I remember a few years back driving north to Samburu County in Kenya and seeing hundreds of Chinese labourers working on the new highway. My guide told me that most of them were either convicts from China or, at best, not massively welcome back home. The Chinese build roads in Kenya as part of a far ranging economic trade pact which has seen Kenya’s debt to China rise to $50bn.
From the perspective of the Kenyan Government, using Chinese contractors reduces the fraud and stealing that plagues infrastructure projects when indigenous operators are involved. From a Chinese perspective, it serves to leverage their position and their grip on the assets of the African country. To many Kenyans, their country is being colonised all over again. At some stage one of Kenyan’s strategically important ports will become wholly Chinese owned. The world has many imbalances and some of these are starkly on display in East Africa.
There are many innocent victims of the Chinese colonisation of Kenya, but the one I feel for most is the giant leopard tortoise - a signature animal of the African Savannah. This 40lb reptile has had few predators until recently because its thick shell is virtually impregnable - even wild dogs give up.
But now there is a new predator - the human. The Chinese see the leopard tortoise as a delicacy and in Kenya many have made a livelihood of supplying Chinese workers in makeshift camps with not just a leopard tortoise for dinner, but the tortoise in its own bespoke boiling pot. Who would have thought that this would be the end game for these magnificent creatures - in a pot at the side of a road as a Chinese takeaway for a convict?
The world needs this creature - Game of Thrones can’t compete with the texture in these legs. The servicing of the Chinese in Kenya like this should be made illegal, but there is no chance of that happening.
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