Why are all the black faces in conservation in the background?

Nairobi National Park is the only park on earth bordering a capital city. It is the world’s wildlife capital and one afternoon in December 2016, it was celebrating 70 years of existence. Nairobi National park was the first gazetted park in the country, started in 1946. Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) was throwing an evening party in the park to commemorate the event. The small gathering, comprised conservationists, friends of Nairobi national park, assorted Kenyans who earn a living in the wildlife industry and uniformed KWS staffers who appeared to be attending more out of protocol than choice.

There was an air of resignation about the place. Out at the Impala observation point, a panoramic view of open savanna grassland, guests mingled awaiting the arrival of the dignitaries as the catering unit from the Ole Sereni hotel hurried about setting up.

Kipng’etich Deserves A Salute

 What does it mean to be a man these days? Where do men go to define themselves? How do men see themselves?

I think we have forgotten how to describe ourselves. Women in this country have lately taken over the role of telling us what we are and how we should be. In the process we end up thoroughly confused.

So in an attempt to meet women’s standards of the perfect man, Kenyan men acquire the prescribed status symbols, the Hummer H3 with the leather seats, impressive career portfolios, a house in the leafy suburbs and find themselves still attracting the kind of woman they do not want. It is becoming quite clear that it is nearly impossible to forge an authentic identity amidst all this romantic hype.

Most guys are vaguely aware of the expectations of manhood especially within a marriage. They may remain responsible, securing comforts for the children, stabilizing the family’s future, all the while forgetting that their individuality does not cease to exist the moment they hook up with a great wife.

To get to the bottom of this pseudo cultural function, I think it is important to remember that romantic love and marriage are not synonymous. There is more to life than impressing women. As men it is important to acknowledge our imperfections as we work towards self improvement and personal growth. We must not forget our definition as men in the mad rush to meet standardized perfections. Self development is the key to any man’s success and each man must learn to run his own and often lonely race to the finish line.  We can therefore no longer look at life through the prism of our flawed individual value systems.

Economic progress is numbing us with the kindest intentions. As the new missionaries of materialism we are gradually losing significant gender based attributes. Nairobi is becoming a city of stressed high achievers, somehow corporations prefer employees who manage to strike the balance between due diligence and abject groveling. This results into abnormally suppressed or highlighted character traits. Basic attributes such as good posture and deportment have been rapidly replaced by shuffling gaits and compromised postures. Speech and manner rarely reflect the dignity of the individual within. Humility is now central only to religious groups. Economical power dictates that it is not enough to have power. One must be observed to have power. Traits recognized universally as manly are only externally maintained. Integrity and strength of character are not exhibited attributes. What happened to us?

In a ideal world we would have to clone former Kenya Wildlife Service ( KWS) director Julius Kipng’etich ( Kip) and have his brilliance forever looking over us. It’s rare that Kenyans as cynical as we are all agree on the integrity of a man. What enthralled me most about Kip was his demeanor……a steely gentleness. His words were a salve, his focus unwavering and he maintained a smile through insurmountable challenges.

Kip joined KWS in 2005 and transformed it from a malfunctioning organisation into the respected brand that it is today.  We heaped all our bets and hopes on him and he delivered. With his exit from the helm of KWS, we hope his contribution will be sustained. Kenya’s wildlife and environment are facing the serious threat of a rapidly expanding population and we are in desperate need of conscious leaders to man these sensitive dockets. Many aspiring heads of corporations could learn to emulate his style.

Fortunately for us, they are numerous examples within our borders who serve as exemplary role models and the gains made at KWS must not be reversed. Four years ago, during my stint as editor, in an issue of the now defunct Adam magazine, we had Julius Kipng’etich on the cover and he was described as a gentleman who walks with a big stick, a man who amidst us has quietly proved that he can walk the talk. During the interview, I asked him what his guiding philosophy was and he shared this statement,

‘Every day in our parks a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Similarly, every morning in our parks a lion wakes up, it knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. So therefore it does not matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle at KWS, when the sun comes up you had better be on the move”.

This man Julius Kipng’etich, has retired from the Kenya Wildlife Service to pursue his personal ambitions. I wish him well in his next station.

Images source: wildkenyasafaris.blogspot.com