13 March 2017

Kenya: Language Barrier Delays Charges On British Rancher's Murder Suspect

Laikipia — A suspect arrested over the murder of British rancher Tristan Voorspuy was arraigned in court Monday but no charges were read to him due to a language barrier.

Samson Lokayi aged 25, was taken to Nanyuki Law Courts where he was paraded before Senior Resident Magistrate Evanson Ngige who ordered that he be detained at the Nanyuki Police station until the prosecution gets an interpreter.

He is expected back to court Tuesday.

The accused told the court that he only understands Pokot.

He was arrested in Kinamba Ng'arua area of Laikipia, with police saying they have evidence he was involved in the rancher's murder.

Two more suspects are still at large, with focus on their search shifting to Baringo where they are said to have been spotted, according to police.

"Based on our investigations so far, we have strong reason to believe that the suspect we have in custody was involved in the murder of Tristan," a senior police officer who preferred anonymity told Capital FM News earlier Monday, describing the investigation as "complex."

Voorspuy, a British citizen who was born in South Africa, was shot dead on March 6 as he inspected damage caused by illegal grazers who had invaded his Sosian ranch and many others in the expansive region.

Thousands of herders - some armed with spears, others with AK47s - have invaded private ranches and wildlife parks with their livestock, slaughtering animals and destroying property in Laikipia, as they go in search of pasture in the drought stricken-county.

More than 300 suspects were arrested and charged last week over the invasions and Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet says police officers deployed there are under instructions to drive out all the illegal grazers from the private farms.

The Member of Parliament for Laikipia North, Mathew Lempurkel was also arrested and charged last week, accused of inciting the illegal grazers to storm the ranches in search of pasture.

A local newspaper recently published photos of youths clad in T-shirts with the slogan #TeamLempurkel2017 who were taking part in the invasions. He however, denies inciting them and is out on a Sh200,000 bond.

British High Commissioner Nic Hailey urged the government to "take all necessary steps urgently to restore law and order".

While some have blamed the uptick of invasions on a drought which has pushed thousands of herders with tens of thousands of livestock into the Laikipia highlands, the underlying causes are far more complex.

Competition for land and resources as a result of population growth and a massive increase in the number of livestock has coincided with anger over historical land injustices, climate change, money and politics.

The region has enormous tracts of land owned by white settlers and Kenyan elites.

The decentralization of government after 2013 elections has made the stakes higher for regional power, and politicians are playing on the land ownership issue to win votes.

"Local political leaders have contributed to the tension by making inflammatory statements, and sometimes even blatantly inciting locals to break the law through illegal occupation," said Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery in a statement last week.

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