East African Court to make Ruling on Serengeti Case

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East African Court to make Ruling on Serengeti Case

By John Mbaria

The East Africa Court of Justice (EACJ) Appellate Division will make a ruling on March 15th 2012 on whether the Tanzanian government has grounds to oppose the jurisdiction of the court to determine whether it should go ahead to construct a road through the world famous Serengeti National Park.

If the higher regional court decides against the appeal made by the Tanzanian Attorney General, then it means that the court case against Dar es Salaam’s wish to construct the road will go to full trial.

The case was filed by the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) challenging the government’s decision on the grounds that if constructed, the road would have far-reaching consequences on the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem which is shared between Kenya and Tanzania. ANAW had wanted the Tanzanian government compelled to stop the construction of the road through a permanent injunction

The announcement on the ruling date was made on January 24, 2012 by the President of the EACJ’s Appellate Division, Justice Harold Reginald Nsekela in Arusha. This was during a hearing presided over by Nsekela and two other judges, Justice James Ogola and Lady Justice Emilie Kayitesi Rusera. The Tanzanian government was represented by Gabriel Malata, Principle State Attorney and Edison Mayunge, Senior State Attorney, while ANAW was represented by Saitabao ole Kanchory.

In an appeal made by the country’s Attorney General on October 19, 2011, the Tanzanian government has vehemently opposed the earlier ruling made by EACJ’s Court of First Instance in which the latter court determined that it indeed had jurisdiction over environmental disputes brought to it by aggrieved parties in the region. It had also ruled that it (EACJ) had powers to issue a permanent injunction barring any of the member states from engaging in actions that might affect the well-being of a shared resource.

The ruling was delivered on August 29, 2011 by the Principle Judge, Justice Johnstone Busingye, assisted by Deputy Principle Judge Lady Justice Mary Stella Arach Amoko, Justice John Mkwawa, Justice Jean Bosco Butasi and Justice Isaac Lenaola.

In its application made on December 10, 2010, ANAW, a Kenya-based NGO dealing with animal welfare and ecosystems’ well-being, wants the Tanzanian government “permanently restrained from” upgrading or tarmacking what is called the North Road –or the road from Natta-Mugumu-Klein’s Gate-Loliondo Road.

ANAW’s action was occasioned by a June-2010 announcement by a communications officer with the Tanzania National Parks that Dar es Salaam intended to build a 452 km road as part of Tanzania’s Transport Sector Improvement Program (2002-2012). Set to start in early 2012, the road is planned to become a major transit route between Rwanda, Burundi and Eastern Congo of which a 54.9 km section is meant to pass through the northern part of the Serengeti National Park.

The organization has cited the fact that Serengeti is a UNESCO world heritage site of outstanding universal value and that a road through it would have serious negative impacts on the park’s environment. It had also cited the fact that the big herds of animals that grace the Tanzanian Park were a trans-boundary resource and that Article 30 (1) of the Treaty that established the East African Community gave individuals and organizations the right to refer to the court matters which they felt were unlawful or infringed on the provisions of the Treaty.

But when the matter came before the EACJ, the Tanzanian government immediately made an application wanting to have the Court disqualify itself over the matter.

The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem offers the world a unique annual spectacle in which over a million herds of herbivores (wildebeest, gazelles and zebras), followed by their predators, migrate in a most awe-inspiring ‘natural’ sight unsurpassed anywhere on earth. Experts say that if the proposed road passed through the dry season migration route of the herbivores; it would deny them access to the permanent water sources in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. If this happens, scientists warn that only those animals that the ecosystem can support all year round would survive.

But the Government of Tanzanian says the road is essential for the economic development of the region, and that it is most needed by the marginalized communities bordering the northern part of the Serengeti.

The matter drew the attention of the international community with the German Development Minister, Dirk Niebel, pledging that Germany was prepared to finance a study that would explore an alternative route to connect the relevant communities to the existing road network in Tanzania without cutting through the park.      On its part, the World Bank had offered to fund the construction of an alternative route.

But in earlier media reports, President Jakaya Kikwete would have none of that and is reported to have rebuffed the funding, insisting the road would pass through the Serengeti as was initially planned.


At the Heart of a Weaving Community

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We began our beautiful Friday sunny morning with the home visits in the Kasigau area. Immediately after a wonderful breakfast we walked to the Kasigau social hall. In this compound the Kasigau women weavers group also have their base as well. Once here we were introduced to our mothers of the day.  The purpose of today’s home visit was to interact with the Kasigau community at three levels. First, to enjoy a home interaction to understand the social dynamics, recognize and appreciate the differences between cultures, secondly, participate in sustainable income generation activities and finally participate in a community project.

