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It is scorched earth policy for British troops in Laikipia wilds

By Peter Kimani | June 24th 2021

35,000 acres of vegetation torched in a nature conservancy. [Courtesy]

This letter is from a British soldier on training in Laikipia, to his bosom buddies in England.

The animal and bird haven in the Rift Valley, boasting some 400 bird species, was recently reduced to a smouldering ruin, with 12,000 acres gutted down from an accidental fire by British soldiers.

The British press reported six of those soldiers were using cocaine.

Hey mates! I’m sorry I have been procrastinating writing this letter, but hell, there is no hurry in Africa!

I know this might sound stranger than fiction, but it’s been a jolly good odyssey, in spite of everything.

First off, I can’t quite begin to describe the sense of freedom that simply blew my mind upon arriving in this remote hamlet, somewhere close to the equator.

Forget those tourist brochures and their miniscule images of the African savannah. The moment you land here, the open grasslands loom yonder, with trotting impalas and zebras on the horizon.

The nights aren’t any less spectacular. The stars peep from the dark skies and the early light simply dazzles.

Having lived in council housing in Leeds all my life, I can’t quite begin to describe this overwhelming sense of freedom, engulfed by huge swathes of open land, all ours to conquer.

Sorry mates, I didn’t mean to offend anyone by using such colonial expressions like “conquest,” but making our bush dinners - please don’t tell me that’s colonial lingo either, we made food out in the open - made us feel like kings.

I don’t mean kings, as in royalty, but our heads reeled from the feel-good effect of being young, male, and white in this so-called black man’s land.

You all know I have never been a destructive mind, but when you are on a few puffs of Big C, your head can conflate things. Anyway, there we were, blowing air to our cooking contraptions, when I saw a few sparks jump in the air.

I did not pay any attention to the flying sparks because live coals were gnawing at my mind. You know coke is no joke.

And before I knew it, there was a small bushfire kneading beneath the soles of my feet. I just removed my shoe and hurled it away.

And before I could sing London Bridge is burning down, I saw knots of fire jumping and spreading out like quills of a porcupine.

The birds of air dropped like aerial bombs. I felt a strange sense of calm when I saw one pachyderm, you know, the massive ground-trotting mammal, wander aimlessly before collapsing in a heap, overwhelmed by the smoke and smog.

I am thinking this as a re-enactment of the scorched-earth policy that my grandpa once narrated about his war exploits in colonial Kenya, when African settlements were razed down.

The fire might not have been intentional, but the results were not any less dramatic.

Gotta go, mates! More stories when I arrive home in a few… Let’s meet at our local. Goes without saying, the first round is on me! 

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