Now a Grim Tale

Now a Grim Tale

viewfrom.saruni.518.jun10‘Laikipia’ runs off the tongue into conversation exactly like the beautiful waterfalls that burst out of the high jungles over the dramatic cactus landscapes of deep canyons and endless vistas in north central Kenya.

Laikipia was a beautiful story in the 1970s, still compelling two decades later in “I Dream of Africa,” but it’s a grim and dark tale, now.

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Give Directly?

Give Directly?

G3FVYeVSeveral secret, unnamed villages in Kenya have become the “beta test” for the theory that a guaranteed income will eradicate poverty world-wide.

The Silicon Valley motivated charity, GiveDirectly disperses its donations to Kenyan villages in cash as a guaranteed monthly income. No tractors, no computers, no medicine, no scholarships or other training – just cash. The organization has operated since 2008 and believes it now has the data to prove its theory.

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Shrinking & Suffering

Shrinking & Suffering

trumpbudgethitsafricaIf there’s anything at all good in Trump’s “skinny” budget it’s that Americans might start paying attention to the sweeping power of their government. The draconian cuts will indeed effect each and every American but the budget will also lay waste much of the rest of the world.

That’s quite uncomfortable to most Americans who either don’t know or don’t care how they effect the rest of the world. A Kenyan analysis shows how the Trump budget will devastate the continent, exponentially increase suffering and death and likely lead to war. Kenyan analysis shows that the Trump budget will lay waste the continent, exponentially increase suffering and death and likely lead to war.

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Flower Futures

Flower Futures

trump-africaAfricans are putting together the first drafts of policy to deal with Trump and while it reflects the sophistication and skill of today’s African leaders, the outlook is grim. The much loved former U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Johnnie Carson, wrote today, the best Africa can hope for is “benign neglect.”

Which is unlikely if Trump twists the globe and learns there’s a continent over there. The case in point is Kenya. I implied yesterday that Kenya’s unexpected extradition of two alleged drug kingpins to the U.S. was clearly courting favor. Sycophancy aside, the country is preparing for the worse.

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Battle #1 in The War

Battle #1 in The War

assaultonfreespeechIf you’ve got something to say, say it now.

The world is contracting into conservative populism and freedom of expression is in the gun site. Trump idly suggests shutting down the internet or incarceration for flag burning, and legislators in Kenya and South Africa kick gleefully into high gear.

Stalled legislation in both countries to curtail the press and freedom of speech is moving forward, again.

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мат

мат

russiainafricaRussia wasted no time using Trump’s election to increase its global power. Yesterday it thrust a masterful spear between Africa and the U.S. by aligning itself with African countries threatening to withdraw from the World Court.

The renegade power’s lightning fast global moves have been reported this morning in Central America, Syria, and of course right here in America, but it is in Africa where Russia may be most successful acting so quickly.

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Another ‘Election’

Another ‘Election’

somalielectionObama leaves office having created the largest American military complex in Africa in history with operations in at least 22 African countries.

The incredible size and scope of the American military in Africa was first reported in Mother Jones in 2013, but gained no wide audience. I was surprised then and remain surprised, today. Is it because we’re safer? Or because we just don’t want to talk about it.

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Religion is Tribalism

Religion is Tribalism

kerry listeningObama is trying to be the Great Mediator in Africa having failed in America. Don’t hold your breath.

John Kerry is completing a whirlwind tour of Africa, today, dolling out money like carnival candy and telling the McCoys and Hatfields that they’ll be a lot more if they have Thanksgiving dinner together.

Kerry’s bitter sweet journey carries cargoes of carrots and sticks.

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OnSafari: River Crossing

OnSafari: River Crossing

rivercrossingBPWe were among 30 cars on one side of the Mara river – there were another 30 on the opposite side.

I don’t like crowds in the wilderness, and I avoid them pretty successfully. But this is an exception. If you want to see one of the most dramatic still truly wild components of the world’s last great animal migration, you’re going to be part of a crowd.

