As I have narrated elsewhere on numerous occasions, the structured (or contrived) practice of African wildlife conservation is a 150-year caucasian hegemony. The initial reaction to talk of conservation colonialism and racism was complete denial by the Kingdom and their black acolytes. Later, as these ugly truths relentlessly appeared in literature and the online spaces through articles and talks, the denial transformed into professional ostracization and personal attacks on myself, Mbaria (my co-author on “The big conservation Lie) and others speaking up against the vice. This was interspersed with thinly-veiled racism displayed in statements implying that conservation initiatives in Africa led by white foreigners were some form of altruism, based on the myth that black Africans cannot manage their environment or live with their biodiversity. Following the publication of “The Big Conservation Lie” in 2016 and several discussions around the issue, Western practitioners and scholars took notice and the first evidence of this was an international conference on “Decolonization and the Politics of Wildlife in Africa” hosted at Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Study, South Africa in September 2017 by two eminent German Scholars, Drs Bernhard Gissibl and Felix Schürmann. I was excited and sent off and abstract. It was rejected, which was bizarre because I was the ONLY African scholar working on the issue at the time. I looked at the participants and it was only Caucasian ‘experts’ and their black African students. That basically meant no independent black African voices. I challenged the organizers on their decision and no answer was forthcoming. I realized that after colonizing Africa and excluding us from conservation, Europeans now wanted to control the decolonization as well. They had no interest in changing the ‘structure’ of colony, just the content. I never heard from these gentlemen again until 2019 when we shared a podium in Berlin as invitees of the German parliament to discuss excesses of conservation organizations in Africa. The tension there is a story for another day, and I still hope that my disdain didn’t show through. Second was a workshop entitled “Crisis Conservation: Saving Nature in Times of Extinction, Exception and Enmity” in May 2020 in Italy. Remember, Africa is still ground zero for this crisis, and even then, there wasn’t any other black African scholar working on these issues (due to lack of courage, not resources). I sent in an abstract and received the facetious response below from the organizer, another European ‘expert’ on how Africans are excluded from conservation in Africa.
Dear Dr Ogada
Many thanks – your email came in just as I was citing your wonderful book again, so the timing was great. Thanks for the abstract: I will get back to you ASAP after the deadline. But a thought more generally: I really like the abstract, but I wonder how it precisely connects with the themes of the workshop. Would you be able to make that more explicit? Much of the selection will in the end be based on how well the papers hold together in a cutting-edge special issue on this theme
They didn’t take my abstract, and the only black Africans there were their own students, acting as mouthpieces which is what academia demands of all students who don’t have the courage to stand for themselves.
Last was a paper being written by white scholars at Oxford University WildCRU (Wild Carnivore Research Unit) about the lack of diversity in African carnivore researchers. I was invited to be a co-author, and after giving my input, the lead author Dr. Hans Bauer (he who ‘discovered’ lions in Ethiopia in 2016) saw that there was too much truth and asked me to edit it to meet ‘Academic standards’. This native doesn’t take shit like that, so I deleted everything and removed my name from the authors’ list. The embarrassing whining that followed demonstrates that they needed my name for credibility, but not my truths. Eventually, the only black African name in the published paper (https://resourceafrica.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Bauer-et-al.-2019-Race-and-gender-bias-in-the-research-community-on-African-lions-_-Frontiers-Ecology-Evolution.pdf) was that of his student.
A number of people have told me about a bizarre project spending a lot of money to bring some captive elephants from Kent in the UK to be “rewilded” in Kenya. This is a symptom of the same malaise. (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jul/05/elephants-leave-kent-zoo-for-the-kenyan-savannah-aoe). We have a morally stunted school of thought wracked with guilt about the wanton destruction of African wildlife under an illogical desire to control it. We have now awakened another level of guilt about the oppression they have visited upon us in this misadventure and exposed their cruel avarice. They are now struggling to make their depravities look good by attempting these pathetic ‘reparations’. Their challenge is that racism is so ingrained in the obsession with African wildlife that they cannot relate to black African people. They would rather spend millions on some romantic childhood dream of “returning wildlife to Africa”. Kenya is the only foreigner-obsessed intellectual vacuum where you can pull off such a caper. That’s why even “Northern” white rhinos that were stolen from Sudan were “returned” to Ol Pejeta in Kenya. We don’t need those elephants. We don’t care that you’re bringing them and we aren’t grateful. You should never have stolen them in the first place. Charlatans. The structure must fall. Aluta continua!
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