to end the story on that note, but the narrative becomes less hopeful when one exits the parks to explore the larger Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, where the future of the region´s wildlife and people is being written. This larger area, defined by the annual wanderings of the wildebeest herd, wraps around the Serengeti, sprawling over some 10,400 square miles (26,900 square kilometers)of Tanzania and southwestern Kenya, from the Crater Highlands and Great Rift Valley in the east, across the grassy plains and woodlands of the Serengeti interior, westward down a narrow corridor of hills and scattered woodlands leading to Lake Victoria, and finally northward across the Kenya border to the Masai Mara National Reserve, a small but critical haven where migrating animals find plentiful forage and water in the dry season.
Once sparsely settled and hospitable to the Serengeti´s wildlife, the ecosystem has shrunk to half its former size, eroded in the 20th century by booming human populations in Tanzania and Kenya. In Tanzania, where the numbers have tripled to more than 36 million since the country won its independence in the early 1960s, Serengeti and Ngorongoro have become islands of wilderness washed by a rising sea of humanity, with people pressing right up against the patchwork of game reserves and conserva- tion areas that buffer the protected core. Land is at a premium in this poor country of farmers, where less than 5 percent of the earth is cultivated and a quarter of the land is reserved for parks. Almost 40 percent of the populace lives below the poverty line.
Day and night, people steal into Serengeti to poach wood for building and cooking and to hunt resident and migratory wildlife in increasing numbers. Their proximity to the park brings native Tanzanians into constant conflict with wildlife.
"You see more farms, more livestock, more cotton and rice cultivation moving toward the park each year," said Justin Hando, chief warden for Serengeti National Park. "People who used to live 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the park now live five or six kilometers (three or four miles) away—so it´s much easier for them to engage in illegal activity. The animals from the park try to do what they have always done—they cross back and forth over the boundaries. The difference now is that the free movement of animals is no longer possible," said Hando. "They have more interaction with people."
That interaction is not always heartening. During several weeks of exploring the Serengeti and Ngorongoro region, I confirmed many reports of human-wildlife conflict—an elephant stomping and killing a villager armed with a bow and arrow in Robanda; black rhinos bolting in Ngorongoro Crater, where tourists in cars had approached too fast and too close, sending the animals fleeing; poachers setting out hundreds of wire snares on the park´s western borders in hope of snagging a wildebeest, a zebra, or some other protein-rich ungulate for the table or for the lucrative traffic in wild meat. The illegal bush-meat trade, a rising threat in almost all of Africa´s protected areas, annually feeds an estimated one million people in northern Tanzania alone.
The wire snare—preferred by poachers because it is a cheap and silent method of taking game—is also indiscriminate, grabbing any passing animal unlucky enough to step into a noose secured to a tree. This method recently hooked a Serengeti giraffe around the leg, a lioness around the neck, and a wildebeest by the horns. Another lion, snared in the western corridor outside the park, wrestled himself free of his wire noose, cutting off his hind leg in the process; he has been seen galumphing through the bush on three legs, a sturdy survivor who dominates his territory.
Twenty years ago, when the pressures of population were less, few Serengeti scientists worried unduly about poaching. "It would not be correct to call killing an antelope or zebra or wildebeest to feed one´s family meat poaching," said Markus Borner, the Frankfurt Zoological Society´s top scientist in the region, interviewed for a National Geographic article in 1986. Now, however, with the market for wild meat flourishing in Africa, villagers around the park can make more money by hunting in the Serengeti than they can by almost any other activity, so the annual harvest of animals in the ecosystem has risen dramatically in recent years. Because hunting is illegal, precise figures are hard to come by. Estimates of the poaching toll range from a low of 40,000 animals a year to a high of 200,000, most of them wildebeests. Such a harvest cannot be sustained at the higher figure without causing fundamental damage to the ecosystem.
"You can only remove so many nuts out of an airplane before it falls out of the sky and crashes," said Rian Labuschagne, managing director of the Grumeti Reserves, an enterprise that recently leased almost 280,000 acres (110,000 hectares) of hunting concessions in the western Serengeti to restore the beleaguered ecosystem from the outside in.