True, there are plenty of river crossings on the great migration route that don’t draw crowds, and I’ve enjoyed them. But the classic and most dramatic crossings are in the Mara, and there are only a couple dozen favorite crossing spots.

Unlike so many animals, wildebeest are very finicky eaters. All they will consumer is grass. Grass comes after rain. The wilde’s instinct forces them to “follow the rains,” which generally recede over the course of the year in a northwesterly direction onto Lake Victoria.

Before reaching the Mara, the great herds have crossed at least two and sometimes four or five other great rivers as they move north.

The Mara is the last and furthest northern river before the herds are turned back by developed farm fields, towns and villages. Here they cluster and start moving backwards and forwards across the river seemingly without purpose. The instinct to move is too great, and if the movement is a rebound, so be it.

This has been the case for at least the last half century. Before that they may have continued all the way to the Lake before turning around. The boundary is not natural in the wild sense, of course, and it results in the mass confusion, exceptional drama and photogenic scenes that have become the trademark of the great migration.

A bit further south the herds’ decisions to move back and forth across rivers is governed much more by actual rain. Particularly now with climate change, the intense micro-climates may mean a healthy rainfall a few miles to the north, or a drought, a few miles to the south.

I’ve often watched the herds move north out of Tanzania to Kenya right on schedule in June, but then return months early in August because of early, heavy rains in northern Tanzania.

Keep in mind that a wildlife documentary is simply an edited version of what the Miller Family saw this morning in person. I remember encountering a BBC/Nova film crew once shooting a river crossing here in the Mara, and there were at least 20 vehicles just in their team.
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We were watching a newborn zebra being defended by its mom against a hyaena when we spotted massive clouds of dust several miles away above the river.

Our camp driver, of course, knew exactly what “favorite crossing place” was near the dust and we headed for it posthaste. Wilde will jump 20 feet into the river and then try (usually unsuccessfully) to scale the other side of a 20-foot canyon, but they prefer easier entries and exits, often dry river washes merging with the great Mara. There aren’t many, and everyone knows them.

To reach this crossing place, we had to drive through the herds, and that in itself was fabulous. I estimated between 3500-4500 in this particular group. They were racing in multiple files and converging on a plateau just above the crossing point.

We slowed down among their incessant blarting mixed with the anxious barking of the zebra. Clearly this group was getting psyched up to cross!

By the time we got to the crossing point most of the prime spaces were already taken by other cars. But our driver knew the river so well that we went down river all of a few hundred meters where it turned and found a beautiful viewing area right there.

Across the river were four giant crocs, pulled out onto the sun with bellies already bulging with previous crossings.

So then, like everyone, else, we just waited.

After about an hour, all of a sudden, we were surrounded by wilde! They came so fast the dust came after them! This wasn’t the crossing place, this was our secret viewing area, and it was very rocky and steep at the river’s edge.

Then almost as quickly, they moved away back into the riverine forest. For some reason, they weren’t going down the “favorite crossing place.”

After about another half hour some cars began to leave. We thought we would, too, but just as the engine turned on we could see upriver that the first of the group had reached the river’s edge at the end of the wash.

At first they didn’t seem to do anything but grow in numbers and drink the water. After about five minutes, though, the pressure of the racing wilde behind them forced them to start the swim across.

They walked until the depth of the river forced them to swim, and wilde do this by successive leaping. Water was splashing all of the place. I watched a croc leap out and grab the side of one wilde. It was soon mayhem. Six or seven abreast were swimming across, many getting drowned by others behind them, some actually swimming back across the river!

A half hour later it was all over. A very small group of about 25 wilde for some reason remained on the wash and didn’t cross, but the bulk had move onto the other side and were congregating on the plains and starting to graze.

We found a nice place much further down the river to set up our wonderful breakfast, but the river runs fast here, and numerous “floaters” or dead wildebeest passed by us.

The great migration is like one little muscle in Mother Earth. It’s a reflection of the ecological heritage that makes our planet so awesome. Until we free ourselves completely of our biological roots, we need to truly experience the power of our organic world so that we can concede that we’re only one piece in an infinite universe of life, beholden to the great migration as the wildebeest are to the rains.
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