Statistics on equal participation show that women remain underrepresented in political positions globally. According to UN Women, there are only 26 women serving as heads of state and/or government in 24 countries. Of these, 10 countries have a woman as a head of state, while the rest have a woman as head of government. Only 14 countries have 50 per cent or more women in the cabinet. Overall, just 21 per cent of government ministers are women. At the national parliament level, only 25 per cent of parliamentarians are women. Only four countries in the world have 50 per cent or more women in parliament in single or lower houses ((Rwanda – 61 per cent, Cuba – 53 per cent, Bolivia – 53 per cent and United Arab Emirates – 50 per cent). Achieving gender parity in political participation is a persistent problem for nearly all countries in the world.
In 1995, 189 countries unanimously adopted the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, an agenda for women’s empowerment and a key global policy document on gender equality. The document prioritized twelve critical areas of concern that needed to be tackled to achieve gender equality. One of the areas was Women in Power and Decision-Making and countries agreed to take measures to ensure women’s equal access to and full participation in power structures and decision-making, and to increase women’s capacity in decision-making and leadership. The Platform for Action set a target of having women hold 50 per cent of managerial and decision-making positions by the year 2000.
Achieving gender parity in political participation is a persistent problem for nearly all countries in the world.
More than 20 years since the turn of the millennium, the ambitious 50-50 target is far from being attained, and the question of gender parity remains a persistent concern in democratic processes, particularly in Africa. The situation in Kenya is no different. The National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA Kenya) carried out a Gender Analysis of the 2017 elections and highlighted a number of gains and drawbacks. Following the inauguration of a new constitution that promised gender equality, 29 per cent of all candidates who ran for political office in 2017 were women, the highest number ever recorded in the country. The result: women won 172 of the 1,883 seats, up from 145 in the 2013 elections.
The analysis also highlighted that from 2017 to 2022, women accounted for 23 per cent of the National Assembly and Senate seats. However, this number is deceptive because it includes seats reserved exclusively for women representatives. The 2010 Constitution created the position of County Women Representative, a seat reserved for women in Kenya National Assembly.
The Constitution also envisaged a situation where no more than two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly or the Senate were of the same gender. While the courts have ruled that both houses have failed to achieve the constitutional threshold for gender representation, the country is yet to come up with a formula to resolve the question in electoral politics.
There is a debate between two positions. One proposal is to force political parties to nominate women to vie for certain political positions. However, with political plurality where different political parties can nominate candidates of different genders to vie for the same political position, there is no guarantee that if one party nominates a woman and another nominates a man, the woman candidate will prevail at the ballot box. The other proposal is to amend the constitution to make provisions such as for the County Women Representative, where certain representative positions are reserved for women.
However, women’s representation can only be sustainably achieved through increased participation in elective politics. In partnership with Womankind Worldwide, FIDA recently conducted a three-day training programme dubbed the “Woman Leadership Academy” to increase public discourse and participation of women in the August 2022 polls. The sessions were a forum for current women legislators to share their experiences with the 350 aspirants in attendance, including on political party processes, campaign strategies, mental wellness, and media training.
The initiative followed the Vote-A-Dada campaign launched by FIDA in August 2021 to encourage more women to get onto the ballot. Vote-A-Dada campaign “integrates the inter-sectional participation of women in the country to demand action from the State, the Legislature, and all other governance institutions in promoting women’s leadership”, said Kirinyaga Governor Ann Waiguru, who was the chief guest at the training event.
As the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) moves to gazette candidates for the August 2022 general election, anecdotal evidence suggests that this year’s elections will feature the highest number of women candidates in the history of the country’s electoral politics.
Women’s representation can only be sustainably achieved through increased participation in elective politics.
The nomination of women into powerful political positions has always faced criticism as tokenism and political correctness. Critics argue that the mere presence and visibility of women in political positions, without due regard for merit, is counterproductive and devalues the criticality of competence in public service delivery. However, the nomination of Martha Karua as the Deputy Presidential candidate for one of the two leading political coalitions has reinvigorated the debate on the value of gender equality and parity in political representation.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that every person has the right to take part in the government of their country. Initiatives that empower women, guarantee their autonomy, and improve their social, economic, and political status are essential for the achievement of a transparent and accountable government and the promotion of sustainable development in other areas of life. Equality in power relations enables women to lead fulfilling lives, while equality in political participation and representation provides a balance that accurately reflects the composition of the society. Gender equality and parity strengthens democratic processes. It remains to be seen whether the results of the August 2022 general elections will reinforce the gains made over the past two decades towards achieving women’s equal participation in leadership.
