Navigating Aberdare's landscape amidst the Mau Mau road controversy (Kenya)
Joseph Kipsang, The Sunday Standard
January 15, 2024
For years, the contentious proposal for the upgrade of the Ihithe-Aberdare
Forest-Kahuruko-Ndunyu Njeru Road, more commonly known as the Mau Mau Road,
has consistently been on the headlines.
At a cost of Sh4.4 billion, this ambitious road project spanning 54
kilometers has pitted conservationists against politicians in a relentless
push-and-pull. With us are two Rhino Ark Charitable Trust organization
staff. Together, we eagerly ventured forth, weaving through the scenic
expanse, eager to uncover the secrets that lay ahead.
“There are several gates from Nyeri to Nyandarua, Treetop Gate, Ark Gate,
Ruhuruini Gate, and Kiandongoro Gate. Let’s opt for Kiandagoro Gate; it’s
more convenient from here,” said Adams Adams Mwangi, the Rhino Ark
Community Fencing Manager.
Dedicated to Aberdares ecosystem conservation, Adams explains that Rhino
Ark Charitable Trust began the fencing project in 1988, installing an
electric solar-powered fence. Originating as a 38km fence along the Park
Salient, this initiative transformed over 21 years into the world’s longest
conservation fence, covering almost 400km.
Continuing our journey, we ascended through steep terrain, unveiling
breathtaking panoramas. To the right, the Chania River Valley unfolded, and
on the left, the Gura River carved a profound ravine. Ahead, the majestic
peaks of the Aberdare ranges were shrouded in mist.
Elusive gazelles and a vibrant array of birds graced our path, transforming
our expedition into a captivating exploration of nature’s wonders.
The landscape revealed a vibrant array of wildlife, including elephants,
buffalos, and bushbucks. Progressing through bamboo-laden terrain, we
spotted primates like Sykes monkeys and Jackson Franklin’s birds. Black
rhinos, leopards, and the haunting calls of spotted hyenas added to the
experience. Forested paths echoed with playful baboons, colobus monkeys,
grazing buffaloes, warthogs, and the graceful presence of bushbucks,
creating a dynamic journey.
Unfortunately, we didn’t spot the elusive Mountain Bongos, classified as
critically endangered by The International Union for Conservation of Nature
Once numbering around 500 in 1975, today, less than 80 individuals remain
globally. Adams attributes their decline to diseases, poaching, and habitat
degradation, expressing sorrow for their critically endangered status.
The journey took us higher, ascending into an area blanketed entirely by
bamboo. Reaching Kiandongoro Gate, a crucial checkpoint, we enjoyed
stunning views of Aberdare moorlands at an altitude of 3000 feet above sea
“In conservation, this grass is vital. It forms a mat that acts like a
sponge during rain, absorbing and retaining water. Slowly, it discharges
water, contributing to the permanent rivers originating from Aberdare.”
Adams enlightened me
According to a 2017 report by the Wildlife Conservation Society and Rhino
Ark, supported by the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Kenya Forest Service,
the estimated elephant population in the Aberdare ecosystem is 3,568. This
population constitutes nearly 10 per cent of Kenya’s total elephant
Continuing our journey through the southern moorland of Aberdare National
Park, a signpost emerged, announcing Magura Waterfalls. Descending towards
the falls, a cautious post signaled us to proceed carefully, heightening
the anticipation as we approached Magura Waterfalls.
The rhythmic thundering of water grew louder with each step, creating an
immersive experience. Cascading roughly 20 feet, the falls commanded
attention thundering into the rocks, surrounded by a lush landscape where
frothy waters roared, colliding into a pool with imposing force.
“It’s called the Queen’s Cave, rumoured to have been used as a hiding place
during the Mau Mau wars.”
The dense forest with tree trunks adorned in Spanish moss, Adams informed
me Spanish moss signifies the environment’s natural state without
pollution. Four kilometers later, we reached the junction leading to Karuru
Waterfalls, one of Aberdare’s highest waterfalls.
“If you get a chance to touch the water, it’s very cold, and it has trout
fish. Those interested in angling can obtain a license from KWS officers,”
Moving approximately 15 kilometers, we reached Mutubio West Gate, situated
at an altitude of 3,203 meters above sea level. The plateau offered cool
weather and mist, providing us with a splendid view of the Nyandarua
Plateau. Our journey through the Aberdare Forest Ecosystem concluded at
Geta Forest Station.
This is not the first time the construction of the road has been opposed.
On October 27, 2009, Nema refused to approve the project, citing its
significant impacts on the forest. The Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest
Service, African Wildlife Foundation, Rhino Ark, Kenya Tourism Federation,
and the East Africa Wildlife Society all strongly opposed the project at