Bankrolled by Paul Tudor Jones, a futures trader and visionary American conservationist, the Grumeti Reserves project has already invested at least 20 million dollars in Tanzania to conserve vital migratory habitat in the western corridor; to crack down on illegal hunting by indigenous Africans; and to help struggling villages outside the park by building schools, drilling new wells, providing scholarships, creating tourist jobs, and training farmers in beekeeping and aquaculture—all aimed at weaning citizens away from poaching.
How to pay for this ambitious scheme? Easy: You build one of the world´s most exclusive safari lodges on a bluff overlooking the sweeping Sabora Plains, fill the lodge with Victorian antiques and millionaires, charge the high rollers $1,500 a night, and collect additional trophy fees when they go out to hunt for lions and buffalo. You coddle guests with a health spa, two tennis courts, a yoga room, a state-of-the-art exercise facility, and gourmet meals by a Cypriot chef. You build an infinity pool on the edge of the bluff, affording a panoramic view for those who like to soak while watching their wildebeests. You make the experience special by banning anyone except paying guests from your private preserve.
After operating costs are covered, any excess from the Grumeti Reserves goes to a subsidiary known as the Grumeti Fund, which will pour its resources into community development and security.
"We dream a bit wide," said Labuschagne, a bluff South African with an unstoppable conversational style that leaves visitors gasping in his wake. We chatted in the welcome shade of a massive acacia on a July morning, as workers put the finishing touches on Sasakwa Lodge. This gleaming 18-bed centerpiece of the Grumeti resort had just received its first guests, which he marks as a turning point for conservation in Tanzania.
"We are taking care of this world-class resource and creating something that will be sustainable for the next hundred years," said Labuschagne, a veteran conservationist who earned his spurs restoring black rhinos in Ngorongoro Crater. "We want to bring the millionaires like Ted Turner in here and squeeze as much money out of them as we can. The more money we squeeze out of them, the more we will put back into the community, so that people in the villages can finally have some money in their pockets. They have to get something out of it too."
It remains to be seen whether the big spending of Paul Tudor Jones, combined with the big ideas of Rian Labuschagne, will succeed in Tanzania. Conservationists are cautiously optimistic that they will.
"All of these transitional zones around the park are supposed to accommodate both people and wildlife," said Christiane Schelten. "So far the buffer zones have worked better on paper than they have in reality." At least some conservationists view the Grumeti scheme as a positive alternative to the failed approaches of the past. "A lot of people think that trophy hunting is a horrible thing," she said. "But as long as it´s sustainable and you have the right quotas in place, it can be a money earner for the local economy, and with no harm to the resource."
Not everyone, however, is enamored with the grand vision laid out by Labuschagne and company. In Robanda, a scruffy but vibrant village of 2,763 just outside the western gates of Serengeti National Park, any mention of the Grumeti scheme provokes a sharp response.
"We are their enemy, and they are our enemy!" said Kenyatta Richard Mosaka, the village vice chairman. Like others in his town, Mosaka views the Grumeti people as meddlesome outsiders who want to move them far away, where Robanda´s fiercely independent Ikoma people will not interfere with the resort´s luxury safaris.
And indeed, this is exactly what Labuschagne would like to do. He supports plans by the Tanzanian government for the Ikoma Wildlife Management Area, which would severely limit hunting, farming, and other human activity in a 96,000-acre (39,000-hectare) wedge surrounding the village.
"Robanda remains the problem," he said. "You´ve got human activity cutting a wedge out of an ecosystem there." He believes that the village has become a hotbed of the bush-meat trade, and there is independent research to support this view. He also asserts that the town is an obstacle to wildebeest migration in the western migratory corridor.
To remove this barrier, Grumeti has offered to lease village lands and relocate Robanda´s citizens. Robandans would retain ownership of their old lands, and they would have a say in management of the new wildlife area—but they could no longer live there. "Their land would become more valuable with time," said Labuschagne.
Mosaka snorts at this suggestion. "They want to ban us from hunting," he said. "They say that our village interrupts the migration of the wildebeests. Why are there more wildebeests now than ever before? They offered to pay us to move. Our village rejected the offer. Now the people here see a white man and they get angry."
