Masai threat to invade farms after aristocrat is freed

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The Masai community threatened to invade white-owned farms after the heir to Kenya's most prominent white-settler family walked out of jail after murder charges against him were dropped.

The Masai community threatened to invade white-owned farms after the heir to Kenya's most prominent white-settler family walked out of jail after murder charges against him were dropped.

Tribal leaders claim the government has whitewashed the case to protect the reputation of the Delamere family, the earliest and most famous white settlers in Kenya who became known for their hedonistic "Happy Valley" lifestyle.

Thomas Cholmondeley, 37, son of the 5th Baron Delamere, was accused of shooting a Masai game warden who had driven on to his 100,000-acre Soysambu ranch in the Rift Valley. But Kenya's attorney general, Amos Wako, said yesterday that there was not enough evidence for the case to proceed. He directed an inquest to be held, the date to be set next week, to the fury of the Masai community who believed Mr Cholmondeley, who is a Kenyan citizen, should be tried for murder.

The relatives of Samson Ole Sisina, the 45-year-old warden who was killed, told The Independent his death would be avenged. "The life of this man was very important to us and we will take action," his nephew, Samuel Dere, said. "If there is no justice for him, hundreds will die to defend him. How can they say there is no evidence when a man is dead and his body buried? The Delameres did not even send one person to his burial."

Mr Sisina was the sole breadwinner in his extended family. As well as supporting his wife and eight children, he paid the school fees and hospital bills for his four brothers, three sisters and all their children.

Now his family, who live the traditional Masai cattle-herding lifestyle, say they will be destitute. "We can't let this go," his brother Lemiyion said. "He was the only one in this family of 50 who had a wage and we all depended on him. Because he died, my children cannot afford to go to school."

Judge Muga Apondi appealed for "the family and colleagues of the deceased to be patient and await the outcome of the inquiry". Mr Cholmondeley, who was arrested on 19 April, showed no emotion as he was driven out of Nakuru prison in a friend's four-wheel-drive. The police van that had brought him to court had overturned en route, and his cream linen suit was flecked with the blood of policemen who had been slightly hurt in the accident.

None of his family attended court yesterday, but his father Lord Delamere, 75, issued a statement on Monday saying: "I'm very relieved justice has been done. I very much regret the death of a promising young game warden. We felt my son had done nothing but defend my people."

The Masai community has always had an uneasy relationship with white farmers in the Rift Valley, who took possession of many of their most-prized grazing areas at the beginning of the 20th century. They have tried unsuccessfully to win back their lands through the courts and many local community leaders now believe they must take direct action.

Edward Nkoiboni, a Masai councillor in Narok, said: "We are bitter, bitter, bitter about this. Our brother died and we went to the Kenyan government for help and they betrayed us. He [Mr Cholmondeley] is rich and we are poor, but we want justice all the same. We will decide what to do next but we may invade the farms, we may claim our ancient rights, and we are not afraid to die or kill for them. This government has already shown that it does not value life."

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