As the Kasigau community is large, we only interacted with the Kasigau women’s group and thus our team was divided into smaller groups and each introduced to a mother. Our group was well balanced as we had two ANAW staff members whom were Grace and I while the Denver students were represented by Tori and Amanda. Our mother was a special lady especially to the ANAW team as her son Mr. Ezra works closely with the ANAW team in this area and is the coordinator of the activities and is the camp care taker.  He was mostly our guide through out the trip in Kasigau and did a great job from the word go.

Mama Ezra is a lovely woman whose way into her 50s but however her abilities and strengths show that she is younger than she actually is. We were well welcomed into her home where we meet her husband, daughter and grandchildren. Some of her grandchildren had come to visit from Mombasa while the others were Ezra’s children as they lived in the same homestead. We began our home activities in the farm area where we began by digging and weeding.  This is not an easy task as one has to be under the sun for hours and use a Hoe (Jembe) to perform this task. And once in a while I would still a few minutes in the shade just to catch a break from the hot sun. As we were digging we got to interact with Mama Ezra’s daughter and grandchildren whom made us laugh and enjoy the activities of the day. The farm is large and covers large tracts of land where she was growing maize and beans.

Once we were done with the activities in the farm we headed back to the homestead where we were able to prepare greens known as ‘Kunde’. As we were preparing the Kunde, Mama Ezra went back into the house to do some general housework. The daughter and grandchildren were the one’s who were teaching us the other daily activities.  Noted was how they were very disciplined and hardworking children whom had great personalities. We then were shown how to grind maize using equipment that looks like a pestle and mortal.  This was a hard task thou it looked easy as the family members were doing it. They usually grind the maize so as to prepare it for the millers to produce this maize into flour and preserve it for dry season.

We were then welcomed into the home where mama Ezra had prepared a lovely meal for us. It was traditional food made of flour and greens and a lovely cup of tea.  As we enjoyed our meal we got to interact well with Mama Ezra. Thou she could only speak Kiswahili; Grace did a fantastic job translating. The questions of the day moved from the economic sense to the physical sense. Thou Mama Ezra does not work she has been sustained through the sales of the baskets. She informed us that without this she would have a hard time as the kasigau area is reliant on rain and farming does not happen all year round.

The money she gets from the baskets is what has enabled her to educate her children and have food as well during the hard seasons.  She also mentioned how much the elephants have destroyed her crops especially during the planting season. The usually can smell the plants when it is almost harvest time and the come to the farm to sweep out  and destroy what is in their way. This has created a lot of hate of some of the people towards the elephants and wildlife in general.

Mama Ezra and the family bid us goodbye and we walked back to the camp. We were unable to have our lunch as we already had a well prepared filling meal at Mama Ezra’s home. After lunch we headed back to the social hall. The second activity of the day was fulfilling, hard and made us appreciate the work that is put into weaving. We began the afternoon with a performance of a traditional dance by the weaver’s group. Afterwards we got a formal introduction and welcome from the groups chairlady Mrs. Hannah.  The women then brought into the hall the sisal, a log and stick which were used to prepare the sisal into useable material which was white in color that looked like thread. Once this was done then we were taught the weaving method. At first it was so hard to understand then later we were able to kinda understand. However it requires great technique so as to produce a beautiful basket and one can take one day to a week to finish weaving a basket depending on the size.  All agreed however that the weaving of baskets has allowed them to sustain some of their family’s economic requirements.

Our day ended so fast as the activities followed each other, after dinner we headed back to the social hall for a late night movie with the community. Courtesy of the ANAW team we got to watch a movie based on environmental conservation and ended our day at around 9.00.

Liz Muia

A Cultural Day with the Community

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The sun in Voi rises up at 5.30am; this explains the crazy daytime heat. We began this day with a shopping experience, as one of the women from the community brought us Kiko’s, beaded necklaces and bracelets. Then after the lovely women of the Waatha community had prepared a cultural show for us. The theme was based on a demonstration of a traditional marriage ceremony. In the Waatha community, before a man was to be given his bride by the bride’s family he had to prove himself worthy to the family. This was done so as to show that he was going to protect his family and be a provider. Therefore the show demonstrated the process; a man was to go to the wild to hunt three specific animals which was an elephant, buffalo and Rhino.  While hunting they had different tactics to avoid been attacked and to make sure that the follow the tracks of the animals. Once one had captured an animal they would bring back the meat to the family build a fire using sticks and dry grass. Thereafter they would roast the meat and then this would have the bride’s family’s approval. The man would then take his new bride and be escorted back to the man’s home by family where they would live happily after.