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Without Political Reforms Rwandans Will Continue to Seek Refuge Abroad
Rwanda has been praised for its economic achievements but political persecution and human rights violations remain rife in the country.
Rwanda, a country to which the UK plans to deport asylum seekers, has been producing refugees since its independence on the 1st of July 1962. Successive regimes have used any and all means to stay in power, refusing to implement governance reforms and causing the country to experience cycles of violence that have led Rwandans to seek refuge in other countries.
Already, the independence of Rwanda was preceded by a revolution in 1959 that forced Rwandans into exile.
The first ever ruling party to lead Rwanda, the Party for Hutu Emancipation (MDR-Parmehutu) gradually transformed the multi-party political system into a single party system. It made no attempt to address the social grievances engendered by the 19599 revolution and nor did it engage directly with those Rwandans who had fled Rwanda during the revolution to agree on their safe and voluntary return to their motherland.
In 1973, the then President of Rwanda Grégoire Kayibanda was overthrown through a coup d’état that created a new wave of Rwandan exiles. The new ruling party, the National Revolutionary Movement for Development (MRND), enacted laws effectively making Rwanda a single-party state and replaced the 1st of July independence celebrations with the 5th of July celebrations of the MRND coming into power. The MRND was in power for over two decades, with its chairman, Juvénal Habyarimana, the sole presidential candidate, consecutively winning elections with close to 100 per cent of the vote. While Habyarimana was commended for his economic achievements, maintaining order and security in Rwanda and good relations with regional states, he was criticised for human rights violations and lack of democracy.
As with its predecessor, the MRND government did not address the social grievances of those who fled Rwanda during the 1959 revolution and following the 1973 coup d’état, grievances which were also shared by Rwandans inside the country, including the families and friends of those who fled and other dissenting voices inside Rwanda. While it was clear that there was an urgent need to implement reforms in governance, the ruling MRND was slow to act, and when it did, it was too late.
The single party system was replaced by a multiparty system in 1990 but in the same year the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) launched an attack on Rwanda. The RPF was mainly composed of the descendants of Rwandans who had fled the country in the wake of the 1959 revolution. Negotiations between the MRND, various political parties and the RPF, were agreed in 1993. However, in 1994, Habyarimana was assassinated, and the civil war resumed that culminated in the Rwandan genocide.
The RPF went on to win the battle and take power in 1994. Although the majority of Rwandans who had fled Rwanda during the 1959 revolution returned, the civil war and the genocide led to a new exodus of thousands of Rwandans into exile.
The RPF implemented a consensus democracy that aimed to prevent further ethnic violence while accelerating development. Although this political system was supposedly a multi-party system, it has transformed over time into a single party system that suppresses political dissent, restricts pluralism and curbs civil liberties.
Similar to its predecessor, the current regime does not celebrate Rwanda’s independence day on the 1st July of each year but rather the 4th July, the day it won the battle and took over power. Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has ruled the country for over two decades, winning elections with close to 100 per cent of the vote. Rwanda has once more been praised for its economic achievements and maintaining order and stability within its territory but has again been criticised for its human rights violations and lack of inclusiveness in political processes.
There is, however, a difference in how the RPF has opted to solve the Rwandan refugee problem.
The RPF’s security policy is premised on the strategy that any threat, real or perceived, is pre-empted beyond Rwanda’s borders since Rwanda is a small and densely populated country, and consequently, has no space for war within her territory.
It is in that perspective the Rwandan army invaded the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), its neighbouring state to the east, in the late 1990s with the aim of fighting the remaining Rwandan forces that had sought refuge in the DRC after the civil war and the 1994 genocide. The United Nations has reported that thousands of Rwandan refugees and Congolese nationals were killed in the process while thousands of Rwandan refugees were returned by force to their motherland.
In an effort to get Rwandan refugees to return home, the RPF also convinced the UN to invoke the cessation clause on the basis that Rwanda is now safe, and no Rwandan citizen should be considered a refugee. The RPF government has also implemented initiatives such as “Come and See” and “Rwanda Day” both in Rwanda and abroad in a bid to get Rwandan refugees to return to Rwanda. However, here are still over 200,000 Rwandan refugees across the world who do not wish to return home.
