Traditional ties between Kenya and Great Britain go back a long, long way. Kenya borrowed the UK’s Westminster-style government, attached her currency to the British pound, borrowed dressing and various aspects of British culture.
Fifty years on after Britain handed Kenyans the reins of self-government, the two nations still share a lot in terms of trade, foreign policy, military-industrial and maritime activity.
Relations between Kenya and China, too, extend to trade and shipping centuries ago, but have been boosted in recent years as the Chinese economy exploded onto the global scene and became the world’s fastest growing and is only second to the US.
Kenya has maintained very cordial relations and is working to reduce the trade imbalance that is heavily skewed in China’s favour.
There is only one area of confluence that Sino-British-Kenyan relations need serious interrogation, and perhaps, this is as good a time as any, when Kenya’s, and indeed all Africa’s herds of elephant and rhino are dropping like flies courtesy of well organised cartels and military-style poaching gangs. The most bandied reason for the slaughter of these intelligent behemoths is that it is fuelled by soaring demand for ivory products and rhino horn in China, Thailand and a select other Asian and European buyers.
News that UK’s Prince Charles and his son Prince William are currently hosting a conference to rally nations to partner to stop illegal trade in wildlife is welcome to the Kenyan citizens, many of whom derive a livelihood from tourism revenues generated by the very existence of wild game.
It is no longer secret that the African elephant faces extinction within the next decade. But so is the black and white rhino cursed with the keratin tissue, wrongfully referred to as rhino horn.
The recent the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference in Bangkok, Thailand, had some choice words for countries enabling trade in endangered wildlife and plant species. Their concern is not misplaced because the world habitat really is one and all humanity stands to lose from any unrestrained exploitation.
Granted Kenyans have come under scrutiny as corrupt wildlife wardens, Customs officers and security agents have been known to collude with poachers, the Chinese, too, have been exhorted to put a stopper from the demand side of the ivory/horn-equation. They have dispatched movies stars, sports legends and high-level officials to reassure Kenya that they are doing their part in halting this bloody slaughter.
The Prince of Wales and his son’s intervention is a welcome intervention and will supplement efforts of all other conservation enthusiasts. The British are avid protectors of animals and plants native to their ecosystem. The Chinese are as a nation, protectors of their national mascot and favourite animal, the panda. How else can Kenyans tell the world how highly they value their Big Five: Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Buffalos and Rhinos? Enough said.