Tag Archives: Kenya

Islam’s Jihad against Christians in East Africa: Why Isn’t This on the Nightly News?

20 Dec

While I can’t remember Muslims and Christians hugging in the streets of Kampala or the markets of Nairobi during my summer stays in both cities starting in 2005; I do not remember much at all in the way of open confrontation. Granted it was an uneasy truce but even though Muslims and Christians did not embrace one another openly they seemed comfortable enough to live aside of one another in relative harmony until a few years ago. I was comfortable greeting my Muslim neighbors with “As- salaam alaykum” when in the marketplace even memorized the entire Adan after having been woken up each morning while it was still dark outside to hear each muezzin’s unique version of his call to prayer over the loud speaker. I loved it so much I began singing it in Arabic along with the muezzin every morning and felt that the words were a wonderful way to start the day. So I was not prepared for the violence that began to escalate right about the time of the July 2010 FIFA World Cup Finals.

Africa has always been a place of diverse religious beliefs from the old religion of the ancestors, Rastafarians, to the more organized faiths such as Sunni and Shia Islam as well as a range of Christian denominations. Toleration seemed the order of the day as everyone went about freely worshipping God in their own way. But then an extremist Islamic terrorist group replaced the dictator, Major General Mohammed Siad Barre in Somalia in 1991 while the American forces invaded Somalia in the Battle of Mogadishu in October,1993. It’s official name is Harakat al- Shabaab al- Mujahideen, The Movement of Striving Youth and yet it is now referred to as al- Shabaab, “the youth.” Actually the organization did begin as a youth group allied to the Islamic Courts Union Government in 2006 that pledged to bring a fundamentalist Islamic state back to Somalia. And this would not be hard for any Islamist group to do. According to a report from Pew Research Center in 2006, 98.6 % of all Somalis are Muslims and most Sunni Muslims.

It was not long before al- Shabaab earned notoriety for its ideology attracting experienced war- savvy veterans from countries such as Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. It was also no secret that it had begun to receive financial and administrative support from al- Qaeda. At one time al- Shabaab controlled the capital city of Mogadishu as well as the port of Kismayo until African Union forces drove them out in 2011 and 2012 respectively. They pretty much stayed within their own boundaries until their first large scale terrorist attack in Kampala at the Kyadondo Rugby Club in July of 2010. Suicide bombers out on the field that night killed several people and wounded many others as they watched the World’s Cup final game. Later on al-Shabaab took credit for the attack stating that it was in retaliation for the Ugandan forces participation in the African Union currently fighting in Somalia.

And then the attacks on churches commenced. On July 3, 2012 seven masked gunmen first threw grenades then opened fire in two churches in Garissa, Kenya not far from the Somalia border killing seventeen and wounding fifty. By Easter time 2012 Muslim extremists calling themselves, “Muslim Renewal” vowed to attack Christian churches throughout Tanzania causing fear to grow throughout the Christian communities there. On February 17th a Father Musli was gunned down right outside of St Teresa’s Catholic Church in Zanzibar, an island in the Indian Ocean belonging to Tanzania. A Pastor Kachili was murdered in the Geita region of Lake Victoria after he intervened in a dispute between Muslims and Christians over the right to butcher livestock. In the words of Muslim Renewal, “Many more will die. We will burn homes and churches… we are not finished….prepare for disaster.” And in Tanzania, on May 10, 2013 a bomb was thrown into the newly- built St. Joseph’s Catholic Church where the Vatican envoy and the Archbishop of Tanzania were in the midst of celebrating mass during the consecration of the new church. Two people died as a result of the blast and sixty innocent parishioners were injured. Tanzania has a  Muslim population of 13, 450,000 that is 29.9% of its total population.

According to Lila Gilbert author of Saturday People, Sunday People,” her new book that discusses the reason 850,000 Jews were made to flee Muslim countries in the mid- twentieth century. The title of her book comes from an old Islamic saying, “First the Saturday people then the Sunday people,” meaning, “First we will kill the Jews, then we kill the Christians”. Friends of mine in Kenya believe that Islamic terrorist groups have deliberately targeted churches in an attempt to scare Christians away from attending church. Next Wednesday is Christmas Day, one of the most important Christian holydays of the year; one can only hope that another Muslim attack does not mar the celebrations in East Africa on that day but what an ideal time to send a message off to the entire world?