The RPF’s security policy is premised on the strategy that any threat, real or perceived, is pre-empted beyond Rwanda’s borders
There are compelling reasons why Rwandan refugees do not return while others continue to leave the country to seek refuge abroad. The devastating memories of the civil war, the genocide and the refugees killed in the forests of the Congo are still fresh in the minds of Rwandan refugees and, in the absence of a comprehensive reconciliation policy in Rwanda, they are unlikely to return. Moreover, persistent and widespread poverty and inequalities are forcing more Rwandans to leave the county and discouraging the return of refugees. And despite the international community recognising the economic achievements made by all regimes that have led Rwanda, 60 years after independence, Rwanda remains classified among the least developed and 25 poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world.
Political persecution and human rights violations are also rife in Rwanda and these deter Rwandan refugees from returning home while inciting those in the country to leave. Anyone who dares or is perceived to challenge the government’s policies and narratives is persecuted and labelled an “enemy of the state intending to destabilise Rwanda”.
In 2010, I was convicted on fabricated charges, including denying genocide, and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for daring to question the government’s policies. My appeal to the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights cleared me and I was released in 2018 through a presidential pardon after eight years in prison, five of which I spent in solitary confinement.
My story, and those of others who have gone and continue to go through similar experiences or worse for challenging the government, are testament that Rwanda is yet to embrace democratic values including respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Since its independence, successive regimes in Rwanda have been built around a strong man rather than strong institutions while external powers turn a blind eye to their repression and persistently provide political and diplomatic support. The result is that state institutions have been weakened, human rights and democratic values have been infringed upon and the problem of Rwandan refugees has remained unresolved, causing instability in Rwanda and providing a source of political tension in the African Great Lakes region.
Persistent and widespread poverty and inequalities are forcing more Rwandans to leave the county and discouraging the return of refugees.
Over the past two decades since the RPF took the power, Rwanda has been in political tensions with almost all its neighbouring states, accusing them of hosting Rwandan refugees who want to topple its current leadership by force.
Continuing in that direction means that Rwandan refugees abroad and Rwandans inside the country (half of whom are today aged between 15 and 44 years old and were minors or not yet born when the civil war and the genocide took place, and whose civil liberties are infringed upon through the various restrictions imposed by a regime that claims that its aim is to prevent the breakout of another ethnic conflict and to accelerate development) will eventually take the situation into their hands and fight for their rights in the same way the RPF did in 1990, with the risk of taking Rwanda back into its dark past and creating another exodus of Rwandans into exile.
But it must not be that way. Both Rwanda and friends of Rwanda must not let history repeat itself but must instead strive to create a better history for Rwanda that can inspire future generations to work together in harmony towards the development of their country while peacefully contributing to that of the region.
That is why governance reforms in Rwanda are a prerequisite to preventing history repeating itself in Rwanda and to putting an end to the tensions in the African Great Lakes region. Reforms can concretely be realised through an intra-Rwandan dialogue between the government, the opposition and civil society organisations based inside and outside Rwanda, especially those made up of Rwandan refugees. This inclusive dialogue would agree on and create an environment that would enable the safe and voluntary return of Rwandan refugees and facilitate long-term stability in Rwanda and in the African Great Lakes region. Dialogue as a means of finding a lasting solution to state problems is one of the fundamental principles of the constitution of Rwanda and it is aligned with the United Nations Strategy for peace consolidation, conflict resolution and prevention in the Great Lakes region adopted in 2020.
Conservationism in Africa: Imperialism by Other Means
Across Africa projects of capitalist extraction still ensure evictions, mass expropriations of land and misery. Today the government of Tanzania wants to expand the space for luxury tourists to enjoy picturesque views of nature – a wildlife fantasy of nature supposedly untouched by humans. Laibor Kalanga Moko and Jonas Bens argue that justification for the dispossession of indigenous communities has shifted from “economic development” to “wildlife conservation”.
In 1913, Maasai communities went to the Privy Council in London, the highest court in the British Empire, because they were trying to stop the colonial government from evicting them from a large part of their land – which is in today’s Kenya. At that time, the colonialists wanted to pave the way for white settlers to use the land for private capitalist enterprise. Back then, in 1913, the Maasai were unsuccessful.
This year, another court decision is expected, this time around by the East African Court of Justice, where Maasai communities seek redress against the renewed threat of eviction. Now, the government of Tanzania wants to expand the space for luxury tourists to enjoy picturesque views of nature in Ngorongoro district – a kind of nature supposedly untouched by humans. While the outcome of the court case is yet unsure, the government continues its harassment of Maasai communities.
