Thursday, March 09, 2017

Land hunger and historical injustice

Europeans arrived and built a railway in Kenya in roughly 1900.
The Laikipia treaty in 1904 moved a few thousand Maasai to southern Kenya...If Laikipia is one million acres, there is approximately 500,000 in private hands in ranches and conservancies that encourage wildlife.
If you can read these sentences without your sense of history being assailed, then you are a lost soul.

Between the establishment of the Imperial British East Africa Company and the lowering of the Union Jack sixty-seven years later, the territory that came to be known as the Kenya Colony was invaded by citizens of Great Britain, many of whom were granted immunity of prosecution whilst allowing them the right to raise taxes, impose custom duties, administer justice and make treaties.

Many of the peoples of the Kenya Colony were herded, like livestock, onto "native reserves" where their "native rights" could be "recognised" by both the Imperial British East Africa Company and its successor the Colonial Government.

The peoples of the Kenya Colony had no choice in these matters; the "charter" granted to the Imperial British East Africa Company and the royal ordnance that established the Kenya Colony made no reference to the existing political arrangements except, perhaps, to determine them to be of an inferior quality, ripe for extermination and, in the words of the late Mr Voorspuy, extirpation.

The seeds of the Laikipia "invasions" were planted over a century ago, nurtured by a trading company, a colonial government, and successive post-colonial administrations that refused to grasp the stinging nettle that were "historical land injustices" but instead entrenching colonial-era systems that dispossessed entire ethnic communities, rewarded political loyalists and protected unfair arrangements between colonial era land barons and the landless.

Mr Voorspuy's death is tragic and so are the deaths of the unnamed Kenyans falling victim to gunfire from bandits in Laikipia's lawless areas. We can blame the "political bigwigs" fomenting trouble in Laikipia in this election year and deploy Kenya Police "reserves" and paramilitary police to "restore law and order". But so long as we refuse to deal with the legacy of 67 years of British occupation of Kenyan lands, we are simply putting band-aids on gangrenous wounds. Mr Voorspuy will not be the last victim of these circumstances. Neither will the scores of innocent Kenyans who have fallen due to the machinations of politicians and "investors". 

If you keep looking at Laikipia as a "tourism and [wildlife] conservation" investment destination, then you will continue to miss the most important question of the century: how will you solve Kenyans' land hunger if you don't resolve historical land injustices?

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