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Kenyan aristocrat is sentenced for killing poacher

Today a Kenyan high court judge handed down an eight month jail sentence for manslaughter to Thomas Cholmondeley, aristocratic heir to the country’s most famous white settler family, the Delameres.

That sentence is for the case in 2006 when Cholmondeley shot and killed a black poacher on his family’s estate in the Rift Valley. Since then he has languished in Kamiti maximum security prison (something of a misnomer given that journalists simply wander in with their phones and recording equipment after the most cursory security checks). It is a dank place built in the colonial days where striped-pajama clad inmates ferry rubbish about during the day and weed flower beds.

Cholmondeley's manslaughter conviction last week went some way to dampen anger among black Kenyans and especially among the Maasai. The Maasai feel particularly aggrieved because a year before the 2006 shooting for which he was tried, Cholmondeley had shot dead a Maasai park ranger. That case was thrown out by the attorney general.

The anger over the earlier case is still palpable, though. As soon as the sentence was read, Maasai people in the public gallery unfurled posters reading “Butcher of Naivasha” after the town near the Delameres' estate. Another read “2005 — Sisima, 2006 — Njoya; Who next?” in reference to the two dead men.

Court officials could not fight their way through the throng of journalists and spectators to stop the vocal protest shouted in Kiswahili. Outside on the capital’s streets the Maasai protest

“You kill brutally like he is an animal and this is all that is done?” demanded one angry woman. A Maasai man standing nearby added, “If it was a black man the sentence would have been different. It is color and the origins of this man. It is in insult!”

But this depth of anger was not widespread. There were no reports of demonstrations other than this small one on the street outside the High Court. And even there others said (albeit quietly) that the sentence was fair.

There is some confusion over the sentence. Cholmondeley has already spent three years in jail awaiting trial for the 2006 killing but he was taken back to the jail in a prison services vehicle. It is generally assumed that the judge meant that Cholmondeley is to spend a further eight months in jail.