Friday, May 29, 2009

British in Sri Lanka

May 22, 2009
When Pigs Fly–and Scold: Brits Lecturing Sri Lanka!

By Gary Brecher

Key fact: in Sri Lanka heroes were allowed to get fat, another reason to like the place.

You see some pretty sick stuff when you do my job, but I just read something sicker than any Congo cannibal buffet. It’s an article by a posh little limey named Jeremey Brown condemning the Sri Lankan government for being too messy in putting down the LTTE, and demanding that we stop buying the cheap textiles the poor Sinhalese make their living churning out.

What’s sick about this is that the British establishment destroyed the Sinhalese people completely. Completely and purposely, sadistically. Stole their land, humiliated and massacred their government, made it Imperial policy to erase every shred of self-respect the Sinhalese had left. You can talk about the Nazis all day long, but for my money nothing they did was as gross as what you find out when you actually look into the history of British-Sinhalese relations. If you can even call them “relations”; I guess a murder-rape is a relation, sort of.

But nobody knows about it. Weird, huh? Nothing weirds me out more than the total news blackout the Brits have managed to put on all the sick shit they did to brown and black people all over the world. They had a system, and it worked. They’d grab some paradise island in the tropics, use the Royal Navy to wall it off from the rest of the world, and crush the local tribe. If the locals resisted, the Brits would starve them to death, shoot them down, infect them with smallpox or get them addicted to opium–whatever they had to do to gang-rape the locals so bad that they’d lose the will to resist.

And to this day, they don’t catch even a little bit of Hell for it. Everybody thinks the Brits are all cute and harmless. You’re all a bunch of suckers for those suave accents, you suckers! The truth is that compared to the Brits, the Nazis you’re always yammering about were a gang of eighth-grade stoners who ran around spraypainting swastikas on school property. The Nazis lasted one decade; the Brits quietly ran their extermination programs for three hundred years, and to this day they wouldn’t even think of feeling guilty about it. Wouldn’t cross their minds.

That’s what made me want to puke battery acid when I read Mister Jeremy Brown’s sermon on the naughty Sinhalese: this pig Brown has no clue about why Sri Lanka is so fucked up, no hint at all that it’s the result of British Imperial policy. Not “mistakes” or “a few bad apples” or “regrettable excesses” but clear, cold, ruthless British policy.

One of the funniest bits in Brown’s little Anglican sermon to the Sinhalese is when he mentions Arthur C. Clarke, the Brit sci-fi writer who moved to Sri Lanka. The reason that’s funny is that a few years back, when he was too senile and drunk to watch his tongue, Clarke admitted in an interview that the whole reason he moved to Sri Lanka is “for the boys.” As in, he liked to rape little boys, and they were cheap and pretty in the dear old ex-colony. The fucking Brits wouldn’t stop raping the Sinhalese even after their troops were forced off the island.

Jeremy Brown wouldn’t know that, of course. To him, Clarke is a wonderful example of all the wonderful things British people have done for po’ little Sri Lanka:

“Britain has…helped to rebuild Sri Lanka’s tourist industry: Britons accounted for 18.5 per cent of the foreigners who visited the former colony’s famous beaches, wildlife parks, tea plantations and Buddhist temples last year. Only India sends more tourists. Many Britons also own property there, especially around the southern city of Galle, not far from where Arthur C.Clarke, the British science fiction writer who settled in Sri Lanka, used to love to scuba dive. [Is that what they’re callin’ it these days? GB]

So the question facing British shoppers and holidaymakers is this: should they continue to support Sri Lanka’s garment and tourist industries?

Don’t you love that last sentence: “Sadly, the answer must be no.” Anybody who can write a sentence like that without blowing his brains out at the monitor is a hopeless twit anyway, but let’s help Jeremy out a little bit, folks, let’s go back in time and take a quick look at all the wonderful things the Brits did for these rotten, ungrateful Sinhalese.

