LAWLESSNESS AND LACK OF GOVERNMENT RESPONSE POSES A SERIOUS THREAT TO TOURISM IN KENYA
(Posted 02nd February 2017)
In recent days a series of reports in Kenyan newspapers described how suddenly, in the very heartland of Kenya, a new threat to tourism has emerged, and how little if anything the security services have done so far to stop the menace in its tracks.
Thousands of pastoralists, some allegedly sponsored by populist politicians out to support land grabbing ahead of the August elections, have invaded farms and conservancies in the Laikipia area of Kenya. While it is true that a major drought is ravaging Kenya, threatening the survival of livestock, has this been turned into a card blanche among a certain breed of politicians to covertly and at times overtly encourage such raids, regardless of the consequences. Even more alarming are comments posted by some readers from Kenya encouraging such raids and voicing their support, raising question marks about their sanity, or insanity rather, as tourism remains a mainstay of the Kenyan economy and if driven into another downward spiral could cost thousands of jobs once again.
The lodge on the Suyian conservancy has reportedly been burned down, with international tourists staying at the time, who witnessed horror scenes of game being shot at while the pastoralist mob looted and burned in a wanton act of destruction.
From other reports received is this the third such lodge forced to close down over security breaches on privately owned conservancies, incidentally ventures largely based on the premise of close community cooperation and aiming to benefit the grassroots of the surrounding communities.
Sources in Kenya have valued the monetary contribution of the conservancies in the Laikipia area of Kenya alone up to 2 billion Kenya Shillings, all now under threat.
While other better know conservancies further north, like Lewa, Segera and Ol Pejeta, have so far been spared, likely as a result of their superior security arrangements, will all be affected should the wildfire of farm, ranch and conservancy invasions not be stopped and more negative reports of this kind emerge in local, and subsequently international media.
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy’s CEO, Mr. Richard Vigne, respected both in Kenya and abroad for his leadership in running a successful mixed wildlife and ranching operation – several high profile lodges and tented camps have been set up on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy – has now come out publicly and condemned the invasions but also reassured visitors to Ol Pejeta of their safety.
Ol Pejeta is home to the big five, the only surviving Northern White Rhinos in the wild and the largest population of Eastern Black Rhinos in Kenya and Eastern Africa. Read on what Richard had to say and watch this space for regular updates on this evolving story.