Former Queen’s Guard officer shot dead on his ranch in Kenya as land invasions escalate

Tribal warriors shot dead a former Guards officer on his ranch in Kenya Sunday as a campaign of land invasions in the country’s white farming heartlands claimed its most prominent victim to date.

Tristan Voorspuy, 60, was killed on Sosian, a 24,000 acre ranch in the Laikipia region, which was occupied by armed warriors last month.

Voorspuy’s death, the first of a white farmer since the invasions began last year, represents a major escalation in an offensive that many white farmers believe represents a politically motivated land grab in one of the country’s most important conservation areas. Neighbours said Voorspuy, one of Sosian’s co-owners, had ridden out to inspect an area where invaders burned down three houses last week.

“Apparently he took it upon himself to get on a horse to check on one of the remaining houses that had not been burned down,” said a white rancher from a nearby farm. “But he was ambushed and shot dead.”

Offbeat Safari via Associated PressTristan Voorspuy poses for a photograph, in Kenya

After Voorspuy, who was regarded as one of Kenya’s finest horsemen, failed to return, a white farmer from a neighbouring ranch flew over the area and spotted his horse, which had been badly injured.

A tracker later found and identified Voorspuy’s body but it has yet to be retrieved because the area is still patrolled by large gangs of armed warriors from Kenya’s Samburu and Pokot ethnic groups.

Sosian is one of a number of large ranches to have been seized in recent months. Ostensibly, the invasions were triggered by a drought that forced Samburu and Pokot herdsmen to abandon denuded pasture to the north and east of Laikipia and drive their cattle on to the carefully husbanded ranches.

As many as 20 black Kenyans have been killed, among them workers on white-owned farms. Some white ranchers have been shot at and one black rancher was shot and wounded last year. Wildlife, including elephants, have also been killed.

Opposition politicians and many farm owners claim that local politicians are using the cover of a general election in August to stir up ethnic violence to drive ranch owners out of the area.

The government’s response has been muted, although two small police operations have been mounted against the invaders in the past month, including one last week on Sosian. Both failed.

Tony Karumba / AFP / Getty ImagesTony Karumba / AFP / Getty ImagesA file photo of Kenyans walk through part of a conservancy in Laikipia, 2013

“The police went on to drive the herders out and had the bejesus put up them and they turned tail and ran,” a white rancher said.

Shortly before Voorspuy’s death, Kenya’s police chief, Joseph Boinett, flew over Sosian in a helicopter and reportedly came under fire. Boinett denied the claim.

Voorspuy, who is survived by his wife Lucinda and two grown-up children, bought Sosian ranch with six other shareholders in 2005. He is credited with turning land that had been badly degraded into a successful wildlife conservation project.

Known as an engaging raconteur and intrepid riding safari guide, Voorspuy was a central figure in white Kenyan society. He served in the British Army for six years in the Seventies before serving a two-year commission with the Household Guards.

He lived at Deloraine, perhaps the country’s best-known colonial farm house. Built by Lord Francis Scott, the uncle of Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, it has hosted the Queen Mother and the Duchess of York.


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