The Trouble with Kenya
After two years bedding down with rats and cockroaches in Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, Tom Cholmondeley was finally able to start his defence today. We may even have a verdict next month, although Keriako Tobiko is probably not done with his stalling tactics. Today the session was adjourned at lunch because Kenya’s director of public prosecutions had “urgent business” to attend to in the afternoon.
Before that, Cholmondeley made an unsworn statement that essentially pointed out his friend Flash Tundo also used a gun on the day in question, casting doubt on who might have fired the fatal shot.
It’s looking more and more certain that the prosecution has failed to establish that it was a case of pre-meditated murder, carried out as an act of revenge, which it said it would do at the start of the case.
But there’s something else going on here. We’ve heard Cholmondeley’s account of shooting dead dogs, accusations that Flash was carrying a Beretta handgun and that the poachers were armed with “killing sticks” . Whatever the truth of Cholmondeley’s guilt or innocence, the trial has exposed a part of Kenyan society I don’t much like. There are huge sections of society – from the landless and dispossed, to the white Kenyans – who seem distinctly ill-at-ease with their home.
Kenya is one of the most divided societies on the planet. Poor live alongside the rich, sometimes squatting on their land, and it seems to make for a pretty unhappy state of affairs.
Is it necessary to shoot poachers’ dogs? No doubt the Cholomondeleys feel besieged as they cope with hundreds of poaching incidents each month on their land but this seems to be a case of taking the law into your own hands. At the same time, poachers are destroying Kenya’s precarious reputation as a wildlife haven and seem to have little regard for human life as well.
No doubt I’m just a townie and don’t understand the ways of the countryside. But at the moment much of Kenya feels like the wild west where the rule of law doesn’t run far. (See also the alleged Grand Regency scam, for an example of how politicians do it). Everywhere there are reminders of what a brutalised society this is – the drivers who laugh at accidents, the police’s use of lethal force and an indifference to suffering.
Cholmondeley must now wait for his defence to run its course but I can’t help feeling some of the factors at play are some of the same ones that erupted during Kenya’s post-election violence.