Mr. Willy Kazungu whom was the spokesman for the community, informed us that they are now not hunting anymore ever since they collaborated with ANAW. They are now also part of the desnaring program and are now conserving the environment as well. They also went further to give us an illustration of how the snares are used to make artifacts. The artifacts are made using the snares and beads and are later sold though ANAW and the money generated comes back to the community.

We later walked down to Kaloleni Children’s and rescue center which is about ten minutes from the camp. Meeting the children was a lovely experience. The center has three caretakers whom are all women and 30 children. The wonderful aspect of this community is that they all take care of each other and live as a community.  There is love and the power of selflessness among the people. This center was an initiative of the community. They provide food, clothing and all other needs of the center. The center also gets assistance from well-wishers, organizations such as ANAW and the Hope for Kenya Family Organization. The Organization also gets food relief from the government. The caretakers are Agnes, Naomi and Christine. They informed us that the children are orphans, partial orphans or cases of been abused. They work with the Children’s Service Department whom has identified the center as a home of the above cases. The home is not spacious enough for the number of children as they are 30children and only four bedrooms. It has a washroom in the home but has one large room that is used as a playing area, a diner area and a study area.

The agenda of the day was to construct an area or a platform to place a tank of water which was to be under a tree. The center already had a tank but it was placed on the ground, in the sun and it also lacked a tap which forced the children to fetch water from the top of the tank. Therefore we were divided into three groups which included the DU team, ANAW and the local women’s group. The task for group one was to carry bricks from a nearby area to the center, the second group was to go to the river to collect sand and bring it back to the center. They were the largest group. The third group was to dig the area that was to be constructed. Once the 3rd group had finished digging the area in a circular motion, the sand that was collected by the 2nd group was to be mixed with the cement. The sand carrying was hard and tiresome but most students actually managed to go for three to four rounds of buckets and sacks of sand. Some carried them on their backs and others carried them on their heads. The locals were really impressed by this. However there was a main constructer whom would take up the bricks brought by the first group and use them and the cement to build the lifted platform from the ground. All would assist in the process as they continued with the duties in the designated groups. Once we were done with our group activities Phil and Dave decided to build a swing for the children using a tire and a strong rope. They built the swing right next to the area where construction was taking place. So there was so much activity under the tree.  The children loved the beautiful swing and immediately it was done they got to make a line so as to enjoy. The kids finally got to test the swing courtesy of Phill, Jill and Molly. It was however a different case when Dave tried to relive his childhood and actually got stuck inside the tire and even needed assistance to be pulled out of it.

The children really heard great personalities and were able to interact well with everyone. They were mostly fascinated by the cameras and had lots of their pictures taken and they took several pictures.  Another activity that the ANAW team and the DU team participated in was to apply white wash on the outside walls of the shelter, the wall was prepared by scrubbing and removing the unwanted dirt then later painted by both teams and the children also decided to participate which was beautiful. Once all our activities were done we sat down with the children, women group and caretakers where they DU team and an ANAW staff member had prepared to read a story to the children.  The story was read out by Sherille, Carina, Sarah, Amanda and Molly. The story was enjoyable for both the adults and children as they had great story telling skills.

The DU team then presented books, crayons and jerseys to the children. The caretakers really appreciated and even wanted us to return again. They also were kind enough to tell us that we were much welcomed and should come back again as it was our home as well.

We then headed to a restaurant in Voi Town where we had lunch and a cold soda in preparation for our evening soccer game with the Waathai girls soccer group.  The girls were young and between the ages of 15 – 18 years as we could not play the boys’ team which is way advanced. The game was enjoyable with top scores been Theuri and Samson who lead the team in the first and second half. The game was a draw with the game ending 2-2. We were all tired as people participated in different ways where there was the cheering team, the photographers and the players.

At camp the women of the community had prepared a lovely evening dinner for us all. It was enjoyable and delicious.

Liz Muia

Orphanage Trip!

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The morning began with a visit from the Waatha tribe members to share a small bit of their cultural practices.  They performed traditional dances of the Waatha tribe, and moved into demonstration of a traditional wedding ceremony.   This ceremony differs today due to the adaptation to current society and the movement from being a hunting community to a farming community.  As others have mentioned,  an important part of our experience has been the removal of snares in communities.  On this day, we were able to see the process of what happens to the snares after they are found in the bush.  Two community men demonstrated the creation of snare art.  ANAW discovered in the past that if snares were just left intact after removed, they were easily reused by poachers.  ANAW began cutting the snares into pieces, but looked for a more sustainable option.  And the concept of snare art was born. What is snare art, you say? Wires from snares are bent into animal figures representing the wildlife saved by the removal of these snares. It is obvious that this process takes a lot of patience and time, and the men making these pieces could be definitely defined as artists. Upon learning more about the Waatha culture, we recognized the struggles experienced in surviving.