And al- Shabaab has forged a stronghold in the country of Kenya as well. Muslim cleric Abubaker Shariff Ahmed, of Mombasa who goes by the name, “Makaburi” has been identified by the UN Security Council as a leading facilitator and recruiter of young Kenyan males into al- Shabaab. In 2012, the Council banned him from leaving Kenya and froze all of his assets. He had been known to have told young men “go to Somalia and fight for al- Qaeda and kill US citizens”. He believes that the words of the Qur’an justify his actions and all of the violence. “There is no such thing as a moderate Muslim. The prophet did not teach us moderation in Islam- Islam is Islam.” Makaburi admits. “It’s not right for the United States or any other country to interfere with how another country wants to rule itself.” Makaburi has been accused of recruiting young boys as “jihadis” willing to make the trip from Mombasa to the island of Lamu then set sail in a small boat to the coast of Somalia. According to one disheartened recruit, “He told us that if we fought money would be given to our families and we would gain a place in Paradise as a reward for our commitment.”

His success at retaining these young men could directly relate to the massive unemployment problem in Kenya at the moment especially for its young people. According to a 2012 report from the World Bank, Africa’s youth are and will continue to face severe unemployment prospects. In Kenya, the current youth unemployment rate is 40% and many of those who are employed find themselves underemployed in low-paying jobs in which they do not get to use their education and degrees. What’s more as of July 2013, 80% of Kenyans are less than 35 years of age and 75% are under 30 years of age meaning there will be an entire glut of young people looking for work at the same time. It seems as if Sheikh Makaburi knows something of these young boys’ frustration and uses their lack of meaningful activity to his best advantage. According to one recruit, Makaburi announced, “instead of sitting around in the slums doing nothing, it’s better to go to Somalia and fight for your religion so you’ll go straight to heaven.”

Mombasa, a large resort city off the east coast of Kenya, with an equally large Muslim population and has been the center of violent riots lately in response to the killing of two Muslim clerics Aboud Rogo Mohammed in 2012 and Ibrahim Rogo Omar only two weeks after the Westgate Mall shootings. Both uprisings broke out in Muslim districts of Mombasa and the Salvation Army Church was set on fire this time around.

And then the Westgate Mall shootings occurred on September 21, 2012. Terrorists (4 gunmen in all) claiming they were members of al- Shabaab entered the mall equipped with grenades and AK-47 assault rifles and shot anyone in the mall who could not satisfactorily prove to them that they were Muslim asking them to cite verses from the Qur’an or the name of Mohammed’s mother in Arabic in order to stay alive. Those who could not were summarily executed regardless of age. And in true “Millennium” style one of the terrorists used his Twitter account to send short messages out to the world describing their actions. When the armed troops finally made it to the glass doors of the entrance twenty dead bodies blocked their path into the main lobby. What US news reports did not include was that Westgate Mall is located in the Westlands, a wealthy suburb of Nairobi and the site of many of the foreign embassies including the United States Embassy. Was al-Shabaab sending a subtle message to the United States diplomatic mission in Kenya reminding the embassy that it could come much closer to Americans in Kenya if it so desired?

And what about the two British tourists who were attacked on December 12th, 2013, seven days ago as they were on their way to a safari in Amboseli National Park? According to all reports a man tried to throw a live grenade into their Toyota Land Cruiser as the car slowed down on one of the major roads out of Mombasa. Fortunately for them, the man threw the grenade at a closed window making it bounce back into the street. But on December 14th, only four days ago passengers riding into Nairobi on a matatu (mini-bus) were not so lucky. Four people were killed and others wounded after a bomb placed inside the matatu suddenly exploded. Today is December 19th, the fifty year anniversary of Kenya’s independence from Great Britain. I have spent the entire day wondering if al-Shabaab will make its anger felt in Kenya today as national celebrations take place.

What I do know is that from all accounts al- Shabaab’s ranks grow stronger and that it holds a real grudge against the United States for invading its country in 1993 and repeatedly interfering in its country’s leadership. Remember for centuries, Somali males have earned reputations as fierce warriors and great hunters all over Africa along with very long memories. I am surprised that the American people have not been warned about the continuation of terrorist attacks all over East Africa especially on churches. The Westgate Mall incident was highly publicized; why not these other violent raids? After studying the total picture it seems like every attack al-Shabaab has made has been part of a deliberate course of action and none of these incidents could be considered emotional strikes or the results of spontaneous outbursts. These men may be young and they might be inexperienced but they seem to have gained the attention of other more powerful terrorist organizations like al- Qaeda real fast. I would not be shocked to learn that these same young men are in the midst of acting on plans that lead them to methodically stage terrorist attacks in locations around Europe as well as the United States. Hopefully, the great nations of the world will sit up shortly and pay closer attention to the escalating progression of Islamic terrorist attacks in East Africa so they’ll be ready to foil further attempts long before they begin to experience the consequences of their inaction inside their own borders.