The troubles in Robanda have deep origins, dating from the creation of Serengeti National Park in 1951, when Tanganyika, as Tanzania was then known, was still a colony of Britain. The Ikoma people, a Bantu-speaking tribe of hunters, were booted out of the new park so that they would not interfere with its animals. The displaced settlers came to roost a few miles away in Robanda, where they made the transition from hunting to farming, put down roots, and watched their population flourish. "We´ve already been moved once before," said Mosaka. "Nobody is eager to move again."
It is easy to see why. Although Robanda is poor, the village thrums with energy and pride, with barefoot children racing through dusty streets, and women squatting beside braziers, making tea and fried maandazi bread on a Sunday morning. Hawkers tout fresh tomatoes and bananas at open stalls, while a contingent of grease-stained men, muttering like surgeons, gathers under a ficus tree to work on the village tractor—all to the constant, thudding rhythm of muscular women pounding millet with a massive mortar and pestle.
Across the street a cell phone goes off, playing "Jingle Bells," and Kenyatta Mosaka, a gangly man in green shorts and a Statue of Liberty T-shirt, comes drifting into view on his black bicycle. The vice chairman of Robanda stops to greet neighbors and to gossip with patrons at the Millennium Y2K Everything You Need Shop.
"It´s a good place to live," said Mosaka, propped on his bike while soaking up the benign pageant of life swirling around him. Just beneath the surface, though, tensions boil in Robanda Determined to crack Robanda´s willful habits, the Grumeti Reserves has stepped up its anti-poaching patrols in the region. Nobody in Robanda wants to admit to poaching meat or firewood. Asked about these practices, Mosaka said he knew of no such activity—then he smiled sheepishly and jabbed at his arm as if punching a vein. "Of course if you take some of my blood here, you may find evidence of wild meat in my system."
On several occasions, the Grumeti antipoaching patrols have clashed with villagers, who allege that they were beaten and, in one instance, raped—charges that officials from the Grumeti Reserves dismiss. "The charges are absolutely ill-founded and totally untrue," said Brian Harris, supervisor of the antipoaching squad.
"Look," said Labuschagne, "you´ve got to maintain your boundaries in places like this. You´ve got to put the law down." If that does not work, he said, it may be necessary to build fences around the park´s western boundary to separate elephants and other wildlife from growing human settlements.
Fences were unknown to the pastoralists like those who first appeared in Greco-Roman literature around 200 B.C. These free-ranging sub-Saharan people went where they pleased, revered their cattle, subsisted on milk and cow´s blood, and buried their dead "to the accompaniment of laughter," according to those early accounts. By the 18th century the Maasai had established a strong presence in the Great Rift Valley, where they controlled much of the interior and stamped the land with their own descriptive names. Perhaps the most famous of these was the word they chose for the heart of their homeland, siringet, "the place where the land runs on forever." The Serengeti.
Hope must have seemed as boundless as the horizons for Maasai who lived there. They knew no equals, followed the seasons, delighted in fighting, and deferred to no man. Believing themselves to be God´s chosen tribe, entitled to all of the cattle on Earth, they cheerfully raided other tribes to enlarge their own herds, and their reputation for fierceness taught neighbors to give the Maasai a wide berth. Arab slave traders avoided their area, as did the earliest European explorers.
The Maasai remained aloof and self-sufficient until the age of Victoria, when drought, disease, and trouble brought them low. Thousands died from a cholera epidemic in the 1880s, followed by an outbreak of smallpox in 1892. Then a plague of rinderpest, a bovine viral disease, wiped out most of the Maasai´s wealth and nourishment overnight, and civil wars diluted their grip on the region.
Little fight remained in them following World War I, when the British consolidated their grip on Kenya and took control of Tanganyika. On the Serengeti, the British took the first bites out of Maasai holdings in 1929, establishing an 800-acre (323-hectare) game reserve for hunting, which became the basis for Serengeti National Park. Maasai continued to live there until 1959, when repeated conflicts with park authorities over land use led the British to evict them.
"They paid us nothing," said Ole Serupe, the only surviving Maasai elder who was party to discussions with the British. "We were told to move because they wanted to make a place for the wild animals," he said. A frail old man in three blankets and orange tennis shoes, he now lives with his extended family and a contingent of goats in a fly-specked compound outside of Endulen, a Maasai village on the edge of Ngorongoro´s Crater Highlands.
