Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A response from one of our favourite readers

I received an e-mail from an ardent reader and thought I would share it...

“Just writing a story in response to this, criticising a prominent Kenyan politican, that I will send to my political editor friend (, who might just publish it; which could mean that I can never set foot in Kenya as long as he (politician) lives; that is if he’s not killed himself yet with booze! But he’s trying hard, and, like everything in his life, he is failing!”

Let me tell you a story of a white woman on safari in Kenya...

I arrived in Kenya in late April 2000, in the middle of a 3 year drought. There had been no rain for 18 months when I arrived, and the land was parched; water was rationed, and electricity supply infrequent.

The rains had returned in 2002, along with the campaigning for a change of President and Parliament. During that year a young politician named Uhuru Kenyatta was running for President. He is just 3 months older than me. I was 40 in that year.

During August/September 2002, my mother came to visit for 6 weeks, and we went to visit several of Kenya’s National Parks. I had a 2-door, 4WD Short Wheel Base Pajero that I loved. It went everywhere I wanted to go, and I loved off-roading with it. My gardener would judge the quality of my weekends by the amount of mud he would wash off on a Monday morning. Thus mud on the roof equalled a most excellent weekend.

One of our safaris was to Tsavo National Park and then on to Amboseli National Park, both along the border with Tanzania, but so very different in ‘personality’

For this trip I took with me one of the company drivers, Joseph, whom I allowed to drive on the roads; but once inside the parks, I took the wheel and for the first time he saw his country through my eyes, the eyes of a tourist, rather than the narrow view of a driver focussed on the road ahead. He was full of wonder and awe, as was my mother. We saw all the usual animals that one sees in Africa, but up close and personal is far more exhilarating than on TV or in a zoo.

After an excellent day touring around the park, getting lost and finding signposts pointing the way, and generally having a great time, we headed to our tented camp for the night. About 5km from our destination, we hit a 'small' pothole and bottomed out, tearing off the exhaust pipe. Thus we roared into camp - we were heard coming for ages before we arrived, and the manager was at the gate to greet us. He said that there was nothing he could do that evening, and asked us to park the car and we would “do something with it” in the morning.

Mother and I were shown to our tent and Joseph to his quarters. The meal was delightful, as was the entertainment. We were returned to our tents by the staff who had large torches to shine on the paths. The animals were very close, but the biggest danger that evening was a column of Soldier Ants that had to be stepped over very carefully.

In the morning Mother was not feeling so bright, so she decided to stay in the camp while Joseph and I went with a guide to a local farm to have the exhaust welded back on. All over Kenya at this time was talk of the candidate Uhuru Kenyatta. I had my own opinions and took this opportunity to voice them.

He was far to young; I was only 40 and well traveled, but felt that even at my age I did not have the wisdom to be able to lead a country as diverse as Kenya, and besides which, this man had bloodshot eyes… permanently, and looked like a deer caught in headlights - all bug-eyed and unsure of himself. He may be the son of the first President, but that did not give him the insight or wisdom to run a country. He looked like he would have difficulty running his household. I thought him to be an alcoholic, and assumed that he used his position and parentage to get whatever he wanted to support a hedonistic lifestyle.

I spent the entire time my car was being repaired deriding this candidate, hardly noticing that the staff were getting quieter, and eventually fell silent. Joseph was looking decidedly uncomfortable and the look on his face finally sunk in and I asked whose property we were on. It was a Kenyatta farm! I was in danger of being overheard by some who may well not share my views of their employer’s kin. There was great relief when I apologised and left with my exhaust repaired...

In late December that year the election was held and Kenyatta lost massively to Mwai Kibaki, outvoted by more than 2-1. My comments then are still valid and after reading of his recent outburst, he is still no wiser, nor of any leadership quality. He is merely a bully, hiding behind the shirt tails of his late father and of his ‘Uncle’ Moi.

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