Huria a Kenya!!!

Kat Nickerson                                          Kingston, RI                                              December 19th, 2013

The Business of Witchcraft: Child Sacrifice in East Africa

1 Jul
Children of Kitui , Kenya  KN- 2007

Children of Kitui , Kenya KN- 2007

According to Humane Africa in its January 2013 Report, Child Sacrifice and the Mutilation of Children in Uganda, cases of child sacrifice are on the rise and at least one child dies every week as a result of a ritualistic murder. The Lively Minds Initiative, a group working in the schools to combat this heinous crime, defines child sacrifice as “the killing, mutilation, or removal of body parts from a child for the purpose of witchcraft, ritual practices or sale”. In 2011 alone Humane Africa estimated that upwards of 9,000 children had gone missing between 2007 and 2012.

But before I begin to explain this deplorable practice two things have to be made clear: 1.) child sacrifice is not a new ritual in East and Central Africa but has been practiced in these regions for centuries and 2.) there is a systemic belief throughout Africa regardless of tribe or country that blood- letting and the acquisition of certain human and animal body parts brings great prosperity.

Many tribes still engage in traditional initiations that require them to shed blood as well as collect body parts. Read the following excerpt from Xinhua, English.news.cn then tell me what year you think this article was published?
“Two Killed, Dozens Wounded at Ritual Killing at Kenya-Ethiopian Border”

Ethiopian warriors killed two Kenyans and wounded 14 others on Wednesday night in a ritual killing barely a fortnight after deadly clashes between Merrile and Turkana tribesmen killed dozens others along the common frontier.

Survivors and officials said on Thursday that hundreds of Merrile youths aged between 13 and 18 are queued for a circumcision ritual between this month and August and cultural dictates that they exhibit braveness by killing an enemy before being circumcised.

Once they kill, they chop off private parts and other organs of their victims, including ears, noses and toes, which they carry away and present as a sign of bravery.

And on Wednesday night, Merrile initiates from Namurupus area, Southern Zone travelled over 40 km inside Kenya and indiscriminately fired at a dancing crowd during Wednesday night attack at Kokuro village.”

This event occurred not one hundred years ago or even twenty- five years ago but a mere four years ago on June 18, 2009. “The desire for blood-letting has never left the East African male” a dear Kenyan colleague, who I emailed about this matter, reminds me, “ and all East Africans, despite their ivy-league diplomas and fancy suits, are absolutely convinced, without a shadow of a doubt, that juju (black magic) exists all around them.”

Placide Tempels, the Franciscan missionary famous for his book Bantu Philosophy states in his study of the African psyche “every misfortune that an African encounters is attributed to an outside force that has acted upon the individual.  So things like illness or misfortune are a direct result of another more powerful entity having a greater hold on the person than his/her own life force. Death does not alter the personality or end the present life of the individual only changes its condition so the dead are able to actively participate in the life of the present community and continue to communicate with the living in the form of ancestors or wandering ghosts.”

The Kenyan religious philospher, John Mbiti wrote that “the belief in the continuation of life after death for African peoples does not constitute a hope for a future and better life. To live here and now is the most important concern of African religious activities and beliefs. Even a life in the hereafter is conceived in materialistic and physical terms. There is neither paradise to be hoped for nor hell to be feared in the hereafter” (Mbiti 1969, pp. 4–5).

According to traditional lore in Congolese kindoki (witchcraft) a witch can live in two separate worlds simultaneously the visible one and the invisible one called the’ second’ world. Life in the second world mirrors what takes place in the first but is all about the acquisition of power and the conquest of others in order to do the witch’s bidding.

And although the practice of Voodoo or ‘Voudon’ originated in West and Central Africa and has been closely linked to the slave trade in this region beginning in the fifteenth century strong beliefs in witchcraft or sorcery as it is called in the French-speaking nations has always dominated East African cultural and social beliefs. Kenyan’s magical lore involves ‘muti’ the use of spells and charms to help a person achieve their goals so in Kiswahili the word for witchcraft is kamuti. And the person who has been trained to negotiate with the spirit or second world is called a m’ganga (witchdoctor) or wa’ganga ( witch doctors).