It seems not much has changed in the basic constellation between Maasai pastoralists and their governments. Maasai are continuously forced to leave their land through violent means. At recent demonstrations, dozens of Maasai protesters were severely injured. What has changed, however, are the discourses through which governments justify the dispossession of the indigenous communities – from “economic development” to “wildlife conservation”.
In 1913, “development”, “modernization”, and “economic progress” were central keywords to justify the dispossession of Maasai lands. Arguments such as these remain of central importance even today, for example when people are being forced to leave their homes because of large-scale mining operations. People can lose their land either directly by forced eviction, such as in the recent examples from the Karamoja region in northern Uganda or Senegal, or indirectly because their homelands become too toxic to live in, as in the case of communities around Lake Malawi. Here, justifying discourses are often not very sophisticated. One newspaper article reporting on Zimbabwean villagers about to be forcefully evicted from their homes to make way for a Chinese mining company ends with the laconic sentence: “In a statement, the embassy said Chinese investors in Zimbabwe are working for the betterment of the country”.
In case of East African Maasai communities fighting to remain on their land in 2022, the vocabulary of land dispossession has shifted from “economic development” to “wildlife conservation”. Studies show that wildlife conservation has increasingly been used as an argument to evict indigenous communities from their homelands. This trend can be observed since the 1990s and is prevalent in all parts of the world, but particularly in South and South East Asia, North America, and Africa. Another recent example from East Africa is the attempt of the Kenyan government to force 20000 members of the Ogiek ethnic group from their ancestral lands in the Mau Forest on the grounds that the forest constituted a reserved water catchment zone and the Kenyan state had to conserve it.
One reason for this change in discourse is that in the eyes of many people in the international community, economic reasons alone have lost some of their argumentative force to justify an infringement on indigenous rights. As indigenous movements have gained standing in international organizations such as the United Nations, they have done much to convince people that indigenous cultures deserve protection from certain economic interests in “their” nation states. Article 32 of the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, for instance, states that “indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources” and that the nation states must take “appropriate measures” to mitigate the “adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural and spiritual impact” of economic enterprises. Because of these indigenous rights discourses, indigenous communities have moved into a significantly better position to publicly protest land evictions when they are simply justified as serving “the betterment of the country”.
Protecting lions and elephants from extinction, however, is another matter. In this framework, powerful donors and environmentalist organizations from Europe and the US are much more inclined to prioritize the interests of endangered animals over the interests of humans. But even though the language has changed, colonial projects of capitalist extraction still determine the political agenda.
Those who demand that Maasai communities must leave their lands in Ngorongoro district argue that Maasai pastoralism, the economic system in which herding of cattle is the main livelihood, damages the environment and endangers wild animals. Critical conservation scientists, however, insist that the narrative of “animals versus people” presents a false choice. Studies show that indigenous pastoral communities such as the Maasai rarely negatively affect wildlife conservation, not least because they do not engage in hunting. Instead, it is very telling that many of the wild animals that still exist in East Africa reside in Maasailand. History clearly shows: The economic system that systematically destroys wildlife is capitalism, not pastoralism.
Many think that wildlife conservation regulations prevent the capitalist commodification of land because human settlement and specific economic uses such as mining and intensive agriculture are banned in conservation areas. But this underestimates how much money international luxury tourism companies make out of wildlife conservation areas. These companies sell their clients fantasies of untouched nature – an idea that is endlessly repeated in romanticizing wildlife documentaries. This capitalist commodification of images of “nature without people” is being decried by critical conservation scientists. In 2019, revenues from the tourism sector amounted to US$2.64 billion, or 4.2 % of Tanzania’s GDP.
Although these luxury tourism companies depend on wildlife conservation measures to keep out the humans, they are not always taking the protection of animals very seriously. Numerous companies in Tanzania offer big game hunting to their high-end clientele from the US, Europe, China or Arab countries. On the websites of such companies, one can frequently find pictures of foreigners proudly posing in front of a buffalo or a lion, one they have slain themselves.
