Justice is served in black and white and in Kenya
So, Tom Cholmondeley, a privileged white aristocrat and heir to the Delamare fortune in Kenya (the Delamare name in Kenya is not unlike the Rockefeller name in the United States – prominent family, old money and all the goodies that go with it) has had his day in court for killing two poor Kenyans.
Sentence: Judge Muga Apondi has sentenced him to eight months in jail.
You know. I find this very interesting. Kenyans generally love white people. Infact, some even adore white people – nothing wrong with that. Some even want to be thought of as “white” and any insinuation that simply draws references to appearing or behaving “white” is always seen as a complement. And even if they do not adore white people, Kenyans generally welcome everyone into their country with open arms, regardless of race or ethnicity.
But we have a younger generation of Kenyans who have studied in other countries, perhaps have even been caught in legal systems of other countries and have returned back home with all their experiences – both good and bad. They have now become of age. They are seeing how justice is served in their own country and they do not like it.
Even for the majority of Kenyans who may not have studied abroad, world news is only six minutes away from the moment it’s published online. News travels fast and people see what is happening around the world. Plus they facebook, they blog, they SMS. They know what happens to a fellow Kenyan in a similar situation in another country.
People in Kenya have sometimes asked me about incidents that I thought were local to Dallas because they follow the news online. And cases like Cholmondeley’s is the kind focus the white community in Kenya does not need for it might expose just how far-removed their world is from the rest of ordinary Kenyans.
Everyone is making comparisons. And it is leaving a bad taste in their mouths. There is obviously a miscarriage of justice in this case. Just substitute Cholmondeley’s case with that of an ordinary Kenyan and the contrast and outrage is quite clear.
Tony Blair may have come to Kenya to “fix” Tom Cholmondeley’s “situation” but is anyone paying attention to the sentiments of the majority?
I am plugged in to the Kenyan community for obvious reasons and it is quite surprising to read the sentiments going around. While the Kenyan justice system is maintaining it’s status quo by taking care of a rich white man, they are slowly sowing the seeds of hatred in the ordinary mwananchi towards the white man or woman.
While mob justice is a common occurrence in Kenya, I have never seen it administered on a white person in Kenya. In the recent violence after the 2007 elections in which almost 2,000 Kenyans lost their lives, not a single white person was ever in harm’s way save for some opportunistic crooks looking for a quick grab here and there.
I hope it stays that way. I really do.
In a country where the gap between the rich and the poor is ever widening coupled with the callousness with which Mr. Cholmondeley is reported to have acted during the incident, it does not take a stretch of the imagination where the young, unemployed youth may focus their anger next. The white community has been extremely careful in their interactions with indigenous Africans and in fact it is very rare to see a white person embroiled in a murder such as this in Kenya.
But stories float around. Stereotypes exist under the radar. Whites seem to be favored everywhere they go around the country. Maybe this is a hang up from colonialism or some kind of inferiority complex, I don’t know. Whatever it is, Tom Cholmondeley, with assistance from the government has reinforced this stereotype that the white man is somehow “untouchable”.
Not to be alarmist, there are sentiments out there among ordinary people who feel that justice has not been carried out through the proper channels and perhaps Cholmondeley should have suffered the fate many ordinary criminal Kenyans face – mob justice. Read the comments here carefully. They may or may not stay there long. There are other more graphic examples that I am not going to link here.
In all my years as a Kenyan, I have seen injustice and I have seen white people get away with it in the past (remember the US Navy sailor Frank Sundstrom who brutally murdered Monica Njeri in Mombasa in 1980 and got away with it? I was a kid but I remember that case very well), but I have never heard strong sentiments such as I’m hearing in this case.
The Kenyan government needs to be careful about what kind of precedent it is setting up. The younger post-colonial generation is much different from the older generation who swallowed a lot and moved on. The government needs to administer justice equally and it has failed to do that in this case. Cholmondeley may have won his day in court but I’m not sure if the Kenyan judicial system has scored a hit on this one.
Take a closer look into Tom Cholmondeley’s Kenya. This is the Kenya of the White, privileged, anything-goes, land-owning aristocrats who say they “love” Kenya but send their kids to English and South African prep schools at the earliest opportunity, a Kenya where living your fantasy is nothing but a whim; A Kenya that many ordinary Kenyans would not recognise or have no idea exists right in their backyard:
Photo source: Reuters