I clearly remember walking by a ithembo (spirit shrine) one Sunday afternoon in Kitui before the group I was with understood what they had done. There were five Kenyans, all college-educated professionals and one medical doctor with me that day and. every one of them was petrified that we had insulted the spirits and therefore would bring bad juju down on us. They were so concerned that no one moved until we stopped and discussed the matter then agreed to a solution. We eventually decided to leave about twenty-five dollars in Kenyan shillings near the site with a message taped to it that stated, “This money belongs to the spirits dwelling in the ithembo and no one else.” Only then could the members of the group walk on .

I also remember while living with the Kamba in Kitui sitting around the campfire at night listening to their tales about the most powerful witches who they said lived in the mountains we could see from the back of our guest house. The members of the Kamba tribe,( Wakamba) are rather famous among the rest of Kenya’s tribes for their use of magic and spells and were known to sacrifice children to their gods a century ago in order to bring the rain. No man or woman, native or mzungu ever openly scoffed about juju or witchcraft in my presence while I lived in Kitui- kamuti was considered as much a part of their lives as the act of breathing or eating.

So why the emergence in child sacrifices in East Africa beginning around 2007? If one looks at the Ugandan and the Kenyan GDP during this time the killings began just when Uganda and Kenya’s economies began to dramatically improve for the better. Businessmen located in Kampala and Nairobi became wealthy in a few short years and their stores prospered. Middle class Ugandans and Kenyans suddenly grew rich and able to purchase homes in the better parts of town. A new class of merchant was born – one who had not been born rich but had made his money through hard work and shrewd business acumen. But as quickly as the economy flourished by 2009 it started to take a sharp turn for the worse. In Kenya, where the unemployment rate was around 12% in 2006 by 2012 it had steadily increased to 40%. (United Nations Development, 2013) And in Uganda where it was 1.90 % in 2007-2008 , it rose to 4.20% from 2010-2012. The nouveau riche in Kampala and Nairobi began to feel desperate convinced that their current good fortune could leave them  unless they thought of a way to keep it with them.

“And this was about the time a group of unscrupulous witch doctors began to recognize the fear and desperation in their clients’ voices and started to resurrect the old ritual of child sacrifice in order to vanquish their clients’ fears and at the same time profit handsomely from these deals”. According to the information passed along to me by a well- informed friend living in Kampala. “It was a time when a very resourceful network of criminals saw a way to make a quick buck at the expense of children”.

According to an Apr. 24, 2009 ChristianWeek.org article there are about 160,000 traditional healers practicing in Uganda. 100 times the licensed medical doctors working in the country and according to a local news poll 4 out of 5 Ugandans have admitted to consulting with traditional healers. Most of these healers are moral, dedicated individuals who would never condone or take part in child sacrifices. No, these murderous wa’ganga were a new breed of assassins altogether; most of them were men, some of them were women and all of them were willing to murder children for a price.

These wa’ganga were scam-artists at best and in no way connected to the more reputable healers serving the people in both countries. Most of these men (and a few women) had received little to no training about the spirit world and invented their rituals on stories they had heard as children while a few others had been incompetent healers at best. All of them were violent criminals more dangerous because of the guns and the poison they used than the spells they claimed to cast. They had no problem condoning the  murder of  innocent children and asking for certain body parts. They managed to engineer a profitable scheme based upon an ancient practice and began charging exorbitant sums of money to arrange these child sacrifices  to ensure wealth, health, and prosperity for their clients. To a man they preached that slaughtering a child pleased the spirits more than anything else ensuring the individual the greatest good fortune.

Some local healers began informing authorities that many of these ‘evil’ witch doctors had entered Uganda and Kenya from Tanzania after the government there cracked down on human sacrificing and on the sale of human skin in 2008. Albinos were especially being targeted across Tanzania because their body parts were said to be especially potent when used in protection rituals. Wherever they originated from, the child- murderers emerged advertising their services on radio, internet, and signs posted on roadways and bragging about their ability to heal and perform spiritual services for those able to pay their fees.

In doing so, these men discovered a valuable, new commodity- a surplus of vulnerable children. And there was an ever- plentiful supply. According to the (United Nations Development Program 2013) 80% of all Kenyans are less than 35 years of age and 77% of all Ugandans are less than 30 years of age. Many of these children were neither loved nor wanted and already placed a considerable burden on their families to cloth and feed. They were easy to trick, abduct, and subdue. Many of them were so hungry that they would go with anyone who offered them food to eat. Plus they were worth hundreds of dollars apiece to the right buyer.

