For once, Google was unlikely to face privacy complaints as the US Internet giant on Tuesday launched its Street View service in Kenya’s Samburu park, in a move conservationists said could help protect endangered elephants.
Special cameras have taken panoramic images of the reserve while driving down dusty tracks – and have also been fixed to a backpack to penetrate deep into the bush.
Some of Google’s previous Street View forays have brought complaints on privacy grounds.
But this time there were no demands to blur out faces – the main residents of the 165 square kilometre reserve are 900 elephants.
“We hope that by bringing Street View to Samburu, we will inspire people around the world to gain a deeper appreciation for elephants,” said Farzana Khubchandani of Google Kenya.
Slightly larger than a basketball, Google’s camera contains 15 individual fixed-focus lenses that simultaneously capture a 360 degree image roughly every three metres.
The Kenya project was launched in collaboration with conservation group Save the Elephants.
“It’s exciting to open a window onto Samburu, and to help us better protect its elephants,” said Save the Elephants chief Iain Douglas-Hamilton, speaking in Samburu, some 300 kilometres north of the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
Kenya is struggling to stem poaching to protect its remaining elephant population – currently estimated at 30 000 – and just over a thousand rhinos.
With ivory raking in thousands of dollars a kilo in Asia, conservationists have warned that African elephants could be extinct in the wild within a generation.
“Giving people a virtual tour will bring Samburu to the world, and inspire the world to come to Samburu,” county governor Moses Lenolkulal said.
“The more people experience our culture, our people and the majestic elephants and other wildlife with which we co-exist, the more we are able to conserve and sustain the Samburu culture and its fragile ecosystem for generations to come.”
September 9 marked six months since the abduction of prominent Zimbabwean activist Itai Dzamara, a prominent critic of Robert Mugabe’s government. On 9 March 2015, he was forced into an unmarked vehicle and has not been heard from since. His wife, Sheffra Dzamara, spoke to Amnesty. This is her story.
Itai has been my husband for almost 9 years. We are very close, we share everything and he is my best friend. He is well respected by his community. Whenever he would go to the local barbershop, the place where he was abducted, people would always gather to hear his thoughts about what is happening in our country.
Knowing how things are in Zimbabwe, I was worried about him. But he felt this was his calling.
Itai took a petition to the president, asking him to step down and make way for new elections. He spoke about how many people were unemployed and said that the president had not created the jobs he had promised. After he delivered the petition, the trouble started. We began living in fear. Whenever he came home late we would worry that something might have happened to him.
I knew something was wrong when I noticed two cars going up and down our road. Every time they went past our gate, they slowed down and peered into the yard. They went back and forth five times. This was on the Thursday before Itai disappeared.
The authorities felt that that Itai was a threat. They became afraid that people were starting to support his thinking and that this would cause trouble for them. So, they decided to remove him from the picture. Those who took him know that everything is not well in Zimbabwe and that eventually people would have stood with Itai and supported his cause.
“We live in fear”
This is very difficult for me. Itai did nothing wrong. Everything he did is allowed in the constitution. He protested peacefully and never destroyed anything. He didn’t even retaliate when they beat him up. He does not like violence. He even wrote “10 golden rules” on using non-violent strategies in protest. It is worrying and disheartening that Itai never used violence and yet there are people out there who use violence and are never arrested. How can we live freely in this country when those who peacefully protest disappear?
We live in fear. We are afraid that they might take one of our children or maybe they might take me now, because they are unpredictable people. But as a family, we still have hope, especially me.
It was his birthday recently. He is not a birthday person, but last year we celebrated as a family at our house. We bought him cake and cooked his favourite meal. It is painful and hard to comprehend that Itai just turned 36 years old and we don’t know where he is.
I would urge everyone out there, and other governments, to help us put pressure on the government to say something about Itai. President Mugabe has not said anything about him.
Itai was the breadwinner in our family, so his abduction has affected our family’s survival. We now rely on donations to be able to afford day-to-day essentials. Our children constantly ask for him. The youngest gets excited when you show her a picture of Itai, but the eldest does not want to talk about his father, or even look at photos… he won’t go out and play with his friends anymore.