After the demonstrations were completed, the group wandered through the streets of the Waatha community towards the Hope for Kenya Orphanage.  Here we were able to assist the community by beginning the construction of a platform to hold their water tank.  Groups of students transported bricks, sand, and dug the hole to begin the construction.

As the more experienced construction workers completed the platform, other students and staff took the time to play with the children and hang a tire swing for the children to play with even after we were gone.  Once the tire swing was hung, a line of children quickly formed, fighting for a turn to play.  One DU student (Dave…) even attempted to participate with the children, which resulted in getting stuck in the center of the tire. While the DU student seemed less than amused, the children giggled with glee.

Other students opted to practice their soccer skills with the children, using the soccer balls we had brought along to donate.  Others whitewashed the previously dirty building making it spotless. Others mixed cement for the water basin foundation bricks. Lastly, a group of students gathered everyone together for story time, which was also translated into Kiswahili for those that did not speak English.  This book, along with many others, was donated for the children to use.  All in all it was an extremely rewarding experience interacting and contributing to the community.

We continued the hardworking day with a soccer match against the girl’s team of the Waatha community.  Many of us are not skilled in the art of soccer, but did our best to not just win, but also enjoy the experience.  Thankfully the ANAW staff on our team supported us in scoring our only two goals of the game.  There were over 100 observers from the Waatha community and the game seemed to serve as a great way to link and connect the community.  The children of the community cheered for our team, even after we lost, with the chant “Let’s go DU!”

After the game, we had the opportunity to sit down to dinner with the girl’s team to maintain the friendly nature of the game.

As a last addition to the night, a group of four students had the opportunity to travel deeper into the Waatha community to interview Jos’s (the director of ANAW) uncle.  Myself and the three other students did this for the sole purpose of our final project which will (hopefully!) be a published children’s book about conservation and the importance of animal welfare.  Jos’s uncle, therefore, was interviewed about his history with animal welfare as well as his relationship with animals.

Eight of us sat around the table in his living room with only light from a kerosene lamp. The shadows danced around us as Mwachofi  Ngonyo shared his history with the Waatha community and his story of becoming a ranger for the Kenya Wildlife Service.  Mwachofi guesses that he worked for KWS for about 30 years, some of those years, directly surrounding the ivory wars.  As he shared his love of animals with us, especially his love for elephants, we all saw in his words and eyes, his true compassion for the welfare of animals.  “I always used to tell my family around the dinner table, about the importance of not eating animals. We live among the animals, and we need them around us. That is what I told my children,” Mwachofi says when asked about how to inspire children to protect animals.  Mwachofi also shared a brief history of the Waatha tribe. The Waatha, who used to be hunters, are now an anti-poaching community and have come together as a community with a negative attitude towards snares and other poaching techniques.  Right as we were getting ready to leave after the hour long interview, Mwachofi shared with us something that continues to make him happy—seeing the looks on tourists faces as they witness the wildlife of Tsavo.

“That’s how we know we’ve done our job” –Mwachofi Ngonyo


Working with the Waatha!


Pumpkin. I never knew it could be a cause for five minutes of stomach-aching tearful hysterical laughter among a group of people of different cultures and widespread diverse backgrounds. The Denver students and the ANAW team were on an early home visit with the Waatha community. Haley, Molly and I were laughing our hearts out with Tina-first wife of the household, Bernadette-second wife, Elizabeth-first daughter of the household and a neighbor.

The joke started as a sad thing that the Waatha went through. We had all just hoed and weeded the first wife shamba (farm) and were talking about what other vegetables they planted. And pumpkin came up. They explained that they ate the leaves, stems and the pumpkin. One of the students mentioned that they also had pumpkin but they used it during Halloween. The women did not know what Halloween was so one of the students had to explain it. They explained how they carve pumpkin into a head with eyes, a nose and a wide toothed grin, put a candle in it and put it in their houses to scare people. It started with a snicker, then a laugh escaping from one of the students then a full-blown laugh. It took time before we could all settle down.

It became apparent, though, that Americans were wasting food that is critical to some rural Kenyan community. The students questioned whether it was right to waste so much food for a tradition that becomes more and more international every day. It was a thing to think about.

The home visit was an enriching experience. The group discussed at length about the Waatha way of life, the challenge of the human-wildlife conflict, gender equality, land ownership, the community’s history and the Waatha family unit. The group then hoed for a long while and watched the preparation of a local vegetable and Ugali for lunch.