The pattern you see in the colonizing of Sri Lanka is a real familiar one, if you study the European naval empires: the Portugese, the greatest sailors and explorers, came to Sri Lanka long before the Brits, claimed the place, but couldn’t hold on to it. The Portugese lost the island to the Dutch, those up’n’coming Protestant go-getters, in the mid-1600s. That’s another pattern you see everywhere, the old Papist powers losing out to the Protestants, who were just faster and smarter.

The next stage was also totally by the book: the Brits, the canopy tree if you know what I mean, come along and force the Dutch out. There were times the Brits sort of liked the Dutch; they were Protestant, at least, and blonde/blue-eyed. But business was business, and the Brits realized, by the end of the 1700s, that Sri Lanka was worth taking. Of course they didn’t say that in public; the official reason was that they had to boot the Dutch to guard the island from the nasty radical Frenchies.

That way of stealing islands, making it sound like you had to take them for the greater good–that was classic Brit strategy. They always made it look like they were forced, against their will, to grab this or that colony. I dunno if y’all ever saw a movie called Erik the Viking, but it has a great scene with John Cleese playing this insane bloodthirsty warlord who orders people tortured to death in this tired, disappointed upper-class voice, and then whines, “It’s the stress that gets you”–all put upon and harrassed, like Attila the Hun meets The Office. That’s a perfect image for the way the Brits booted the Dutch out of Ceylon, tsk-tsking while they stole every shed, cannon and bale of tea on the island.

With the Dutch trade rivals gone, the Brits had only one problem left: the damned natives, the Sinhala, or “Kandyans” as they were called back then. That dumb name, “Kandyans,” came from the fact that their main city was Kandy, up in the highlands in the south of the island, the fat part of the teardrop. The Sinhala lived in the highlands for the simple reason that it was a little cooler, not as totally malarial, up there compared to the stinking coastal marshes.

By all accounts, the Sinhala/Kandyans were harmless slackers, who didn’t need or want much from the outside world. All they asked was for people to leave them alone up on their big rocky highlands to do their Buddhist thing. Unfortunately that wasn’t British policy. It irked the redcoats that Kandy still had a king, an army, all this impudent baggage that went with independence. The British decided to break the Sinhalese completely, crush the whole society.

You have to remember that by this time, the early 1800s, the Brits have perfected their techniques in little experiments all over the world. Those Clockwork Orange shrinks were amateurs compared to the Imperial Civil Service. They had dozens of ways of undermining native kingdoms.

British administrators were trained to do a kind of rough, quick sociological sketch of the natives, get a sense of the fault lines and then figure out how to exploit them. The Brits saw fast that the Kandyans were a sluggish bunch of people divided into rigid castes in the classic subcontinent pattern. That made it easy: the Brits made two big castes their official pets and shunned the others, setting up a violent hate between different parts of Sinhalese society. That guaranteed that if the diehard Sinhalese/Kandyan nationalists ever revolted, the teacher’s-pet castes would have a good selfish reason to help massacre them.

Then there was the Kandyan king himself. The Brits weren’t dumb in the way Paul Bremer was dumb, “de-Baathifying” Iraq. They loved corrupt local rulers. Much easier and cheaper to bribe one fat old degenerate on a throne than negotiate with all the commoners. So the Brits started playing with the nervous, dumb-ass Kandyan royals, scaring them with the threat of losing everything and then teasing them with the possibility of the safe, soft life of a Brit puppet.

This was the major leagues of Colonialism. To give you an idea of how important Ceylon/Sri Lanka was back then, try this on: in 1802, when French armies were kicking British and Prussian and Italian and Russian ass all over Europe (weird how nobody remembers that, huh?), the Brits were so terrified they tried to give Napoleon all their colonies except Sri Lanka and Trinidad. Those were the two they needed to keep.