"We refused to move," Ole Serupe said, "because the Serengeti had been the home of our mothers and fathers. Our cattle loved the place. It was a place that even a human could love," he recalled, looking at me through eyes clouded by years in the African sun. "But they made us go. Because I was the senior man among the elders, it was from my hand that they took the Serengeti."
Sitting on a low stool by his hut, Ole Serupe recalled how the British had promised him new land in exchange for the move. "They said we would get a better place to live—one with good water and grass."
The Maasai got nothing of the sort. The British peeled off a 3,000-square-mile (7,800-square-kilometer) parcel to the east of Serengeti National Park and created a new home for the pastoralists in 1959. Designated the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, this reserve encompassed the desolate lands around Olduvai Gorge, the arid plains contiguous to the Serengeti, and a portion of the Crater Highlands, including the Ngorongoro Crater. An experiment in multiple land use, this new territory was to be a refuge for Maasai and their herds, for exceptional wildlife, and for the development of tourism.
Almost 50 years into that experiment, it would appear that wildlife and tourists are thriving in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, but that the Maasai are struggling. Theirs is the old problem—too many people and too few resources, the same hard calculus that has caused so much conflict on the Serengeti´s western borders. Numbers tell the story: The Maasai population has grown fivefold in the conservation area, from around 10,000 in 1954 to more than 50,000 today. At the same time they have less territory, having lost the most fruitful part of their new homeland in 1974, when they were evicted from the crater floor. Constrained by these and other developments, the Maasai face an uncertain future, hemmed in by Serengeti National Park to the west, by Ngorongoro Crater to the east, and by growing communities all around. Because their grazing range is limited, they have been unable to enlarge their herds to match their growing population. The result is that their wealth—still measured in livestock—has evaporated with the years, from an average of more than 26 cattle, goats, and sheep per person in 1960, to five for each Maasai today. They are forbidden to supplement their pastoral existence by farming on any scale larger than a subsistence basis out of fear that more intensive cultivation will degrade the area´s natural habitat.
Bruno O. P. Kawasange, natural resources chief for the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, worries that the growing Maasai population blocks migratory corridors connecting the Ngorongoro Crater with the Serengeti, an important conduit for lions, wildebeests, zebras, and other animals traveling between the two areas. "We want to make sure that these corridors remain open—especially for the lions," said Kawasange. To make room for the big cats and other wildlife, some 250 Maasai households will be moved.
"We can´t support large-scale agriculture in the conservation area," explained B. M. Murunya, the authority´s tourism chief. "Conservation does not go along with agriculture." Given how farming and development have encroached on parks and reserves in northern Tanzania, this seems a reasonable concern, but it does little to reassure the hard-pressed Maasai.
"The wildlife gets better treatment than the people here," said Francis Ole Syapa, a Maasai living in the windswept foothills of the Crater Highlands, where we sat in a zebra-striped hut and watched the clouds boil up from ruined volcanoes. Syapa was expressing a sentiment I heard from many Maasai. "The area is supposed to be not just for the wildlife," he said. "That´s why it was established as a multiple-use area. Understand? We Maasai should be allowed to have our own plan to protect the wildlife, to develop tourism, and to decide how the people´s lives can be improved here. As it stands now, we have no real say" Syapa pointed out that Maasai hold no key positions within the conservation authority, and that only one serves on the group´s advisory board—this, despite his people´s overwhelming numbers in the region. "We live here on the land, but we cannot plan for ourselves how to use it. We don´t have the same rights as other Tanzanians," he said.
Surely, I suggested, the community must benefit from the millions of dollars flowing to the region—Tanzania´s top tourist attraction.
Syapa gave me a long, searching look, followed by a longer silence. He took a swig of Kilimanjaro beer, placed the bottle on the table between us, and spoke with great deliberation: "I really don´t have the information," he said, "but I can tell you we don´t see very much of that money here."
