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Photo of black porters carrying white tourists not colonial flashback in Kenya’s Maasai Mara

This article is more than 5 years old

An online campaign demanding rights for Kenya’s Maasai community has shared a striking image. It shows two white tourists in sedan chairs carried on the shoulders of black porters. The caption reads: “Slavery at the Mara”.

Under the hashtag #JusticeForMaaCommunity, trending in Kenya in February 2019, a user protested the mistreatment of workers in Kenya’s world-famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

The photo has been shared on both Twitter and Facebook, where it attracted hundreds of reactions.

Does photo show slaves in Mara?

Africa Check contacted the Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association. According to CEO Daniel Ole Sopia, the photo’s caption is wrong.

“The recent photo on social media purporting to show Maasai land owners carrying tourists in the Maasai Mara is false,” he said.

“The photos are of local people in Uganda transporting tourists who are very old. This happens when the tourists are tracking gorillas on high areas that they cannot be able to access. That never happened in the Mara.”

They later posted a tweet with the #JusticeForMaaCommunity hashtag that said local communities benefited from conservancies in the Maasai Mara.

Photo from Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

A reverse image search shows the image was discussed in Jamii Forums, a Tanzanian online forum, as early as February 2015.

It sparked debate in Uganda as well, in 2018. Social media users claimed the Uganda Wildlife Authority was using dehumanising colonial practices in the country’s national parks.

But media reports quoted the authority’s conservation director, John Makombo, as saying the controversial photo was of disabled tourists being carried to a gorilla sanctuary in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

‘Community earns living from lifting service’

Uganda Wildlife Authority communication manager Bashir Hangi confirmed that the image was old and was taken at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

“Such lifting services are offered by members of the local community to tourists who get weak or tired during gorilla trekking – the old and the disabled who want to do gorilla trekking,” he told Africa Check.

“Community members charge a fee that goes up to US$300 to tourists who are interested in the lifting services. Community members do this as a business and they are earning a living from the lifting service.” – Dancan Bwire (05/03/19)


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