Update "from the bush" in Kenya

Old Jan 30th, 2008, 07:02 AM
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Update "from the bush" in Kenya

From Riccardo at Saruni Camp (Masai Mara and Samburu)

"I just wanted to send you a few notes about the current situation in Kenya, because I feel that often it is being read in the wrong way and this can damage the country, its reputation, the tourist industry and the conservation of wildlife. As a former foreign correspondent who has covered Rwanda, Kosovo, Bosnia, Sarajevo and several other hot spots and emergencies around the world, I understand where all this is coming from and why, but allow me nevertheless to tell you the other side of the medal.

The facts:
1) Nairobi is quiet and peaceful and safe (except for occasional problems in Kibera slums; recently in Nakuru/Naivasha), the traffic jams are back, all is back to normal; in the rest of the country, the police are doing an excellent job to contain the inter-ethnic clashes where they occur;
2) Kenya is too important to Africa and to the rest of the world to allow a situation of serious disruption, so international mediators are successfully forcing the party leaders to sit down and find a solution and a power-sharing compromise;
3) Kenya has a middle class, has a powerful business community, has excellent media, has a huge resident diplomatic community and has the third largest UN office in the world: all these elements do not exist in other African nations and they make up a civil society that – remarkably led by now non-partisan newspapers, radios and TV stations – is very vocal. Such a civil society is now demanding that either the “leaders” find a solution, or a solution will be found without them. This is the opposite of what the media were/are doing in Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, Congo, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone etc;
4) All the tourist destinations are totally calm, in peace, perfectly functioning and immersed in their usual serene atmosphere; the Maasai Mara has never been so beautiful: plenty of animals, green grass, no minibuses, very welcoming and smiling Kenyans who look after our guests better than ever;
5) The entire infrastructure (airlines, roads, airports, lodges, camps, supplies, telecoms, banks, revenue collection etc) is functioning in a totally normal way, actually in a very efficient way because those who are running them are busy showing the “political parties” that Kenya is stronger that their diatribes.

I believe in Kenya and Kenyans. This is why Saruni is, as we speak, investing 1,2 million US$ in the completion of Saruni Samburu, that will open on 1st June.

I also believe that this is the time to support Kenya, its conservation projects, its parks and reserves, its beaches and most importantly, its people. Kenya has history. Other countries have not. Kenya has an inner strength that derives from such a history and has a special beauty that – five years ago – made me, for instance, decide that I wanted to live here and not somewhere else in Africa. The magic is still here, untouched.

More importantly, none of us would ask you to send us guests if we felt that anyone was to feel uncomfortable, or unsafe. We are here for the long haul and we would not benefit from negative feedback given by current visitors, if there was such a thing. All guests staying with us currently are very happy and surprised by the alarmist messages that they were getting from home.

You have been supporting us and Kenya and I hope that you can trust me when I tell you that not only everything in in order, but we need your support to make sure that the brief interval of this crisis does not have a long-term effect on tourism, jobs and conservation.

You know Africa and Kenya, you can pass the correct message to those who need to know.

Best regards from the bush,"

As Luca's (Campi ya Kanzi, Tsavo) earlier comments and the many from Foddorites/Africaphiles on-the-ground or recently returned, safaris in Kenya (and Tanzania) should be all that you expect.

Remember that after 9/11, it was the visitors who returned to NYC and elsewhere in the States that were most welcomed. Same held for Bali, Spain, London and Paris.
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Old Jan 30th, 2008, 07:27 AM
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Encouraging! Thanks!
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Old Jan 30th, 2008, 10:12 AM
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Thanks for the update.
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Old Jan 30th, 2008, 11:33 AM
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I agree with everything said in the report, having just returned yesterday....It was my first trip, so cannot say what's "normal" but I saw almost no cars in the Mara - and that cannot be normal. The Kenyan people I met were appalled at the loss of tourism but very philosophical about moving on; almost no one spoke of the people killed and others hurt and displaced - too awful to contemplate I guess.
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Old Jan 30th, 2008, 12:44 PM
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Thank you for posting...

I hope I have the pleasure of meeting Riccardo in person when I visit Saruni Samburu later this year...
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Old Jan 30th, 2008, 12:52 PM
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This is an incredible, heartfelt update from the bush and I just want to say 'here here' and nod my head yes, yes, yes!

Everytime I read about a cancellation, it breaks my heart. I know we all have our own personal safety zones, and I respect that, but it still breaks my heart.

I do hope that from this, many who have considered cancelling Kenya will re-consider that.

And Jess - WELCOME HOME!!!! I thought it should be soon that you are back - please start another thread with how it went and what you thought! I'm dying to hear!
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Old Jan 30th, 2008, 12:53 PM
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<<The Kenyan people I met were appalled at the loss of tourism>>

Shouldn't thhy be appalled at their countrymen for setting each other on fire, hacking one another to death, killing children, etc.