And so the trade in child sacrifices was established and quickly became a lucrative business endeavor. The m’ganga’s message was a simple one- when you offer blood or body parts from a living child to the spirits, they will acknowledge this great sacrifice by granting you continuous wealth, health, and prosperity. Children’s body parts were also used as good luck charms and when buried under a new house or store secured lasting good luck for the owner. Or blood and body parts could be left as an offering at an ithembo on the altar directly in front of a spirit tree, (an old tree where the spirits are known to dwell).

The goal is to find an unmarked child who has no piercings or marks on his/her body- the purer the child the more money charged and the more effective his/her blood and body parts during the ritual. Securing a child can be done in two ways: by stealing the child or by purchasing the child. Parents in rural areas near big cities have  been more than willing to sell off their children for a price and have also been known to kill their own children in similar rituals in order to guarantee continuing prosperity for themselves and their business endeavors. Boys are more valued for their heads, genitals, and blood and girls for their blood, heart, and liver.

In 2008 the Ugandan police reported that ritual murders had increased over 800% from the year before and that children were the victims, most disappearing from rural villages located near the capital city of Kampala. By May, 2009, the US State Department had declared Uganda a ‘ hub’ for human trafficking because of the spike in the number of children reported missing. Uganda was embarrassed by the United Nations into creating Uganda’s Anti- Human Sacrifice Taskforce. Backed by the Uganda Witchcraft Act of 1957 the policemen assigned to this taskforce have been charged with collecting the evidence needed to bring the evil wa’ganga to justice but they have yet to show that they are up to the task. Complaints of corruption and bribery within the ranks of the taskforce have hurt its image considerably and Ugandan families who have lost children are not confident that these men have either the skills or the commitment necessary to locate their missing sons and daughters. According to their own records from 2006-2010 of the 138 cases relating in some way to human sacrifice the taskforce brought 83 to trial in a court of law and only one person was convicted as a result.

How can adults  treat children as livestock, willing to  engage in selling them – even murdering them?   But even as I ask myself this question  I know differently. Young children and old people are the first to die whenever the primary group’s survival has been threatened by war or natural disaster. Dire poverty makes people do desperate things and as countries like the United States and European Union begin to recover from the downturn in the economy remember that the residents of third world countries have been hit that much harder. When there are no jobs available the cleverest among us invent our own and as the pool of accessible commodities shrink we get real inventive and consider more  novel ways to earn money using those things that were previously considered illegal or taboo. In many developed nations there are people who go to bed hungry at night but have access to centers, shelters, and other ways to secure food the very next day. Go to bed hungry in a hut in rural Tanzania because your crops have failed to grow and you and your entire family could be dead by the end of the week. This type of desperation makes monsters of average people who will do anything in order to survive – the jackals, we call them.

It is easy  to choose  morality on a full stomach but would any of us act differently if we faced a similar lack of resources and death loomed that much closer each and every day? Think about it.

Kat Nickerson                                           Kingston  Rhode Island       USA

What Will It Take to Save the East African Lion from Extinction? Hunting or Herding?

20 May
My Favorite Lion Photo, I took this on safari in the Maasai Mara in  2005

My Favorite Lion Photo, I took this on safari in the Maasai Mara in 2005

 

What, if anything can save the East African lion from extinction?  A hundred years ago more than 200,000 wild lions roamed freely over the continent of Africa but according to present day estimates a mere 32,000 lions (IUCN, 2013) remain throughout its forest woodlands and savannahs. More wild lions are found in the countries of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania than any of the other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa combined. Currently classified as ‘Vulnerable’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) the wild lion has been ousted from over 75% of its previous habitats on this continent in the last century alone, making scientists and conservationists alike wonder if the “ King of the Beasts” is well on his way to extinction.

And the wild lion communities in Central and Western Africa have fared the worse. Experts believe that there may be less than 2,000 wild lions left in West and Central Africa, -a mere 6% of the total lion population identified as living in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2013.  This has prompted the IUCN to reclassify the status of the Central and Western African lion to ‘Regionally Endangered” due to the dramatic drop in its numbers in previous years. There are large areas in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and other locations around West Africa where wild lions have not been sighted for decades. In a ‘last ditch’ effort to save the remaining big cats in these countries from extinction, a new project, The Large Carnivore Initiative for West and Central Africa has been established through a joint effort among several international conservation groups

Many conservationists feel that the African lion can only be saved through an immediate and intense global effort led by the United States and the European Union but heavily endorsed by the United Nations. In 2011, five animal-rights groups petitioned the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to classify the African lion as an “Endangered Species,” citing that “their numbers had continued to significantly drop due to habitat encroachment by humans, poaching, commercial hunting, and a host of deadly diseases.”

