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Kenya

Naibosho landscapes

Naibosho Conservancy, on the edge of the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

Olympic Dreams

Olympic Dreams 

 Spending time with the boxers training at Kibera Olympic, you realise you have no excuses. For anything. These guys have so little, yet are so dedicated to their sport, and to use boxing as a way to rise out of Nairobi’s largest slum. 

 They have a few skipping ropes and the odd pair of gloves. Once, they had a punch-bag, but that got damaged, and now slouches in the corner of the hall where they train. 

 They shadow-box, spar, jump rope, and do press-ups and sit-ups. No ring, little equipment, and yet there are still those amongst them who win bouts, and tournaments, in competition. 

  Chemi  and I will be publishing a piece on this; today’s session with them was just the start. There are those that aspire to reach London in 2012, and their coach has confidence in them reaching the national team.

Olympic Dreams

Spending time with the boxers training at Kibera Olympic, you realise you have no excuses. For anything. These guys have so little, yet are so dedicated to their sport, and to use boxing as a way to rise out of Nairobi’s largest slum.

They have a few skipping ropes and the odd pair of gloves. Once, they had a punch-bag, but that got damaged, and now slouches in the corner of the hall where they train.

They shadow-box, spar, jump rope, and do press-ups and sit-ups. No ring, little equipment, and yet there are still those amongst them who win bouts, and tournaments, in competition.

Chemi and I will be publishing a piece on this; today’s session with them was just the start. There are those that aspire to reach London in 2012, and their coach has confidence in them reaching the national team.

Kidnapping in Lamu

In the early hours of Saturday October 1st, a French lady was kidnapped from Manda island, in the Lamu archipelago, two weeks after a British lady was kidnapped and her husband shot dead, further north up the coast towards Somalia.

I got the call on that Saturday morning, and was asked to take the first flight down. This was a different type of journalism to everything else I have hitherto done.

Arriving in Lamu, nobody on the island could believe that “the Somali pirates” could be so “audacious” to come to Lamu. It was hard to believe that the Kenyan government, police and coast-guard had not stepped up security following the previous kidnapping.

Local hoteliers had themselves organised an aeroplane to fly up the coast and try to track the kidnappers as they fled towards Somali waters. The coastguard did not have a boat, it was rumoured.

The fate of Marie Dedieu is still unknown, but the impact on tourism in Lamu will be enormous. Over eighty per cent of the island relies on the tourism industry, which immediately sunk as news trickled in. Over two hundred people that Saturday cancelled their holiday to Lamu. It will take a long time to rebuild the reputation of the island; the Kenyan tourism indusyry is still recovering from the hit it took following the post-election violence several years ago.

The last time I came here, I came for two or three days. I left ten days later. It was easy to fall in love with the place. It will be harder now.

In the wilderness

The Hurri Hills of Kenya, north of Marsabit and across the Chalbi desert, seemed to be the remotest place on Earth. I hadn’t seen tarmac for days, and small, rocky tracks stretched across the plains and wound their way through the hills.

Small communities live nestled in these hills, miles from anywhere. They draw what scarce water there is, where they can. And that water is becoming increasingly scarce with the drought affecting the Horn. They walk with their cattle across the vast plains, in search of pasture. It is rare that they see outsiders in these parts.

Borders mean little up here. An ageing man in one village I visited told me “our nearest water is the other side of those hills”, pointing towards the horizon. The other side of those hills is Ethiopia, a journey they would make daily. The nearest market, a source of produce as well as an outlet for their goats, was also in Ethiopia. No-one holds a passport.

Across the Chalbi Desert

Driving from Marsabit, crossing the Chalbi desert, we got lost at night, in the vast expanse of black. We were headed to a small town where we could spend the night, but there are few lights in this part of the world, and once we lost the track, it wasn’t easy to find. Our faith was in the driver. In the end, he turned up trumps.