Serah Waithera Njoya gets up from the fire where she is cooking
dinner and welcomes the latest visitors to her mud-brick home set
deep in Kenya's Great Rift Valley.
Government ministers, MPs, church officials, and tribal leaders
have all stopped by recently.
There, over plates of steaming rice and potatoes, Ms. Njoya tells
visitors how her life has changed since her husband was shot dead
earlier this month by one of Kenya's most prominent white
"He is a heartless, merciless man. He is 'mnyama,' " she charges,
using the Swahili word for animal. "He has left me with four young
children and no breadwinner."
The target of her anger is the Honourable Thomas Cholmondeley
(pronounced CHUM-ley), her neighbor and sole heir to the fifth Baron
Mr. Cholmondeley, great-grandson of the country's most famous
British settler, has admitted to shooting her husband, Robert Njoya
Mbugua, whom he believed to be poaching on the 100,000-acre Delamere
estate near Lake Naivasha in central Kenya.
Cholmondeley pleaded not guilty to murder last week. His
attorney, Fred Ojiambo, said that Cholmondeley shot the victim
inadvertently in self defense while aiming for dogs that the victim
unleashed on Cholmondeley after the man was caught poaching an
Mr. Ojiambo has expressed concerns about the ability for
Cholmondeley to get a fair trial due to the publicity the case has
received and to the fact that it revives simmering and bitter
memories of colonialism. "In this case the lies are being
orchestrated to make him look like the guy who shoots Africans for
sport," Ojiambo said.
The trial is set for late September, and he could face the death
penalty if convicted.
It is the second time in little more than a year that the
bespectacled aristocrat has admitted killing a suspected black
Last time he was charged with the murder of an undercover
wildlife ranger. Cholmondeley said he fired in self-defense and was
released after a month on the orders of the attorney general, who
said there was no case to answer. This sparked angry demonstrations
against the government.
The second killing has reawakened feelings of resentment towards
the descendants of white settlers who still own swaths of Kenya four
decades after independence from Britain.
"It is like we are living in neocolonial times," says Njoroge
Weidener, a field monitor for the Kenya Human Rights Commission, as
he listens to Njoya's story. "People like Cholmondeley think they
can do what they want because it is their land and they make rules."
Anything less than a fair trial could spark violence, says Mr.
Njoya's funeral, held on May 18 at the family home near Gilgil,
beside the Delamere estate, attracted about 1,500 mourners and a
handful of politicians.
"It is time for these white settlers who are killing our sons to
be kicked out the country as they are of no assistance," Stephen
Tarus, deputy local government minister, told the crowd. …