So it was surprising when Alexander Songorwa, Director of Wildlife for the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, the highest ranking wildlife official in the country of Tanzania publically opposed this request in a letter to the New York Times’ Opinion Page on March of 2013. He explained in this open declaration that the revenues generated from Tanzania’s lion- hunting endeavors were critically responsible for helping the country both maintain and protect its current population of lion prides from extinction and would “threaten the country’s capacity to protect all of its wild lions.”

Trophy hunting is big business in Tanzania worth millions of US dollars in revenue to the country; trophy hunting safaris were responsible for adding over $75 million US to Tanzania’s economy between the years 2008 – 2011. And American hunters have booked at least 60 % of all trophy-hunting safaris in this country meaning that these hunters play an important role in providing the financial capital used to sustain wildlife conservation throughout Tanzania in the twenty-first century. The US dollars spent on expensive “safari packages” and “taxidermist services” literally support Tanzanian game reserves, wildlife management positions, and conservation efforts. According to Mr. Songorwa if Tanzania’s wild lions are placed on the endangered species list then American “Big Game Hunters” would no longer be permitted to bring the skins and mounted heads of their “kills” through customs once they had landed in the United States. Seems that displaying your animal ‘trophy’  is considered to be a significant part of the hunting experience so Mr. Songorwa is correct in assuming that these same men and women would soon go elsewhere to pursue “approved”  game.

But Songorwa claims that hunting the Tanzanian wild lion has not decimated its numbers as commonly thought rather it has saved the wild lion population in his country from extinction. He insists that Tanzania is home to the largest population of wild lions in the world.  He proposes that 16,800 lions, or 40 % of all the wild lions in Africa currently live in Tanzania, but 16,800 out of a grand total of 32,000 lions ( IUCN, 2013) living on the entire continent makes it more like Tanzania is home to more than 53% of all Africa’s wild lions if his estimates are to be believed. And he goes on to say “that although our hunting system is not perfect we have managed to keep our lion population stable and protected throughout the 26 large game reserves.”

According to Mr. Songorwa, Tanzania has already allocated one third of its land for national parks, game reserves, and wildlife management areas successfully regulating the hunting of wild lions for decades. All females and adolescent males less than six years of age cannot be hunted for any reason and the government recently made it a crime to kill any members of this subset. The killing of older males has also been limited to specific quotas based on the current lion population in each hunting area.  And he maintained that stricter laws on animal exports and safari companies have further helped the Wildlife Service to more thoroughly police the actions of Tanzania’s trophy-hunting businesses at the local level.

In a 2009 study, lion expert Professor Craig Packer of the University of Minnesota along with other colleagues from the US, UK, and Tanzania determined as a result of their research that the trophy hunting rate of big cats throughout Tanzania had consistently been too high. He predicted that the future population of lions and leopards in Tanzania would be seriously decimated unless fewer big cats were killed by trophy hunters each year. According to Packer, Tanzania currently allows about “500 lions and 400 leopards per year to be killed for sport across a total area of 300,000 km² which equates to 1.67 lions per 1000 km² and 1.3 leopards per 1000 km².”

Although Mr. Songorwa’s message seemed sincere enough it remains to be seen just how committed his country has been to the plight of the wild lion after all. And although changes in the hunt totals and exemptions based on age and sex that Dr. Packer recommended in his study were made by the Tanzanian Wildlife Service these new regulations have only been in place for the past three years meaning that all of these improvements could have been made “too little, too late” to effect the systemic change needed to ensure the survival of the lion population into the next decade. Plus there is a better than average chance that these laws and restrictions will not be followed in the more remote hunting areas. With hunters ready to pay enormous tips for the pleasure of the kill and guides earning pitifully low wages any lion is sure to be considered fair game at the end of a long and unproductive “hunting drive” no matter its age or sex.

According to Dr. Packer the government of Tanzania should be commended for seeking to improve their wildlife policies and their trophy- hunting operations and if they strictly enforce each one of his recommendations the decline in the current population of wild lions due to the effects of over- hunting should abate soon enough giving the prides time to increase their numbers. But Packer’s recommendations have not been adhered to all that closely to ensure the results he predicted.

Kenya has always looked at the revenues generated by Tanzania’s trophy- hunting operations with a jaded eye. Kenya has established many local “Lion Projects” over the years that collect and share lion data across the country and the Maasai, a tribe dependent on their herds of cattle have taken an exceptionally active interest in increasing the lion populations around the Maasai Mara, one of the country’s largest game reserves. The country banned trophy hunting back in 1977 and has no intention of following Tanzania’s lead. In fact, when I have been on safari in Kenya the guides have taken great pride in telling me that, “Kenya does not tolerate the killing of its wild animals by hunters for any reason.”

