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Africa

White aristocrat jailed for shooting poacher

Video by Rachel MARUSAK , Julien FANCIULLI

Latest update : 2009-05-14

Tom Cholmondeley, the heir to one of Kenya's prominent white settler families, has been given a further eight months jail for the manslaughter of a black poacher on his family's huge ranch in a case that has stirred up race tensions in the country.

REUTERS - The heir to Kenya's most famous white settler family received another eight months in jail on Thursday for shooting a black poacher in a case that has highlighted land and race tensions in the east African country.

 

Tom Cholmondeley, grandson of Lord Delamere who came to Kenya from Britain a century ago, was found guilty of manslaughter in the 2006 shooting of Robert Njoya on the family's huge ranch.

 

 

 

At Kenya's High Court, Justice Muga Apondi said he was imposing a "light" eight-month sentence given that Cholmondeley had been imprisoned for three years already, and had tried to help Njoya with first aid and transport to hospital.

 

Under the Kenyan legal system, Cholmondeley, 40, will still serve the eight months in jail despite the fact he has already been in a Nairobi prison since mid-2006.

 

The tall, besuited farmer stood impassively as the sentence was read to a courtroom packed with foreign journalists, and relatives of both his and his victim's family.

 

Some members of the public raised placards in protest, saying the justice system favoured the rich.

 
Second case
 

The trial was the second such case against the Eton-educated aristocrat, also accused of killing a wildlife ranger in 2005.

 

That case was dropped for lack of evidence, triggering an outcry and suggestions from many Kenyans that their nation still had two sets of laws -- for rich and for poor.

 

The flamboyant lifestyle of the original Lord Delamere and other wealthy white settlers from central Kenya's "Happy Valley" set inspired a book and the 1987 film "White Mischief".

 

Apondi acknowledged tensions around the present case.

 

"This court understands the undercurrents, but I believe the executive is dealing with the issues of land and other inequalities," he said.

 

The long-running trial has touched on deep sensibilities in Kenya, where whites took large tracts of prime agricultural land during British colonial rule until 1963.

 

Locals say influential Kenyans then did exactly the same.

 

Human rights activists, and some members of communities near Cholmondeley's 55,000-acre Soysambu ranch near Lake Naivasha in Kenya's Great Rift Valley, had presented the case as a battle "between the haves and have-nots".

 

Armed with a gun, Cholmondeley had found Njoya pursuing wildlife on his land, as other poor Kenyans in the area often do, alleging they have no other way to eat.

 

He had meant to scare Njoya, but ended up fatally shooting him in the dusk confrontation, the court heard.

 

Teeming with zebra, giraffes and other wildlife, Cholmondeley's ranch is surrounded by foreign-owned flower farms drawing dirt-poor workers living in nearby slums.

 

Date created : 2009-05-14

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