Wherever he is, we as a family need to know what has happened.
I look forward to a truly free Zimbabwe, where people can express themselves and are able to protest without fear of what will happen to them. That is what I hope to see.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have written to President Robert Mugabe calling on him to set up a Judge-led commission of inquiry into the disappearance of Itai Dzamara.
Last week, I stumbled across a BuzzFeed video of children from black families reminiscing about their parents’ struggles to put them through school and give them better lives. They talked of exceptional sacrifices: a mother who went without food to feed her sons, another who left a dancing career because of childbirth, or even the absentee father who made a point of always being there for his son. They spoke of retired parents rejoining the workforce to make enough money to get their children through college and of a mother sacrificing relationships because she wanted to avoid turmoil for her children. Like every normal person, I was moved by these stories and touched by the depth of sacrifice these parents made, as well as the gratitude their children exhibited. My disappointment in humanity however was awakened when I scrolled down to read the comments: “Are you going to make a thing about white families sacrificing for their kids too?” asked one user. “As parents we all make sacrifices for our children,” said another. There is something systemically off with these lines of thinking.
First, it is indisputable that all parents make some level of sacrifice for their children. Whether it is the discomfort of waking up in the middle of the night to check their crib, or forgoing something for the sake of their young ones. Nobody denies this. But the problem with the statements above lies in their complete ignorance of historical context. When the video showed black children remembering their parents’ struggles, it did not negate other people’s struggles. It does not mean that because they had difficult childhoods, then everyone else had it easy. When one story is told in positive light, it does not inevitably send everything else in darkness. Thus, the people who felt some level of bias in the story missed a crucial part of American history. History is not comparative in its telling, it is not linear in its production and neither is it singular in perspective.
This idea of sameness of struggle is usually echoed in response to the “Black Lives Matter” movement that sprung up after a number of police shootings in the United States. The same people who disregard America’s racial history want it to be said that “All Lives Matter.” But in reality, that statement in itself is an oxymoron and asserting it as true is nothing less than insincere on the part of its proponents. If all lives did matter, then the American justice system would be a completely different scene today. But all lives don’t matter, because American history is one of intended and completed racialisation of minority populations, especially black people.
Eric Garner and Tamir Rice are not victims of circumstance; they are a disclosure of successful policy implementation. American history is white history. The same country that declared “all men are created equal,” propagated slavery. If it was self-evident that some men were more equal than others in the founding of America, isn’t it logical that they still would not gain equality in the building of America? Whether it is America’s Prison Industrial Complex, or the Japanese Internment, whether COINTELPRO and the Black Panthers, or the Federal Housing Agency and Colour Coding (aka Redlining) which led to the rise of the Projects, American history was the active disenfranchisement of one racial group at the expense of another. The ideology of racial supremacy that founded the United States informed policy and led to the current injustices facing the black person.
If one is not a minority, they have probably benefited from the policies that allowed their families to own a home when other families could not because the FHA would not subsidise their mortgages since they lived in yellow or red lined zones. My point is not that people who are racialised as white are automatically racist, but they have benefited – whether intentionally or unwittingly – from the historical injustices of racism.
It is only in failing to understand this fact that you can hastily declare that all lives matter, and thereby repeat the incongruities in the founding documents of the American state. You will not understand that poverty breeds a social bubble in which violence is the only outpouring of economic frustration, because you have never needed to be violent. If you have only been on one side of history, you will never understand what it means to bend the arc of history toward justice when your opponent has power on their side. You will not easily wrap your head around the fact that at some point, this history shows itself in modern life; that this context paints the black life in all shades and hues. So, we could probably make a video of white children talking of their parent’s struggles after the housing bubble of 2008, or even of those white innocent people who die of police brutality. But we cannot account for their history because it has been the only history that has been told. What of that one police officer who likes black children? Or what of the fact that you have black friends? Or what of the fact that you have been to Africa? If you think these can erase the fundamental flaws and systemic injustices created in the writing and telling of American history, you are part of the problem.
Franklyn Odhiambo is an alumni of the African Leadership Academy, and a student of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a Kenyan.