Manyani Maximum Security Prison is the fifth largest maximum prison in Kenya located in the harsh wilderness of Tsavo National Park in Taita Taveta County. It was established in the early 1950s by the British colonial government as a holding camp for Mau Mau detainees. At some point, it held nearly 15,0000 Mau Mau suspects. Today, it’s one of the most dreadful prisons in the country.
Manyani Maximum Security Prison along the Nairobi-Mombasa Highway in Voi sub-county, Taita-Taveta County is undoubtedly one of the most secure correctional facilities in the country. Surrounded by acres of wild bush teeming with wild animals, uninhabitable hills and punishingly high temperatures, the facility is virtually inaccessible.
Visitors are only allowed entry on a need basis and even then, after strict vetting. With dozens of armed hawk-eyed wardens conducting patrols at any one time, towering 20-feet brick walls and razor wires, this fortress is impregnable.
The unprecedented invasions from the twin intruders that have intensified since April have become a constant headache that shows no sign of going away any time soon.
With the fall of dark, the family of jumbos rumble its way into the 20-acre farm. What follows is destructive sprees marked by feasting and uprooting of fruit trees and vegetables, wild trumpeting, fights and charges as the animals turn the farm into a fun park. At dawn, acres of oranges trees, pixies, tangerines, coconuts and mangoes are flattened.
When jumbos exit, baboons take over. They emerge in waves from their hideouts in the rocky hills in their hundreds and sneak in wardens’ quarters hunting for anything edible.
However, while baboons can be scared off by loud noises or the appearance of a person, the elephants are more dangerous and often charge when provoked putting lives of wardens at risk.
The county prisons commander has said these invasions, especially by the elephants, have caused massive destruction with huge losses. He approximates that 30-acres of crops including fruit trees like the rare Ivory Coast coconuts and pixies trees have been ruined.
“The officers here are having sleepless nights driving the elephants back into the bushes because we need to protect the farm. Sadly, we have lost it,” said Madengwa.
Only when one sees the current status of the 20-year old iconic Manyani orchard does the gravity of the destruction start to seep in. The loss is palpable, with hundreds of orange trees either uprooted or having their trunks snapped; tall trunks of coconut trees lying on the bare field and massive branches of mango trees snapped into half.
Not a single green leaf is seen from the vegetable farm that months ago was bursting with lettuce, spinach, kales and Mchicha.