Maasai people in northern Tanzania, including those in Ngorongoro district, have over the years experienced violent evictions in their ancestral lands to give room for exactly these kinds of hunting companies. In Loliondo, one of the areas in the district, people have been evicted to allow the Ortello Business Corporation (OBC), based in the United Arab Emirates, to conduct game hunting activities. In 1992, the Tanzanian government granted OBC an exclusive private hunting licence. The long-term plan is to establish a 1500 km2 wildlife corridor exclusively for OBC hunters. In the last years, both state security forces and OBC’s security guards have repeatedly used violence and harassment against Maasai “trespassers”.
All the while, the Tanzanian government has made the intensification of tourism a political priority. President Samia Suluhu Hassan ranks it highly on her agenda and has clearly stated that she sees international tourism entangled with international investment. Recently, she participated in a lavish wildlife documentary made by US American TV producer Peter Greenberg, called “The Royal Tour”. Afterwards, she went on a promotion tour through different countries, including the US, to show the film and to market international tourism investments – endlessly reported on in national television.
In one telling scene in this documentary, Suluhu Hassan and Greenberg are shown flying in an airplane over Maasai territory. The president introduces the Maasai as “one of the newest” arrivals to Tanzania, migrating from the Nile valley “only in the 1700s”, thereby echoing longstanding narratives by the government that Maasai are not “really” indigenous to the region. Then, Greenberg picks up the thread and comments that it was “fascinating to see these primitive tribes still holding on to their traditional values”. As an elderly white male voice off screen, Greenberg tells the viewers that although the Tanzanian government had attempted to convince the Maasai to change their way of life many times, “they persisted to clinging to their ancient ways”. In summary, Greenberg says, “they may not have a choice now and need to find other ways to support their families”.
What a chilling self-fulfilling prophecy. If not anything else, movies like these showcase the unholy alliance of capitalist agendas to commodify indigenous lands, colonial imagery of African nature untouched by Africans, and the misleading appropriation of conservation discourses. In order to understand what is behind the violent mass evictions of Maasai communities from Ngorongoro district it is crucial to unmask the capitalist agendas of enrichment that underlie these indigenous rights violations, and the “colonial conservationism” that is mobilized to justify them.
This article was first published by ROAPE.
Maasai Evictions Trigger New Species: Condaemnatio ficta francorum*
While conservation NGOs have condemned the violence meted out against the Maasai in Loliondo, they do not want herders or subsistence hunters on land that they seek to control and profit from and will fight to retain their power with the immense resources at their disposal.
Tanzanian police shooting Maasai is just the latest episode in a chronicle of evictions of local people in the name of conservation, a tragedy that for Africa began over a hundred years ago and has deprived thousands of their lands and their birthright. In this particular case, the government wants the Maasai pastoralists out of a “Protected Area”, Loliondo in Ngorongoro, to free it up for tourism and trophy hunting. Atrocities have been going on in the region for a long time, but there is now a new and important development: it is the first time they have been “condemned” by big conservation NGOs, including the one that developed the policy leading to the violence, the Frankfurt Zoological Society. No one should be taken in by this subterfuge from an organisation that one Maasai describes as “enemy number one”.
It is also the first time – and the two “firsts” are connected – that the violence inherent in a conservation land grab has been broadcast around the world in real time. Within a few minutes of Maasai uploading mobile phone footage it was in the public domain, with its unarguable drama: the thuds of the bullets; Maasai fleeing in their red robes, overtaking others who had not yet seen the danger; the shakiness of a cameraman close to the line of fire. This was cinéma-vérité on a level previously unimaginable in the history of conservation.
People like me, who have been campaigning against similar crimes for decades, were able to assess the footage, appreciate its genuineness and relay it on in just a couple of minutes. By the time the Tanzanian authorities realised the scale of the exposure, and were making a feeble effort to deny it had happened, the horse had bolted.
When news of similar atrocities was publicised in the past, there was never filmed proof. Twenty years ago, Survival International, the NGO I then worked with, gave Gana and Gwi “Bushmen” in Botswana a video camera to record events as they too were forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands in the world’s second biggest “game reserve”. In 2005, when they too were shot at, the camera was not in the right place and no footage was secured. Had it been, the footage would still have taken days to get out. It is easy to forget just how recent smartphone technology is and how widespread internet connections are.
It is true that we subsequently recorded and publicised many indigenous testimonies, not only by the Gana and Gwi, but also by Adivasis evicted from tiger reserves in India, and Baka, Bayaka and Batwa indigenous peoples in the Congo Basin. These were powerful and moving witness statements, but they were always after the event. In an engaging illustration of African resilience in the face of tragedy, some even spun in a thread of comedy!
