African business, politics and lifestyle
“Would you please pass this bottle of water to Tom?”
“Would you please pass this bottle of water to Tom?” Lady Delamere asked me while we were waiting in court to hear the sentencing of her son, Tom Cholmondeley, who had been convicted of manslaughter for shooting a black poacher in Kenya.
After three years in prison, one of Kenya’s best-known white aristocrats was told he would have to serve a further eight months in jail in a case that has highlighted land, race, wealth and tribal tensions in the country.
I squeezed through the crowded courtroom to give Cholmondeley the water from his mother and returned to my spot where the Delamere family was awaiting the judge’s decision.
It was the second time I had seen Cholmondeley in person and in court. A very tall man in a pressed suit with always the same impassive expression on his clean-shaven face.
It was an awkward experience for me and probably for most people in the court room where rich and poor, black and white have all, unusually for Kenya, been huddled together in one space.
Looking at Cholmondeley through his mother’s eyes humanised this seemingly unemotional man and made me wonder if he held onto that expression to hide any turmoil he was experiencing. He did after all try and help Robert Njoya, the victim, with first aid and transport to hospital, which suggests a compassionate side to his character.
This was the second such case against Cholmondeley, who was accused of killing a wildlife ranger, Samson Ole Sisina, in 2005. That case was dropped for lack of evidence.
When the judge gave his decision, the courtroom erupted with Masai tribesmen shouting, waving banners and demanding justice for the two victims’ families. Cholmondeley and his family were whisked away for fear they would be in danger if they stayed.
His defence lawyer told me he was happy with the result and thought the judge had made a fair decision but the prosecution said they would appeal the decision.
However, the word on the Nairobi streets is that Cholmondeley may get a pardon on Madaraka day (June 1), commemorating the day Kenya attained internal self-rule in 1963, a time when the president often releases convicts serving sentences of less than one year.