This was painfully obvious down the red-dirt road in Endulen, a Maasai village of cockeyed plank shacks that looked as if they might blow away on the next wind. So did some of the people in this town of 8,000, which suffers from tuberculosis, malnutrition, and malaria, according to doctors at the region´s only hospital. "We also get brucellosis, which comes from drinking unboiled milk, fractures from fighting, and quite a few injuries from buffalo attacks," said Jeanine Heeren, a doctor in Endulen´s 80-bed missionary hospital. She also reported that HIV had made its appearance in Endulen, a sign that residents of this community were venturing into the world and bringing new problems to the village.
Endulen was busy, though. Women with shaved heads and jangling silver necklaces picked through oranges and onions in the market, where a butcher in a red robe and baseball cap hung glistening slabs of goat meat in his stalls, watched closely by a pair of hopeful dogs. Warriors with spears led cattle down a path to Olndogom River, which flowed through town.
Half the village seemed to be in and out of the stream—women washing clothes and spreading them to dry on thorn trees, children fetching buckets of water for the school, herders waiting in line with donkeys and cattle for their turn at the stream. Some of the herders, I learned, had walked three or four hours to get here, a rare source of fresh water.
"Nobody could survive without it," said a Maasai who had lived his whole life in Endulen.
The village draws its water from the river because the government has built no infrastructure in this region, which grows bigger and more established with each passing year—with or without government help.
"We have been waiting for water for 50 years," said Raphael Ologolie, an elder I met on the outskirts of Endulen. We sat on the ground outside his neatly fenced compound and talked, Ologolie, sitting with his knees drawn up to his chin, cocooned in a red blanket so that only his head was visible. "Since the Maasai were first moved out of the park, the government has been making these promises—to bring water, to bring schools, to bring health care. Our people are going hungry. They come to my house every day asking for food—a little cornmeal, a little salt, a little sugar, but it´s never enough. Nobody has kept a single promise to the Maasai."
For its part, the government says that it will do nothing to encourage permanent settlements in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which is supposed to be occupied by Maasai nomads living lightly on the land.
"The idea that pastoral people, people who are moving from place to place, will have a fixed source of water and other amenities that the settled communities have, well, we can´t provide those things," said Samson S. Mkumbo, chief manager of community development for the authority. "For those Maasai who want to make the shift from the nomadic life to farming, we are seeking an area outside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area."
Having been uprooted twice before, the Maasai do not want to move again. And whether the government acknowledges it, the Maasai have already settled in to the Ngorongoro region for the long haul, having begun the slow, agonizing transition from the world of nomadism.
They still keep livestock—any Maasai worthy of the name must do so—but they have more goats and sheep than cattle these days, and they spend less time on the land, going out for a day or two rather than weeks or months. They return to live in permanent dwellings, fret about educating their children, take a keen interest in politics, and scratch away at the earth, working in vegetable plots outlawed by the conservation authority. The old ways are fading: Maasai intermarry with neighboring tribes, fewer girls are circumcised, and fewer youths have the stretched and decorated earlobes of old. In Maasai country today, hiking boots, sneakers, and T-shirts ("Washington State Volleyball Band") have begun to replace traditional robes and sandals; and everywhere the twittering of cell phones sings from deep in the folds of Maasai togas. A new generation is leaving the villages to make their way in the world.
"I know where I am from," said one of these educated Maasai, Jombi Ole Kivuyo, who recently traded his warrior´s spear for an apartment and a paycheck in Arusha. "But I don´t know where I am going. I am like a blind man feeling his way."
This young Maasai may stumble on his journey, but it is more likely that he will survive it, just as his ancestors survived the earlier disruptions of plague, war, eviction, and hunger because they were, to borrow a Maasai phrase, "tough as a hyena´s sinew." They remain that way, striding along under the immense African sky, looking for the next hill.
It is hard to understand why we can´t feed ourselvesPublication Date: 1/10/2006
A good American friend asked me about the people dying of starvation in Kenya. He meant well but he failed to understand how a community could allow itself to be caught unawares, almost every year, by drought.
At first, I was embarrassed; it was hard to explain our inability as a nation to feed ourselves. I became defensive. After all, who was he to point out the problems facing my country? Obviously, I was in denial. In the end, I did not answer his question.