In January 2011, the government of Uganda followed suit requiring that the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) cancel all hunting concessions that had been previously granted to the major wildlife reserves citing concern for the “dwindling numbers” of wild animals in these areas. “Hunting is now prohibited,” Mark Kamanzi, acting director of UWA told the Ugandan press as he reiterated that the profits from all sports- hunting endeavors were not “substantial, had not stopped poachers, or helped wildlife reserves to better manage their resources”.

Other countries in Africa are currently facing the same critical decisions in regard to the future of trophy –hunting enterprises within their own countries. Zambia’s Minister of Tourism and Arts, Sylvia T. Masebo, announced in December, 2012, that specific hunting licenses would be suspended indefinitely as they had “been abused to the extent they threatened the country’s animal populations.” And by January, 2013 the Zambian government put laws into effect that banned all lion and leopard hunting, citing that these populations had faced a substantial decline in recent years.

Botswana has taken a similar pro-conservation stance as President Ian Khama pledged that, “the shooting of wild game for sport and trophies is no longer compatible with our commitment to preserve the local fauna” and instituted a country-wide ban on sports hunting that will began on January 1, 2014.

In the spring, 2013 a new report, Conserving Large Carnivores: Dollars and Fence, published in “Ecology Letters” by Dr. Craig Packer and other well-known lion specialists from around the world went even farther calling for the African reserves to be fenced in after maintaining that nearly half of Africa’s current wild lion population of 30,000 will die in the next 20-40 years unless drastic conservation measures have been put in place. These scientists recommended that the wild lion be fenced in to ultimately save it from total extinction.

According to Packer, “We’ve seen fences work and unfenced populations are extremely expensive to maintain.” Using field data from 11 African countries, the study examined the cost of managing fenced in areas versus unfenced habitats, and compared the lion populations living in both situations. The report found that in fenced-in areas: conservation costs were lower and lion populations remained larger. Plus lions living in unfenced territories were subjected to a higher degree of danger from their contact with the human beings living closest to them.”

Packer’s recommendation makes certain sense but before we exhale- is this solution a practical one? The cost of fencing in something as large as a game reserve is an outrageously expensive venture and these are third world countries. Many of these same African nations have yet to figure out a way to feed their own people let alone construct miles of fence line across wildlife reserves just to save the “big cats”. Even if they believed that fencing was the most cost- effective solution in the long run, how would they ever afford the initial monies?  According to Packer, “fencing in just the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, would cost upwards of $30 million dollars. And then more money would have to be set aside in order to maintain this structure. At a total perimeter of 17,000 square miles, the yearly bill to manage the fenced-in lion population alone would be another $22 million dollars.” Besides Selous is only one of 26 other national game reserves in Tanzania. And if, as the wildlife specialists tell us, one pride (around 25 members) needs around 100 square miles of territory to maintain an optimum lifestyle wouldn’t every East and South African country require an astronomical amount of fencing to see that the job is properly done?

As far as the future of the wild lion in Africa is concerned – it seems to balance precariously on one too many “ifs.” If the legislation and regulations pertaining to the killing of lions and the exportation of illegal lion skins were actually enforced; if people could no longer pay their way out of prosecution and incarceration for breaking wildlife laws; if government administrators and wildlife guides remained honest in the face of outrageous bribes and strictly adhered to hunting quotas; if the citizens of these countries gave the land belonging to the lions back to them and agreed to fence in the amount of land needed to support larger prides; if villagers ceased killing lions in vicious ways simply for acting like the carnivores they are. And lastly, if everyone in the world agreed to back off and give wild lions the room and the support they needed to thrive, then just maybe the lion as a species could survive. But even as I end this sentence – I have my doubts.

 

Kat Nickerson                                      Kingston,      RI     USA

15 March 2012 Welcome to my Africa Blog!

15 Mar

 

Welcome world to the birth of my Africa Blog!

Be sure to look for a new post once a week. I shall add a new post every Sunday evening around 8:00pm

My name is Kathleen J. Nickerson. Let me begin by saying that I am indeed a real person,an associate professor in the Education Department at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, USA and my professional vitae can be accessed on the university’s home page under “University Faculty.” I have an earned Doctorate in Education which makes me Dr. Kat. My purpose for creating this blog is twofold: 1.) to share my many personal adventures with you all and 2,) to educate you about what I have come to understand are the most important issues in East Africa at this time.  I also promise to use my original photographs and film clips in my posts taken during my travels especially the six safaris I had the pleasure to experience in southern Kenya and northern Uganda. 

After serving for so many summers in East Africa I have made many friends from professional colleagues to taxi cab drivers who contact me on a regular basis throughout the other nine months of the year. They candidly supply me with specific details about what they believe are the most critical problems and inequalities occurring within their own countries. They wonder if the rest of the world has any idea or cares about the personal tragedies they endure each day. News about specific countries in East Africa is scarce especially in the United States. Information  about Africa is not included in our nightly news broadcasts. It is my intent to provide my reader with the most current and honest information about the critical problems currently faced by the people of East Africa. Like any good reporter I will never identify my sources. Revealing names can get my friends shot or jailed and from what I have witnessed individuals who have been exposed as informants always end up dead. But I do swear to search out and confirm each and every fact I include in my blog entries and make sure that each has been correctly explained and is based on the most accurate information. I will never base the topics I choose to post on the testimony on one source alone and will only select issues that have been reported by several reputable individuals.

I shall also provide links for you, the reader to access in order to investigate topics that are of further interest to you. East African governments in general have become very sensitive to negative publicity and are quick to retaliate. Elite police squads like the KweKwe Squad did exist for several years, and according to some citizens, have not been disbanded as reported. They are very real para-military groups who have considerable expertise in the use of deadly force and who have been given the power to censor anyone at anytime without warning.

 http://wlcentral.org/node/1817  2011-05-28 Kenyan cables provide critical material for ‘evidence  war’ on extrajudicial killings

The Kenyan government’s official position is that the KweKwe squad was discontinued on January 29, 2008 by Internal Security Minister George Saitoti but many Kenyans disagree and fear that the members of this notorious squad who currently serve as ordinary police officers throughout Kenya have been brought together from time to time and called upon to carry out “special orders” assigned by the president, the prime minister, and other powerful members of parliament.

http://nipate.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=5407&p=38444     EX- KweKwe Squad Police Commander John Kariuki Dies Suddenly with Police Secrets.

I love the people of East Africa and since the year 2006 have had the opportunity to travel to Kenya and now Uganda in order to continue my research on “the educational needs of children in trauma”. My experiences began at an orphanage for Children with AIDS called Nyumbani created by a Jesuit Priest/Psychiatrist from Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Father Dag as he was more lovingly called showed up at my university’s Fall Convocation and invited me on the spot to come to Kenya and work with him the following summer. The first summer I stayed for two months, supervised two SRU students and returned the following year. During my first summer in Kenya I also worked at the Nyumbani AIDS clinic in Kibera, the largest slum in East Africa.

A couple summers later I brought five SRU education students with me for the month of August while I spent from May to the beginning of September working with individual orphans and developing an instructional curriculum for the students at Nyumbani who were on one of their tri-semester breaks. The following year I became part of a team of professors from SRU who had been invited to The Catholic University of East Africa, CUEA (for short) where we taught classes in the counseling program to graduate students pursuing a master’s degree in the field of psychology. Psychology is a undeveloped field in East Africa and although vitally needed there are few trained African counselors working in community organizations around Kenya. My graduate students were some of the bravest and most resourceful students I have ever met. Most of them worked for or were members of religious organizations. Then I stayed for the rest of the summer at the Nyumbani Village for orphans in Kitui where I helped to establish a primary school. This district is located in a remote area of Kenya in the western part of the country towards the Somali border. While in the village I lived in a tiny four-room guest house without electricity, traditional toilets, or running water.

I continued to work in Kenya until the summer of 2011 when I was invited to come to the country of Uganda for the month of June. I served as a visiting professor at Kyambogo University. Kyambogo is a large government-sponsored university located in the capital city of Kampala. I spent the summer conducting workshops on Trauma and Resilience Training for the faculty in the Education and Psychology departments and helping the junior faculty there develop their theses and dissertation research topics. While in Uganda I had the opportunity to travel through Gulu and learned a great deal about the war in Northern Uganda, child soldiers, the guerilla Kony, and the Lord’s Liberation Army from the people living and working around me -all of whom I will blog about at a later date.

I’ve thought about creating my own African blog for a very long time now. Thanks to some dear friends, mySRU students, and especially my sons, Micah and Joshua Nickerson who urged me to share my concerns and adventures in East Africa with the rest of the world-I’ve finally done it!. This blog has been designed especially for young people who care about others and dream of making a difference. Take this knowledge, make it yours, then do something with it! 

Kat Nickerson    Kingston, RI, USA

 

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