The Star (Nairobi)

14 December 2013

Kenya: Share the Cake but Spare Us the Theatrics

opinion

Gerenuk is a species of a gazelle with a very distinctive difference with other gazelles found in Kenya. For a start, the gerenuk lives in dry areas with acacia shrubs and limited vegetation.

You will most likely see the gerenuk in areas of Samburu National Reserve, Shaba, Meru and very sparingly can be seen in Amboseli and Tsavo. In all these areas, there is a common denominator.

Dry scrubby land. The gerenuk does not argue about the scarcity of water. They are adapted to living with very little water, which they get from the dew while they feed on twigs and leaves of the acacia bushes, early in the morning.

After the sun is up, the gerenuk will find a shade and rest until the sun is done with using up its energy heating the earth. Which limits the feeding time of the gerenuk to early morning and late evening?

But basically, gerenuks are diurnal - they are active by day and will rest at night, choosing an open space where they will be able to watch over themselves against the predators.

The word "Gerenuk" is a Somali word meaning giraffe-necked. As the word suggests, the gerenuk has many resemblances with the giraffe. Other than having a very long neck in relation to its body size, there are a lot other similarities.

Although they don't belong to the same species, strangely enough they seem to share their lives. Giraffes live in dry land. By this statement, I would like to make mention of the species of giraffes known as reticulated.

Although one can find the Maasai giraffes in the south of the equator, say Amboseli, Tsavo and Mombasa, the beautiful and rare reticulated can be found as far as Garissa, right deep into the dry scrub of the savannah. They also feed in the morning and evening, taking advantage of the dew to quench their thirst.

They can go for days without water, just like the gerenuk does. Like the gerenuk, the reticulated giraffe, and in deed the other species of giraffes, the Rothschild and the Maasai, are all browsers.

They hardly eat grass from the ground. The crawling plants will attract their attention and they will try to reach the plants. It is usually a great effort to eat from the hard ground where they have to stretch their necks and assume impossible poses while trying the feat.

So they all prefer to eat from the leaves and branches of the trees and shrubs. Interesting enough, they eat from the same trees and shrubs. Their most common sharing ground is the acacia shrubs.

Most animals will create enmity at a point when they begin sharing resources, especially the food. So why don't giraffes and gerenuks differ even as they share a common resource? The answer lies in what we call niche. Both the species will be found eating from the same tree.

But they will be standing at different levels of the same tree. A gerenuk can only reach at the most, 1.8 meters from the ground. The giraffe can stretch up to excess of six meters.

This means that as the giraffe gets comfortable eating at the level of four to six meters and is uncomfortable bending as low as one meter, the leaves lower than four meters become the food of the gerenuk.

The gerenuk cannot reach beyond 2.5 meters, so any food higher than 2.5 belong to the giraffes, young at lower levels, old at the top level. We would assume they are sharing but in reality, each has his own plate, albeit from the same food basket.

In almost all the counties, the most common fight is one of superiority and power struggle between senators and the governors. They all share the same county. They share the same electorate.

If they were to develop their areas of jurisdiction, it will benefit the same people who elected them into office. We went to the polls prepared to cast six ballot papers. Only one was for a national leader. Five, were meant for local leaders, to help local people.

None was to have a duplicating role with another. The constitution spells out their JD in black and white. I do not consider any role to the benefit of your people, a superior role or an inferior role. Each leader has his or her niche. And each niche is as important as the other. But tell that to the mountains. Not the Kenyan local leaders.

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