White Kenyan Aristocrat Released From Prison

Published October 23, 2009

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — One of Kenya's most prominent white aristocrats was released from prison Friday after more than three years in jail for killing a black poacher on his vast family estate.

Thomas Cholmondeley (CHUM-ley), jailed since the 2006 shooting, was sentenced to eight months in prison earlier this year for manslaughter in the death of 37-year-old Robert Njoya.

The judge had reduced the charge from murder, saying he believed Cholmondeley's attempts to give Njoya first aid helped prove that he accidentally shot the poacher.

Njoya's death was the second time in just over a year that Cholmondeley had shot and killed a black man on his largely ungated farm. The first shooting did not come to trial, sparking protests from locals who said there had been high-level government intervention in the case.

Grievances raised by the case reach far beyond the Cholmondeley family. Some Kenyans resent all white farmers as symbols of the British colonists who stole land from local tribes.

After independence in 1963, Britain funded a scheme to transfer some of that land into African hands. Most of the land, however, was taken by powerful local politicians, forcing the original inhabitants to disperse to other, already crowded areas.

That injustice still rankles — and it contributed to bloody tribal clashes sparked by Kenya's disputed 2007 election, when politicians resurrected the issue to mobilize their supporters against political rivals. More than 1,000 people were killed, many of them slum dwellers hacked or bludgeoned to death in the lake-studded Rift Valley where the Cholmondeley estate lies.

Cholmondeley was educated at Eton, one of Britain's most exclusive schools, and is the great-grandson of the third Baron Delamere, one of Kenya's first important white settlers more than a century ago.

The trial also evoked memories of the fourth Baron Delamere, Cholmondeley's grandfather. He was the fourth husband of socialite Diana Broughton. Broughton's lover was shot in the head on the outskirts of Nairobi in the 1940s and her second husband, Jock Broughton, was tried and acquitted.

The episode inspired a book and a 1987 film, both called "White Mischief," which highlighted the adulterous, alcoholic lives of some of Kenya's early colonialists.

Written by Associated Press

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