Afghanans on safari with Kenya’s first lady

Written by Staff Writer

A group of about 20 Afghan nationals, including 80 children and four members of Afghanistan’s Olympic committee, enjoyed a safari with the first lady of Kenya at the Masai Mara National Reserve.

Kenya’s first lady, Margaret Kenyatta, this week visited the Masai Mara to welcome the “new generation of great Kenyans” as part of the 25th anniversary of the African country’s official invitation to allow its athletes to participate in the Olympics. The visit coincided with the launch of the first fully inclusive Masai Mara eco-tourism project.

Kenya first Lady Margaret Kenyatta poses in the Masai Mara National Reserve. Credit: Kate Holt/Parliament House

Jodi Randall, CNN Travel correspondent, joined Kenyatta at the safari, which took place Wednesday, October 31, in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro.

“The first lady of Kenya said, ‘Hi, I’m going to be in the Masai Mara today and I am going to be inviting these folks to come here,'” says Randall. “So three days later, it’s so amazing.”

When 10 members of the Afghanistan Olympic committee asked to join, Kenya’s Minister of Sports, Culture and Arts, Rashid Echesa, offered a safe haven:

The Masai Mara Wildlife Reserve. Credit: Kate Holt/Parliament House

“So I drove the group (and) it was a group of 85 or 86 Afghan athletes and officials and even four members of the Afghan Olympic committee with their families, to an open area in the Masai Mara,” he says. “They trekked all the way from Nairobi, and they didn’t stop for a stop sign all the way.”

The scene of the Kenyan Parliament supported that decision. “They could not live in Afghanistan, where they know very well that they will be killed by the Taliban,” says Randall.

The expedition was organized by Trek Africa, and although the organization does not itself facilitate safaris, its Kenyan representative, Utha Mnangua, knew of the Afghan refugee community in Kenya and he was confident of its safety.

“This is our responsibility,” says Mnangua. “When your humanity catches fire, you want to do good. And in this situation, every nook and cranny of the world is involved in this fight.”

After Kenya invited its first national Olympic team in 1992, only three athletes showed up for the opening ceremony. A few years later, tens of thousands of soldiers invaded the country. The civil war intensified and the government was overthrown in 2001. Nearly 2,200 people were killed, and millions were displaced.

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