As insensitive as this will sound, any starving adult who is able-bodied and is of sound mind bears a chunk of responsibility for this problem. I do recognise that life, especially in Kenya, is tough, but still there is no excuse for accepting and embracing defeat.
If I starved last year, I would not just sit idle and wait to starve this year. I would not put my life at the mercy of nature or the Government. Every human being is solely responsible for his or her own well-being.
It seems that it is always the same places that are hit the hardest by famine, and therefore, all these people who inhabit these places are duty-bound to make drastic changes in their lifestyles.
Personally, I would seek a way to move to another location not characterised by severe food shortages. If I were a father or a mother, I would not allow limiting traditions or archaic social values concerning ancestral land to sentence my children to starvation and death.
Why on earth would someone choose to permanently live in such an area, especially knowing the high likelihood of drought and famine?
Also, it is folly for these people to expect that the Government will come through when needed most. Our Government has a long history of failure, so it is pure insanity for anyone to put their lives in the hands of such a government.
For a country that has been independent for more than 40 years, it is a shame that we have to depend largely on rain to determine our welfare as a nation.
A great deal of resources, both from within and from without, have been wasted on Kenya. I realise the importance of a new Constitution, but consider all the efforts and money spent on it. Imagine if that same effort and resources were spent on making Kenya a nation self-sufficient in water.
After all, we are a nation abundant with water resources, yet we are incapable of taming nature to our advantage.
Our leaders have refused to invest in the necessary technology to free the nation from water shortage. Take Israel or Egypt, both nations of the desert with limited natural water resources, yet these nations have used the little water they have to become self-reliant on food.
No one can convince me that Kenya could not achieve the same success if the right plan was in place.
Nairobi, one of the major cities in Africa, is often marked by periods of severe water shortages, and we expect foreign investors to bring their hard-earned money and use it to build factories in Kenya when we cannot even guarantee them a steady supply of water.
Why can´t the novices who constitute Kibaki´s Government surprise us by coming up with a new idea that will actually affect us directly?
GEORGE K. MUTUA,
THE HOME AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT AND IT´S INTERNATIONAL CRONIES
This experience with the South African home affairs department still haunts me, as it’s here that I felt very much humiliated and vulnerable for their ignorance of other African countries affairs, but at the same time understand their predicaments. They give papers in relation to what they hear/have from the media. Their first query is their war where you come from, if yes have heard, No you haven’t because the media wouldn’t let you know at this time they wait for mass blood shed. The Kenyan media also would not let be known to the outside world, because it’s partisan. Yes or No. in the middle you are not worth to them.
If it were not for a fellow asylum seeker who had been going to the department for the last 2years maybe I wouldn’t have been issued with the asylum seekers waiting documents. He was seeing me at the department for the third day and everyone just curiously looking at me, he approached me and then is when my eyes were opened, that to get papers in this way was impossible and though I found it hard to believe, I was tired of having to walk to this place in the cbd with all the police questions and being termed as an illegal immigrant.
The first thing was if I had money it was easy, but if not I have to give a known story, now not maasai, maybe Angola, Iraq ,Congo , Rwanda etc. A hard choice to make in a foreign country, but once again I was being helped by a political activist with vast experience here. I did settle for Rwanda for I identified with their plight more than the others.1 one the media played a major roll in Rwanda’s genocide and has been blamed. 2Two the international community had to wait for the worse to happen (Mass blood shed) so as to come in.
And 3Three the people of Rwanda and the maasai are very much similar in their lifestyles and physic. We share ancestry and looks. I had to change from my shukaa clothes and look like everybody else. That is how I got to get my papers sorted.
The department has once again forced asylum seeker to use crude ways to remain in South Africa, Aand run away from their governments, it’s helped once again in holding back the true information and state of affairs of our African nations. I have always looked at South Africa with envy and pride, as a big brother and a model of what Africa is capable of attaining, the reconciliatory soul of African. I am not saying these with a hurt mood .I know and understand the deep poly-tricks played by our governments, all over the world, THEY MAKE SURE YOU ONLY KNOW AND ACCEPT WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO. That’s what the Maasai mission is trying/ intends to de-fuse.
The voice of the minority is as important as the majorities.
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