The relationship between wildlife conservation and colonization in Kenya

May 2018—For thousands of years, indigenous Africans lived in harmony with nature.

It wasn’t until after the European invasion of Africa that we have to worry about conservation of “endangered species” and taking care of grasslands.

The narrative being peddled by white settlers in Kenya and across the continent is that they are the best custodians of conservancy and Africans should take a back seat and watch them, self-declared “experts,” take care of our land and wildlife.

White settlers in Kenya own a disproportionate amount of land and tourism infrastructure.

Not much has changed since the flag “independence” of 1963. Granted, neocolonialists get to eat scraps from the table of imperialism but for the rest, the peasantry in Kenya, landlessness is a glaring reality.

Throughout Africa, nature conservation and safari tourism remain sectors where Europeans hold a monopoly over the system.

Since the colonial period, wildlife conservation has been a leading occupation for many of Kenya’s white settlers─the likes of Kuki Gallman and David Sheldrick’s family.

Recent invasions of wildlife conservancies in Laikipia County in Kenya have often been framed as conflicts between indigenous pastoralist communities and European “conservationists”.

The conflicts in Laikipia and elsewhere in Kenya, however, ought to be seen as a national security threat aggravated by historical land injustices and the pursuit of an inappropriate conservation model that relegates the true owners of the resources to the periphery.

“Conservation” and a false sense of entitlement to the land

The wildlife conservation narrative in Kenya and throughout the continent has always been entangled with colonialism, deliberate exclusion of the indigenous people of the land and blatant bribery of neocolonial stooges in exchange for more land that needs “conservation.”

European settlers in Kenya have an imagined sense of entitlement to and identification with their so called “adopted land.”

With the political support from the neocolonial government and international “conservation” non-governmental organizations (NGOs), these people have literally taken over and have been running not just conservation, but also security, livestock and conflict resolution in a manner that greatly interferes with the independence of the communities that claim ownership of the land.

The reaction to what happens there and how it affects the rights of the communities to their lands and resources ought to be seen as social after-effects of historical land injustices and neocolonial government neglect.  

This vertical violence response by the indigenous people of the land is justified.

It’s apparent that the white settlers cannot fathom the idea of ever giving up the giant parcels of land to the original owners.

Some have been offloading the land to other bourgeoisie people, like top business and political elites in the country.

The white settlers have adopted a multi-pronged counter-campaign and have shown─ in words and deeds─that they are not ready to forfeit the land.

They have been fronting their sprawling ranches as important wildlife conservation areas to the world.

The imperialist media has peddled the lie that they are doing benevolent work for the “ungrateful” errant natives who keep invading “their” conservancies.

Targeted in this approach is a powerful and capitalist audience in the west that has contributed immensely to support wildlife “conservation” in cash and kind.  

Capitalism drives conservation in Kenya, not a genuine love for the environment and wildlife.

The nefarious plot to disenfranchise Africans is further enhanced by the involvement of imperialist organizations such as the United Nations through the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to give world heritage status to these white owned ranches. 

The plan is to have UNESCO endorse this faux conservation idea to the world enabling the ranchers to maintain a lasting claim on the land and, therefore, “eternally” defeat any campaign to have it reverted to the community.

So far, Lewa Conservancy has attained this status.

Imperialist agendas and the consequences to indigenous Africans

Recently, the United States government channeled, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Ksh2 billion (20 million USD) in a scheme meant to expand 33 conservancies in Kenya.

Announcing the grant, U.S. imperialist ambassador, Robert Godec, said it was meant to “support the work of community rangers, conserve wildlife and fisheries, improve livelihoods and advance women’s enterprises.”  

This was a brazen lie, as none of the indigenous communities have benefited from these ranches. They are mere servants at these ranches!

These conservancies have identified and co-opted local leaders and elites who aid in persuading the pastoralists to set aside land for conservation.

As a result, some of the prominent personalities within the Samburu, Borana, Maasai and Rendile communities are on the conservancies board.  

These sell-outs have auctioned off their own people to the imperialists for their own selfish petty bourgeoisie aspirations.  

The setting aside of huge sections of the community for conservation purposes has created a dilemma for the communities and is proving to worsen rather than diminish poverty.

It has contributed to the hardships suffered by local pastoralists, especially during the drought period.

These European settlers in Kenya want to peddle the lie that Africans have been living for centuries in a state of enmity with wildlife and the environment and we would have decimated and ruined both were it not for western imperialist conservationism.

The roots of conservation in Kenya and throughout Africa are anchored in colonialism. The role of game keepers in British protectorate Kenya was to prevent indigenous people from hunting purely for survival so that the colonialists could kill for sheer recreation.

Over five decades of so-called “independence” has only seen the maintenance of the status quo.

All Africans must rise up and claim what is rightfully theirs. The land and wildlife belong to us.

We have always had a symbiotic relationship with the environment, even before the invasion of our land by the imperialists.  

Join the revolutionary movement African Socialist Internationalist (ASI) for self-determination.




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