The Baka, Bayaka, and Batwa live not far from the famous Virunga, established in the 1920s as Africa’s first formal “national park” and currently directed by a Belgian prince, Emmanuel de Mérode. It too was founded, as they all were and still are, by kicking out the local indigenous folk. Violating people for supposed “conservation” has continued ever since, but it has never been captured on film. In DR Congo, the Kahuzi-Biega Park threw out thousands of Batwa in the 1970s, and rangers and their army colleagues killed, mutilated, raped, and imprisoned dozens, including children, who tried to go back to their homeland in recent years. Similar narratives are rife in the Salonga Park in the same country, in the Lobéké Park in Cameroon, as well as in the Odzala-Kokoua Park and at Messok Dja in Congo-Brazzaville. The WWF is now pushing to have another park established in the latter while ensuring that the locals are mistreated and kept away, as usual.
The park rangers in all of them, the guys with the guns, are supported by western conservation NGOs, including African Parks (where Prince Harry is the president), the Wildlife Conservation Society (which once kept the Congolese Mbuti man, Ota Benga, in a zoo), and the WWF.
In the last few years, the formulaic NGO response to conservation atrocities has been to deny them, only reluctantly admitting that a few “bad apple” rangers might have overstepped the mark after pressure from publicity. The relevant NGO then usually pays for an investigation that takes months if not years while hoping that media attention will move on, as it does. Any resulting reports are whitewashed or simply buried if they stray towards the truth.
It may be opportune now for the FZS to condemn the violence that everyone can see, but it still fails to assign blame, and rejects all responsibility for its own role. It has wanted the Maasai out since it first became involved in the 1950s through its Nazi founder and director, the famous Bernhard Grzimek. By seemingly condemning incidents that cannot be plausibly denied, the FZS presumably hopes to divert attention not only away from its own complicity, but also from the criminal pattern of “fortress conservation” that it supports.
In the last few years, the formulaic NGO response to conservation atrocities has been to deny them, only reluctantly admitting that a few “bad apple” rangers might have overstepped the mark after pressure from publicity.
The wider conservation industry will doubtless lament this shooting and see it as a major strategic blunder, but that will be to try to mask the fact that it is neither new nor unusual.
The grabbing of local indigenous peoples’ lands is underpinned by a war on sustainable and self-sufficient ways of life that has been waged for generations. Conservationists and their government allies do not want herders or subsistence hunters on land that they seek to control and profit from, usually through tourism nowadays, selling phoney “carbon credits”, or simply by taking its resources. In the specific case of Tanzania, the land theft is to facilitate trophy hunting by the United Arab Emirates nobility as well as for tourism; in the end it always comes down to money and control, not conservation.
This war is also now playing out in Europe, albeit with money rather than guns. “Rewilding” – taking land from herders – is promoted as the supposed answer to climate change and biodiversity loss, and even as a means of avoiding pandemics. It is phoney, and it is easy to demonstrate that it will not help to mitigate any of these problems. The truth is that most conservationists just do not like herders, or subsistence hunters, and never have. In fact, they do not like anyone living directly off the land. They want their “Nature” empty of inhabitants except themselves and those who serve them.
The wider conservation industry will doubtless lament this shooting and see it as a major strategic blunder, but that will be to try to mask the fact that it is neither new nor unusual.
The “wild Africa” they strive to create has never existed outside their cinemas and sermons, but they remain as determined as ever to fabricate it, and they care little about who gets trodden upon through what they believe is their pietistic calling.
The problem is not just their self-righteous conviction: the conservation industry receives awe-inspiring sums of money from governments and foundations to manage national parks and similar areas that deprive people of lives and livelihoods. They are now pushing to double these areas to cover 30 per cent of the globe.
It is important to understand that the FZS’s declared “condemnation” of the Maasai shootings is not a first step towards acknowledging its crimes: it is a deflective feint in the generations-old battle for land control in Africa. It is just another facet of colonialism.
At the same time, the conservation faith now suddenly finds itself on the defensive as never before. The ground has shifted but, make no mistake, its proponents have immense resources and will fight to retain their power and their manifest belief in their destiny. This supposed “condemnation” should be seen for the ruse that it is, and the conservation NGOs must be pushed back. Let us hope that in doing so, the Maasai can continue to take a real stand, both for their own destiny, their environment, and for all of our futures. It is the conservation NGOs that are against the real “natural world”, not the Maasai.
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