Christine Mungai: In a Guardian Story About an Environmental Conflict in Kenya, the White Saviour Rides Again

Colonial tropes abound in a report on the clash between herders and settlers in Laikipia

By Christine Mungai, Global Voices, 24 June 2017

The Guardian recently published an article by Tristan McConnell, their correspondent in Nairobi, Kenya, titled “Who shot Kuki Gallman? The story of a Kenyan conservationist heroine.” McConnell attempts to tell the story of a conflict in Laikipia, a county in northern Kenya, through the eyes of Gallmann, who is best known for her autobiography I Dreamed Of Africa, which was turned into a 2000 feature film starring Kim Basinger.

Laikipia has been in the headlines on account of the migration, triggered by harsh weather conditions, of local herders and tens of thousands of their cows, goats and sheep in search of water and pasture. The migrating herders and their livestock have breached the fences and boundaries of private nature conservancies, which account for nearly half of Laikipia’s land area. Politicians, taking advantage of historical grievances, have goaded the pastoralists on. Their call for the herders to forcibly occupy the holdings of all large landowners in the area, both black and white, has rattled Laikipia.

McConnell’s framing of Gallmann as a regal, gallant hero fighting to “save the environment” against marauding hordes of “impoverished, local men” is so riddled with colonial tropes that it is astonishing The Guardian published it with that language intact.

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