POACHING; THE ENEMY WITHIN

ImageKenya tourism revenues declined in 2012 from a year earlier by 2%. Earnings dropped to sh.96 billion from sh.97.9 billion in the previous year with 1.78 million tourists having visited Kenya last year. Tourism is critical  for this country since it was one of Kenya’s major foreign exchange earning sectors.It contributes about 12% of the Gross Domestic Product and creates over 300,000 jobs. Poaching is emerging as the worst menace for this lucrative sector for the government and indeed all stakeholders. Its through tourism that Kenya has remained on the map for its wild parks including Masai Mara where the seventh wonder of the world takes place.

The worst hit are elephants and rhinos due to the high prices of their products.Last year poachers managed to bring down at least 384 elephants from 289 in the year 2011. In the last eight months of 2013, they have killed 190 elephants, 35 rhinos and 2 forest rangers. Global black market is encouraging many to engage in poaching due to the demand of jewelry, carvings, sculptures and many other akin products. Am told rhino horns are used to cure health conditions associated with reproduction while others are used for aphrodisiac activities.

A rhino horn is going for about $97,000 per kilogram while an elephant tusk would trade at $1,800 in the black market. To make it even more unfortunate, Kenya for a long time has entertained lenient poaching penalties which ironically has encouraged the menace to spread far and wide .The highest fine has been sh.65000 equivalent to about $.775 while most offenders walk away with fines as low as sh.2000 ($24). Many offenders once released go back to commit the same offenses again. Kenya currently has a population of about 35,000 elephants from 167,000 in 1967 and about 500-1000 rhinos.

There is hope at least, recently cabinet passed Wildlife Conservation and Management bill and policy that will not only greatly reduce poaching cases but also streamline wildlife management services. There will be increased surveillance in wildlife zones, and hiring of more rangers and better still, hefty penalties up to one million shilling for poachers. There will also sacking of KWS officials engaging or conspiring with poachers. While this remains good on paper we can only hope for full implementation of the legislation if we want to save and continue savouring our wildlife heritage .

DANCING WITH DEATH ON KENYA ROADS

kenya-road-accidentKenya loses about 3000 lives through road accidents annually as a result of at least 13000 crashes, translating to eight everyday. 85% of which are attributed to human error and 15% due to poor roads. The third highest cause of deaths in Kenya is road accidents after malaria and HIV/AIDS. In monetary terms, road crashes cost the Kenyan economy about sh.14 billion or 5% of the GDP annually.

The reason Kenya has one of the highest number of road accidents is due to the casual way we treat the cases. We have come to accept it as a way of life, its ‘inevitable’, we can as well blame fate. Now, that is mediocrity, its unacceptable to accept and embrace impunity and ignorance. In my simple research, I found out that the common causes of road accidents which to some extent sounds like a cliche at least in Kenya are; Over speeding, over taking carelessly, drunk driving, over loading, reckless pedestrians, poor road conditions and incompetent or unlicensed drivers amongst others, which over the time, have claimed thousands of precious lives.

Rogue driving schools working in cahoot with corrupt police force are partly to blame. The schools are dishing out driving licenses to people who have never attended driving lessons. We are talking about people who cannot even start a car, that is how serious it is. Am tempted to say ‘ufisadi itatuuwa’. Just recently, a journalist working with Nation Media Group easily walked in some of the so called top notch driving schools in Nairobi and obtained genuine interim driving licenses without attending a single driving test, with just sh. 6,000.

My worst nightmares should be when travelling along Thika road.thika road The bus drivers are not only reckless but untouchable.Pedestrians in our very own peculiar Kenyan way no longer use footbridges which ironically have been designed for them. I do not understand how people dare to cross eight lanes while there is a safer alternative. Of late there has been an influx of motor cycles in the market which now serve as the main means of transport in some regions but that not with standing, they have really messed our roads. Since they are cheap, they come in handy in rural areas. Even in developed countries, they have the highest fatality rates which is no good news for Kenya considering the riders only go for about two hours training.

We do not have many options other than observing the basic traffic rules and enforcing them. I must commend ‘road-hog’ an initiative of Citizen tv which is trying to unmask rogue drivers on our drivers and forwarding their details to KRA for action. As a society we must embrace a culture of respecting the law otherwise will remain a third world country and neither live to achieve Vision 2030, it will just be an illusion. But worse still, many family breadwinners, our relatives and friends will continue to perish in the hands of ‘killer drivers’. Toa Sauti!

COLOUR KWA FACE

Albino child‘Do not stare, just ask' that is the bold motto of Albinism Society of Kenya an organisation that strives to improve the lives of people living with albinism in the country. Its core objectives include awareness creation, legislative work, provision of sunscreen and eye care services, promotion of access to education for learners with albinism amongst other activities. Wikipedia tells me albinism is a genetic disorder characterised by complete or partial absence of a pigment in the skin, hair or eyes due to absence of an enzyme involved in production of melanin. Lack of skin pigmentation makes for susceptibility to sunburn and skin cancers.

Its the myths associated with people living with albinism that have left many surrounded by negative connotations and stigmatised.They have fallen prey to selfish middlemen out to make a killing on behalf of witches.In a continent where the gap between the rich and the poor is over the roof, many are craving for instant riches and success. Consequently, manipulation comes to play. Its obvious one of Africa's tough challenge is illiteracy which is a step brother of ignorance.

colour kwa face2The biggest threat to persons with albinism is misleading and negative belief about their condition. Since a majority of us especially people in the rural areas have limited knowledge and exposure, it becomes rich fodder for villains to mislead the community. Many victims are scorned, shunned, ridiculed, tormented, tortured and killed in cold blood all over africa. For them, viewing the sun rise and set is like a dream come true. Every new day brings along, more threats and renewed fears, call it stigma.
Their dreams have been shuttered and replaced with sorrow and prejudice from family friends and strangers. Some of the myths about persons with albinism are;
• They must die at a young age of between 30- 45years
• Sexual relations with them can cure HIV/AIDS
• They have magical powers
• They are portrayed as villainous , deviant , sadists and have supernatural powers

A film by the name 'In my Genes' best encapsulates challenges this people go through. It shares unique stories of seven Kenyans living with albinism. There is Agnes in the documentary who has defied the norm by refusing to live a life of sorrow. She has dared to stand out uncomfortably in the crowd. The film is a brain child of one Lupita Nyong'o a celebrated Kenyan film maker who has her eyes set in the international circles.

colour kwa faceAfrican leaders should take a cue from president Kikwete of Tanzania by appointing persons with albinism in high positions of government.The biggest responsibility and an equally perfect gift we can give to persons with albinism is through endeavoring to demystify myths about them. We have an obligation to make the society appreciate that, they are normal people only that they lack melanin just like many of us have flaws.