We met other groups and their ‘mothers’ along the road as we headed towards the campsite. We had lunch and settled for a dance and a talk at the campsite. The women sang and danced to the guests and with the guests. The Denver students did the ‘hokey-pokey’ for them and dragged the women through the embarrassing experience. It was great to entertainment for us Nairobi people.

The oldest and the only member of the Waatha community who was present during the Waatha migration from Ndololo to their current home in Birikani gave a talk about Waatha history.  Many people crowded and were in deep silence listening to the old man tell his tale. All in all it was an remarkable day!

Swahili Words for Today:

  • Habari- Hello
  • Hodi!-What you say when you knock at someone’s door when visiting.
  • Karibu-Welcome
  • Asante-Thank You
  • Nyumba-House

-Kate Chumo

The Long Way Around: Service Learning in Kenya

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This is the third year that the University of Denver has teamed up with the African Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) to study the close relationship between human welfare, biodiversity and animal protection. There are a few places in the world where this issue is more apparent and profound than the East African sub- Saharan ecosystems of the Great Rift Valley. In the welcoming African communities that we visit there is a desperate struggle for survival of both the human and non human animals that live there. In fact, the urgency of the world wide story of finding sustainable ways to co-exist with the natural world is unfolding in front of our program participants each day of this class. Take for example the issue of poaching. Poaching is now the leading cause of loss of wildlife across the planet and in Africa and is the second leading cause, worldwide, behind habit loss and destruction, creating endangered species. Not only is poaching illegal and cruel (death resulting from strangulation), it diminishes the economic ecotourism potential found in East Africa. Additionally, the consumption of bushmeat is an unsafe human practice that has been implicated in the transmission of numerous zoonotic diseases including HIV-AIDS, SARS, Bird Flu, Ebola and numerous others. 

In the last few days our class has been able to observe and participate in experiences that have brought them eye to eye with the reasons for poaching, the communities and individuals engaged in poaching and the victims of poaching. It is clear there are no easy answers but it is equally clear that denial of the problem is not a solution and that time is not on our sides.  Meaningful efforts to learn about and appreciate the sentience of animals and that human health depend on having an authentic relationship with the natural world is a good place to start.

Philip Tedeschi- Clinical Professor

Dancing With the Waatha

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Today we spent the day with the Waatha community near the city of Voi, Kenya. Originally a nomadic tribe that specialized in hunting elephants, the Waatha were displaced from their original home and forbidden to hunt after the criminalization of poaching and the creation of Tsavo National Park in the 1950s. Three-thousand Waatha people remain today, though this is thought to be an overestimation. Not unlike the Native peoples of North America, the Waatha people were given lands by the Kenyan government, transitioning them from a nomadic to a settled tribe. With this change, the Waatha have come to rely on crops for sustenance—maize, beans, pumpkins, and greens— which is especially challenging during the dry season. The Waatha have adapted to their new way of life with resilience and strength.

We waited patiently that morning for our Waatha mamas to arrive, and when they did, they could not be missed. One by one they filed through the bushes, a rainbow of color. They each wore traditional wrap-skirts called “lessos” and head wraps painted in vibrant hues—oranges, red, blues, greens—displaying traditional Kenyan sayings. The lessos are worn for labor in the home or in the fields, so we knew we were in for a bit of work. As we headed through the village, we observed that no one passed without shaking hands and saying hello. This made for a wonderful welcome. Karibu!

During our home visits we helped with tasks such as: washing clothes, tilling the fields, cooking a traditional meal called Ugali (a mixture of maize and water), brewing homemade chai, washing dishes, harvesting crops, planting trees, and chopping firewood. Later in the day, we enjoyed traditional dance and song. Wrapping lessos around our bodies, the women pulled us into their circle, until finally we were all dancing with the Waatha. While we enjoyed pitching in with household tasks and learning cultural practices, it was the conversation and genuine connection that we valued most. It quickly became clear what a tight knit a community the Waatha are, and it was an honor to be a part of it, if even for a short while.

In collaboration with the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW), the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), and University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work, the Waatha tribe has started a cultural center to continue and share tradition with the larger community and future generations. The cultural center also acts as a host site for visitors to come and camp, enjoy traditional dance, songs, and ceremonies.

Also in partnership with ANAW and DU the Waatha have become co-conservationists in using the snare wire from ANAW’s desnaring project to create figurines of the very animals that are targeted by poachers. If you are interested in supporting both the humans and animals in this community, you can do so by purchasing snare art or visiting the Waatha cultural center at www.anaw.org.

We cannot wait to tell you all more about this rich experience. We miss you and love!

Haley and Molly

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