UK releases travel advice for Laikipia following latest safari lodge attack

Mukutan Retreat
The view down the Mukutan Gorge from the Mukutan Retreat.

The British government have updated their travel advice for the Laikipia region soon after reports that the Mukutan Retreat had been burnt down, becoming the latest victim of unrest in the area.

In an email sent out to subscribers, the message read:

“Summary – the central county of Laikipia has seen numerous invasions by cattle herders onto privately held ranches and conservancies, in some cases leading to violence and arson; security forces are seeking to enforce private property rights; you should check the latest situation at your destination ahead of travel to the regionKenyan herdsmen burnt down a luxury safari lodge owned by a white conservationist on Wednesday, a neighbouring ranch owner said, the latest attack to take place in the drought-stricken Laikipia area.”

Mukutan Retreat is a luxury safari lodge owned by Italian-born conservationist and author Kuki Gallmann has been burned down by suspected cattle herders.

This latest attack in the drought-stricken Laikipia region is suspected to be the work of pastoralists, who have been invading private property in search of fresh grazing.

According to local reports, at the time of the attack there were no visitors staying at the popular tourist destination.

One theory is that the attack could be retaliation following reports that police had shot dead about 100 cattle in the surrounding Laikipia Nature Conservancy, which is owned by Ms Gallmann.

Ms Gallmann, who is famous for her memoir I Dreamed of Africa with was made into a feature film staring Kim Basinger, has not commented on the incident.

I Dreamed of Africa
Kim Basinger as Kuki Gullmann in “I Dreamed of Africa” (2000)

Her daughter, fellow conservationist Sveva Gallmann, also a conservationist, described being caught up in the attack:

Our operations buildings and our house came under direct gunfire from armed men. My nine-month-old daughter was in the house with her carers and I was shot at three times as I ran between the buildings to get to her.

Insecurity in Laikipia has spiked in recent months and a dozen people have been killed, as armed cattle herders searching for scarce grazing drive tens of thousands of cattle onto private farms and ranches.

Earlier this month, British rancher Tristan Voorspuy, who also ran a safari company, was shot dead while inspecting his lodges in Laikipia. His murder was condemned by UK High Commissioner to Kenya, Nic Hailey.

Some lawmakers have said the violent land invasions were being stoked by politicians seeking votes from particular ethnic blocs in a national election scheduled for August.