Ignorant, Arrogant Decisions Could Commodify Kenya’s Heritage

On numerous occasions, misinformed, ignorant, arrogant or reckless decisions have continued to set Kenya’s natural heritage down the “for-sale” path over the decades. However, the ongoing capitalist commodification and commercialization of our wildlife, our culture, and our people does not happen in the full glare of the lay eye; it is a well-orchestrated, undercover mission. Allow me to illustrate this with a few recent examples.

First, the recent, deliberate snaking of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) through the Nairobi National Park despite local and international protests opens up avenues for the commodification and commercialization of the only park in the City in the World. When environmentalists demonstrated and filed court orders, the argument made was that the SGR would snake “above” the Park. Above indeed. However, this is an entry point to capitalists to set up bases in and around the park to complement this Vision 2030 snake and “open-up” opportunities. Without issuing an anticipatory bail on this, it is likely that the SGR will have similar apartment-raising impacts around the Park, as did the Southern Bypass. Soon, skyscrapers and malls overlooking the Park and around the SGR will likely emerge if the encroachment theory is anything to go by.

SGR Snaking through the Nairobi National Park
SGR Snaking through the Nairobi National Park (photo courtesy of wildlifedirect.org)

The second example is the most recent constitution of the cabinet that saw President Uhuru Kenyatta move Wildlife from the Ministry of Environment to the Ministry of Tourism. When this happened, the first thought that occurred to me was my Geography History and Civics (GHC) lessons on the benefits of wildlife to our country. While they were many, the catchiest of them was “earning foreign exchange through tourism…” Does it click now…? Well, let me elaborate. While Wildlife was still under the Ministry of Environment, the primary mandate was to preserve, protect, and conserve. With its transfer to the Ministry of Tourism, wildlife commercialization and capitalist profiteering seems more imminent. Will we see messages such as #MagicalKenya overcome #BigCatsUnderThreat in the years to come…? Will we spotlight the roar of a single lion on YouTube over increasing the population? We should pray this is not the case.

Whether these moves are deliberate or otherwise, any attempts at commodifying and commercializing Kenya’s heritage need to stop.