The unexpected night at Hemingway’s resort in Nairobi refreshed and rejuvenated everyone. I love Hemingway’s. I thought of Raffles in the Seychelles, an over-the-top property specifically marketed as a “fancy resort and spa.” I like Hemingway’s better.
The rooms are bigger, the bathroom is just aw large and gorgeous, the woodsy grounds with flowered landscaping a fine substitute for the Indian Ocean, and the dozens of chirping swifts, grunting colobus and melodic bulbuls more relaxing to me than the crashing waves on the beach.
Hemingway’s is where you go to rest up, not worry about which jewelry worn to dinner will perfectly reflect the candlelight. I ordered a hamburger.
I go down early for a simple breakfast of fruit and toast. I cloistered myself at a 2-person corner table inside rather than at the group table set for us outside among the flowering bushes. The inside breakfast area is a soundbox. You can hear everything anyone says.
I overheard the wonderful excitement of a woman as she read to her husband their first destination: Samburu. We had just fled Samburu because of gunfire. What should I do?
Maybe it was a single, anomalous shoot-out between police and a gang. Happens all the time in my Chicago. But why then the temporary military encampment on our private reserve? Well, I wouldn’t doubt that our great mayor Lightfoot sets up a rather permanent roadblock in places on the west side from time to time.
I remembered now the last two tourists killed: A British couple gunned down by “bandits” in Shaba – next door to Samburu. I remembered the raids on tents by gangs of kids who nonetheless wielded lethal weapons.
Both George and Joy Adamson were brutally murdered by shifta in this area. Joy’s Camp in Shaba, which was used by Survival Kenya, has been raided several times by shifta.
I took a deep breath. My memory was surveying 50 years. How many kids are killed in America in a month? More than all the tourists I can remember having been killed in 50 years.
Kenya’s Northern Frontier has been a wild west area for my entire career threatened by “shifta,” a catch-all word that Kenyans use incorrectly to mean “bandits.”
But it’s different today than in the past: it’s much more lethal. It’s also been politicized and polarized by tribe. The whole impetus for these attacks and battles has been greatly increased by climate change, since the heart and soul of the area is ranching. As good grass gets more difficult to find, the open rangelands become precious prizes for whomever can control them. But the worst change has been the character of the weapons used.
Then I think, “This isn’t just a Kenyan problem.”
The “Bundy Militia” has been gun fighting U.S. BLM authorities since 1989, all over the rights to graze their herds on open rangelands. What’s so different to Kenya, though, is that the Bundy’s aren’t (yet) using mortars.
How did these guys in Kenya get so much firepower? (Well, I predicted this in 2015: read the blog, “Guns & Climate.“)
I’m afraid one of my heroes is to blame, Barack Obama. In a bid to reduce terrorism he constructed Africom. Africom was created (a) to back up the French foreign legion in their endless battles against terrorism in West Africa, and more importantly (b) to greatly end al-Shabaab’s control over Somalia.
Had we just left those “shifta” in the Levant alone, so to speak, and concentrated our resources on defending the homeland rather than the stupid notion we could exterminate them, I think things would be better.
Obama knew that America was not up to another war. So instead, he created the Kenyan Army.
The amount of money, training and resources that America put into Kenya from 2008 to the present is still classified. One of the results of this insanity was the creation of the largest refugee camp earth has ever seen. Shortly after Obama’s Kenyan Army invaded Somali in 2011 more than a million refugees fled the country, forcing the UN to set up Dadaab. Following the Kenyan governments forcible relocation of nearly three-quarters of them back into Somalia, it’s now down to about a quarter million.
The second notable consequence was the military equipment thrown into Africa with abandon, as America is wont to do. That’s why the bandits that scared the giraffe that sent us packing back to Nairobi a day early are so heavily armed.
America has a hard time learning its lessons about war, and even more about terrorism. You can’t exterminate terrorists. All you can do is chase them from place to place. Unfortunately, our safari intersected one of their gigs. When will we ever learn? We did the right thing. We ran away from them and got the hell out of there.
I was now in reception waiting for my group’s luggage. The large American group was clustered, excited, even jubilant. They all looked alike, spiffily dressed in stylish safari garb. Their luggage was one giant mountain of black duffel. I scratched my head in sympathy with the poor tour guide who had to make sure each couple’s luggage was there.
I watched them joyfully board their vehicles and pull out of Hemingway’s headed to Samburu.
Each day now I use every ounce of my available bandwith in the bush to search for any more trouble with tourists. None so far. But is that because there isn’t any? Or because that’s just life, the way it is?
[Having trouble getting enough bandwidth to upload photos taken on this safari, so the photos published with the blog are in my cloud library.]