The Kandy Men: no match for the Brit Vampire Lords

And this is where another standard Brit policy came into play–a real smart one that we ought to be imitating: use native auxiliaries, not homeland troops, as much as possible. For all kinds of reasons, but here are the main ones:

1. If you bring in troops from some remote part of the Empire to do your dirty work, it’s those troops, those faces and accents, the locals will remember, and hate, for generations. So you, the sly little pink Brit administrator, can stroll in later and commiserate with the locals as they show you around their burned huts, bayoneted kids, etc., and even say with a straight face, “Oh my, those auxiliaries from wherever, what ruddy heathens, eh? Outrageous, I shall certainly let Whitehall know about these abuses!” Then, of course, you get in your sedan chair, close the curtains and chuckle all the way home to where your little bum-boy is waiting.

2. Nobody back in London counts casualties as long as it’s Malay mercs dying. You can lose a lot of them–and a lot of Malays did die fighting the Sinhala, especially in the total rout of a malaria-sapped Brit/Malay force at the Mahaveli River in 1803–but nobody is going to make a fuss in the Times of London (Mister Jeremy Brown’s paper, as you may recall). If you’re lucky they’ll pop off before payday and you can keep their payroll for that estate in Shropshire.

3. Dropping hot-blooded feisty Malay muslims with guns far from home and making them fight Sinhalese bleeds Malay society as well as Sinhalese. Left in peace, Malays could be trouble–a proud, warlike people. So by sending them to die in Sri Lanka, you’re diverting all that young, angry Malay blood away from SE Asia and using it to bleed Kandy (bleed Kandy–I like that!). Two birds, one bloodsoaked stone.

You see why I get impatient with you gullible suckers yammering about the fucking Nazis? The Nazis were retards, a white-trash tantrum, an eighth-grade chem-class pipe bomb, a quick-fizzle flash in the pan, compared to the Brits, the scariest motherfuckers ever to butt-fuck the planet.

The mercenaries the Brits sent to crush the Kandyans were Malays, muslims from SE Asia who didn’t need a lot of pep talks to slaughter South Asian Buddhists (and steal their chickens). That was life for the Brits back then, at the top of their game: picking up pieces from one part of the world and dropping them where they’d do the most harm, half the world away. “Ah yes, let’s ferry some Malay mercs to Kandy, that should give the bloody idol-worshippers something to think about!”

Destroying Buddhism was a big part of Brit policy. The Buddhist routine, the temples, begging monks, long boring prayers–it was the glue that kept Kandy together. So the Brits decided to destroy it. They even said so, in private memos to each other. They weren’t shy in them days. Here’s the Brit governor in 1807: “Reliance on Buddhism must be destroyed. Make sure all [village] chiefs are Christian.”

Up to 1818, the Brits had a blast messing with doomed Sinhala rebellions, trying out CI recipes like Frankenstein guesting on Rachael Ray. A good time was had by all, except the Sinhalese. They had a very, very bad time, and it was about to get worse.

See, another constant you’ll find in Brit imperial policy is that although they’re very sly and patient, they have a very good sense of when to cut the crap and just wipe out a tribe that’s been annoying them for too long. They were getting sick of the Sinhalese, with all their bickering and intrigues; the redcoats just weren’t enjoying the Col. Kurtz game the way they used to. So boom: the “kill’em all” era begins.

But they did it smart, not like the idiot boastful Nazis y’all love to obsess on. I bet every one on the planet can name the Nazi death camps, but I’d be surprised if more than, say, a half dozen people outside Sri Lanka can name the policy the Brits used to destroy the Sinhala for good.

Anybody? Didn’t think so. See, here’s another little tip for up’n’coming genocidaires out there: always pick the most boring name possible. Those fucking Nazis, with their heavy-metal jewelry and titles! Dopes! You want extermination programs with names that put everybody to sleep.

And that’s why in 1818 Britain brought “the wasteland policy” to Kandy. They could have called it what that Liberian wacko called his campaign: “Operation No Living Thing.” That’s what it meant: Brit-led troops “draining the sea” the Sinhala irregulars swam in by burning every hut, every field, and killing every animal in every village they suspected of harboring “rebels.”

Hey, that’s another key Brit CI techniques: that word “rebels.” