Thursday, March 09, 2017

Land hunger and historical injustice (Cont'd)

This is what I have said,
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 injustice? ~ Land hunger and historical injustice
I think I should carry on in this vein.

The Laikipian "invasions" are by well-armed herders with thousands of head of cattle looking for water and pasture. The most important of the victims of the Laikipian "invasions" are "investors" who occupy tens of thousands of acres of land and engage in raising livestock, conservation and tourism-related enterprises, such as safari lodges. The "invaders" have left their homes in the care of wives, mothers, sisters, children and old men. They have also left behind large herds of sheep and goats, ignored the gerontocracy that eschews violence, and travelled to the Laikipian plains in the full knowledge that what they are engaged in is unlawful and that is why they are armed to the teeth with assault rifles. That is the short of it.

Let us look at how an injustice of historical proportions is reducible to a sweeping generalisation about the benevolence of non-native investor-rancher-conservationists and the black-hearted malignant intents of invaders engaged in "[g]risly [ ] rituals of warrior status involving big game, long since extirpated in their own land".

The legacy of the "native reserves" has never been addressed; inadequate solutions like "settlement schemes" in the 1970s and 1980s only served to exacerbate the situations; communities that had been driven off ancestral lands were never permitted to return. One of the most tragic institutions in the 1970s and the early 1980s was the wildlife department in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources that became the rubber-stamp for post-colonial evictions of entire communities from ancestral and community land in the name of environmental or wildlife conservation, such as the removal of the Endorois from the land surrounding Lake Bogoria in the mid-1970s and the eviction and transportation of the Ngulia from what became Tsavo West Nation Park, not once, not twice, not thrice but four times. In both instances, tourist lodges catering for the appetites of foreign tourists were established, too expensive for either the Endorois or the Ngulia to patronise but benevolent enough to give their children menial jobs in the kitchen or in the field as gardeners, car-washers, "entertainers" and bush guides.

The land, for the Endorois or the Ngulia, wasn't simply for the production of food or for use s capital in commercial enterprises; the land held a special spiritual place in their hearts and their culture (cultures that have been attacked by many of those who see land in strictly economic or commercial terms as barbaric, outdated and evil).

"Native reserves" and the colonial policies that sustained them have survived three post-colonial administrations. It is why the third post-colonial administration fought tooth and nail to deny that the first and second administrations had not, for all intents and purposes, attempted the socio-cultural genocide of the Endorois. Land is useful only as a means of production. The end! It has no intrinsic, religious or cultural value. It must be protected from even its true owners.

One of the more pernicious uses of the "native reserves" was to keep its inmates (yes, they were treated as prisoners) ignorant, uninformed and uneducated. The "education" the inmates received was just enough for them to hire out their labour as shamba boys and kitchen totos (look it up). Today, this "education" is sufficient for the vast majority of them to hire out their labour as shamba boys, herdsmen, "cultural dancers", watchmen and members of armed militia sponsored by political actors with axes to grind with Kenya's post-colonial landed gentry. An entire civil service (as well as a military service) exist solely to ensure that the "natives" don't exceed their boundaries: look at the shambolic state of the public education and healthcare system and tell me this isn't true. (And the likes of Bridge Academies are no panacea to widespread miseducation, and critical lack of critic thinking skills.)

I wasn't wrong. Laikipia has been in the making since 1896. If we refuse to learn the proper lessons from our history, the blood-red symbolism in our national flag will take on a whole new significance.

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