16 NOVEMBER 2002, Page 38

White man in Kenya

From Mr Patrick Gilbert-Hopkins Sir: As a white citizen of Kenya, I read Aidan Hartley's comments (Wild life. 5 October) on the lack of white engagement in the country's politics with some interest. I have been waiting for some other white Kenyan to respond in your pages, but have yet to see such a response. No doubt the rest of us are 'lying low'.

The short explanation for that lack of engagement is, firstly, that white citizens are very few in number and, secondly, that we have all been well aware that any such engagement would be very bad for our economic and physical health. Events in Zimbabwe only serve to emphasise the wisdom of this approach. What is the point of 'heroism and sacrifices' if all it gets you is confiscation, exile, death and murder, as the bulk of the world looks on either with indifference or approbation?

Anyone, black or white, who opposes the ruling party had better be prepared to lose his livelihood. If you still persist in opposition, you are likely to be beaten up, subject to home invasion by governmentsponsored criminal gangs, or simply assassinated. Kenya has a long tradition of political assassination, from Oginga Odinga's Marxist strategist Pio da Gama Pinto in the 1960s to Tom Mboya, J.M. Kariuki, and Moi's late foreign minister Robert Ouko.

White Kenyan citizens have long understood that opposition to the government is pointless, that the United Kingdom government would not lift a finger to help them if they got into trouble, and that, if they wish to continue living in Kenya, they should stay well out of the government's way. This may, in Mr Hartley's view, be craven and self-serving, but it is eminently practical, particularly for the increasing number of elderly who have lived most of their lives in Kenya, and for those whose way of life — ranching, guiding safaris, etc. — could not be replicated elsewhere, even if their money was transferable.

Kenya was, as Mr Hartley says, a fabulous country, and I count myself lucky to have lived there in the days before crime and corruption ruined it. If there is to be a change in its sad situation, however, it will come from its African population expressing such a desire, just as they drove out the wicked white colonialists. That change will not come from its pitifully few and politically irrelevant white citizens manning the barricades.

Patrick Gilbert-Hopkins