REST IN PEACE TRISTAN VOORSPUY
(Posted 07th March 2017)
(RIP Tristan Voorspuy)
‘I have been asked to ‘downplay’ this because there is now some government reaction but truth told, this needs to be made public to show the potentially devastating consequences of such farm, ranch and conservancy invasions to Kenya’s tourism industry, and worst of all, at the start of an election year which is already causing concerns among leading overseas tour operators.
The Kenyan government needs to react much stronger, with much greater determination to stamp out this menace and nip it in the bud before it spreads like wildfire to other conservancies, ranches and farms‘.
These were my words, written here just a month ago and it earned me the evil eye from some tourism ‘leaders‘ who had clearly hoped I would shut up and toe a line which, going by the events of the day before yesterday, lead not to less but more violence and in this sad case, the killing of an eminent conservationist.
It was the first killing of a white land owner in the current torrent of invasions but not the first killing of a conservationist in Laikipia, as shown through one of the links added below, when in August 2013 the Director of the Laikipia Wildlife Forum was killed under unexplained circumstances. Meanwhile were at least 20 Kenyan Africans also killed in the upsurge of farm, ranch and conservancy invasions, some on their own farms and others on the land of their bosses.
Tristan bought with some partners the dilapidated and degraded farm in 2005 and turned it into a showcase how a determined conservation minded individual and groups can stop the rot and his turning Sosian into a successful conservancy and tourist spot was evidence that much good can come of conservation in restoring degraded ranch land.
Tristan had ridden out to inspect the damage done to several farm houses on his land on previous days when the same invaders had set fire to the residences, prompting an outcry on social media over the continued inability, or unwillingness of Kenyan security forces to stand up to the violence and invasions thought to have been encouraged by aspiring politicians ahead of the August elections. His body could not be immediately recovered due to the ongoing presence of raiders and his horse too was shot but could not be attended to by vets, both facts ascertained by the pilot of a light aircraft who overflew the scene
Said one source from Nairobi on condition of strict anonymity: ‘Our government sends the wrong message by doing so little to stem the violence. They all just look at their re-election campaign and shy away from calling a spade a spade. But this is fundamentally wrong. Most of the farms, ranches and conservancies invaded are owned by Kenyans, and the colour of one’s skin should not be used as an excuse or even to look away. The death of Tristan was entirely avoidable but when action is taken they send in a few policemen who are overwhelmed by the AK 47’s of the invaders and then tactically withdraw, or else run away. Letting lawlessness creep into our society, in an area of huge tourism appeal, is reckless and counterproductive. I am only worried that next a tourist gets shot at or even killed, and all our efforts in Kenya to revive the sector will have been in vain‘.
(Pictures of one Richard Constant’s house looted and burned by the invaders and raiders – reminiscent of Wild West movie scenes)
Notably has Mr. Jimi Kariuki, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Kenya Tourism Board, come out with a statement condemning the incident, but word from the Head of State to the Deputy President to the Cabinet Secretary of the Interior, leave alone the Inspector General of Police in Kenya is lacking and the silence from these quarters is frankly speaking deafening.
Said Mr. Kariuki and Ms. Lucy Karume of the Kenya Tourism Federation in their statement:
There was some instant and notable dissent though expressed to this correspondent over the heavy emphasis on ‘no tourists came to harm’ as the life of Kenyans, white, brown and black, is just as valuable and important as are the lives of tourists – albeit an incident involving the latter would no doubt promptly bring the heavy hand of sections of the international media down on Kenya once again.
As a big Kenyan delegation is now in Berlin for the annual ITB Tourism Trade Show, the largest in the world, will no doubt the aftermath of the Sosian attack and potentially more such invasions be on the forefront of exhibitor’s minds, hoping for a return to peace and quiet and a determined reaction by Kenya’s security forces to deal with the raiders once and for all.
All the best to them in promoting Kenya alongside her East African partners while their government at home continues to ponder and wave and weave in the face of such clearly orchestrated and coordinated violence in the heartland of the country.
Condolences are expressed to the late Tristan’s entire family, friends and colleagues!