Is it really that appalling to realize that some tourists elect to go elsewhere? I could understand if they were disappointed, but not that they are filled with horror at the downturn in visitors.

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Old Jan 30th, 2008, 12:57 PM
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Well said thit_cho.
It is beyond my comprehension how people, many people not just one crazy person, can commit such atrocities.

regards - tom
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Old Jan 30th, 2008, 01:35 PM
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-the same crazies who stampede a stadium after one team looses a soccer match - XXX # dead;
-the same crazies who burn cars after a basketball game - $$$ dollars lost;
-the same crazies who loot supermarkets, liquor stores and seen raiding electronics stores carrying out 30" TVs - communities destroyed.
We've seen it all over the world. Sadly, it's not unique to Kenya.

There might not be machetes, but plenty of bats, concrete boulders and guns, where people loose their homes, livelihoods, with innocents, especially elderly and children, caught in the middle and traumatized.

Of couse there is no rhyme or reason, but the human race has problems. How people cope after such horrors is very individual. If it's tourism which accounts for about 40% of their GNP, so be it.

Unless anyone of us walks a mile...........

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Old Jan 30th, 2008, 02:02 PM
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Beg your pardon, but burning cars, looting liquor stores, etc in no way compares to hacking children apart with machetes. At least not for me.

regards - tom
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Old Jan 30th, 2008, 02:33 PM
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For our sensitive Western minds, I agree... but mobs, guns, bats and concrete boulders kill... dead is dead! Regardless the means, it's all wrong!

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Old Jan 30th, 2008, 03:05 PM
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Sandi, I agree, but I don't equate hacking children to death, which is appalling, with a decision by a tourist to go elsewhere. I was responding to the post which indicated that some Kenyans find the downturn in tourism "appalling".

I'm not sure there any shoes in which I could walk a mile that would lead me to believe it acceptable to hack someone to death.
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Old Jan 30th, 2008, 04:38 PM
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Michael

We don't disagree, but I can't stand in judgement of some feeling appalled about the downturn in tourism vs someone else's the death of individuals (friends, relatives, business associates) around them.

Ask Holocaust survivors who never discussed their horrors and nightmares with next generation family members. Why, finally Spielberg started the Shoah Foundation to record these histories before survivors died. The same should be done for Rwanda, the Killing Fields and wherever else such attrocities occurred; survirors often just want to put these things behind them.

And, in Kenya it's all too fresh maybe for people to be in touch with what they are actually feeling.

Peace!
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Old Jan 30th, 2008, 04:58 PM
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Sandi I agree; I also beleive Kenyans, unless they know us well, do not really wish to share their pain (and perhaps shame) with the likes of us - very understandable, very human. Much easier to talk economics,I would think. They want to believe things will soon be right and want us to believe it too. Meanwhile, what can anyone say about what's already been lost - nothing new, nothing smart, nothing helpful.....
Jess
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Old Jan 30th, 2008, 05:26 PM
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I think in a situation like this, induvidual travellers should make their decision on their own ..... if they are comfortable to travel or not, should be left to them!

Remember after 9/11 there were a lot of cancellations? There wasn't a problem in Africa then, was there? it was just based on one's decision to deceide to fly or not.....
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Old Jan 30th, 2008, 06:02 PM
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I'm sorry, but while I'm sure his plea is heartfelt, and so is the posting of it, it's still essentially a public relations spin in tourism's own self-interest. Painting a rosy picture and playing to people's emotions and guilt to come and spend tourism dollars won't work. Most people don't want to spend their hard-earned money and limited vacation time in a place where horrors are occuring. Just common sense to stay away from trouble.
I feel for innocent Kenyans, and for the businesses that are suffering, but if the Kenyan people are as strong as Riccardo says, they'll work it out.
Leslie
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Old Jan 30th, 2008, 07:52 PM
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Interesting point LAleslie. By going to Kenya am I also saying that I don't care if you are murdering one another, you still have my business? Would I'd rather say, stop your killing and I will come back?

regards - tom
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Old Jan 31st, 2008, 04:38 AM
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HariS -

After 9/11 tourism, worldwide, went into the toilet. Yes, the US was impacted, but so too other destinations, East Africa included. People simply didn't want to be far from home and family.

During the period right after the attacks until '04, American's for certain, weren't traveling to Africa or many other places. The Europeans, though hours closer to Africa, were limiting their travel, but the German's, over other countries, did show up everywhere.

In Kenya/Tanzania, camps closed, people were out of work; those camps still open were practically giving away their space... good deals could be had. It wasn't until the end of the '04 season that the number of travelers (the Americans) were almost back to those prior 9/11. Since then (thru '06), the numbers from all travelers have increased/exceeded expectations.

And now, with emphasis being put on visitors from the former Soviet block countries and China, I'm sure the current situation in Kenya will again cause a downturn in travel here and in Tanzania.
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