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In Kenya, white aristocrat's prison sentence brings noisy protest

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The poachers hunted with dogs and were armed with bows and arrows, pangas (machetes), and sticks. One poacher, a stonemason called Robert Njoya, carried the gutted and headless carcass of a gazelle on his shoulders. Cholmondeley (pronounced chum-lee) had a bolt-action Winchester rifle slung over his shoulder to protect against buffalo.

Many of the dwindling number of white farmers – the descendants of early 20th-century settlers – have suffered violent thefts in recent years and they know that a gang of trespassers on their land is rarely good news.

Cholmondeley dropped to one knee and fired three shots, killing two of the dogs and leaving Njoya with a fatal wound. Despite Cholmondeley's attempts to staunch the bleeding and rush Njoya to hospital, he later bled to death.

Cholmondeley denied the charge of murder, claiming to have shot in self-defense and killed Njoya accidentally. But Judge Muga Apondi described as "an afterthought" Cholmondeley's surprise witness-stand claim that his friend – a rally driver called Carl "Flash" Tundo – also carried a gun and may have fired the killing bullet.

Last week, Judge Apondi found Cholmondeley, who has been held in prison since the shooting, guilty of manslaughter, something that surprised many Kenyans, who have become accustomed to the idea that the rich don't serve jail time.

It was doubly surprising, because Cholmondeley has previously killed someone and got off scot-free. The previous occasion was in 2005, when he shot another black man, Samson Sisina, an undercover game warden. That time, Kenya's attorney general threw the case out, helping to cement the feeling that the privileged are above the law.

Elite family history

Cholmondeley's family history, from his relatives' arrival in Kenya more than a century ago to Cholmondeley's second arrest and trial, encapsulate the tensions over race and land ownership that still exist.

The first white British settlers came to Kenya in the last days of the 19th century led by Lord Delamere, Cholmondeley's great-grandfather. He is as famous for his wild escapades, shooting bottles off bars, and riding his horse through restaurants as he is for his energetic efforts to develop Kenya's agriculture industry.

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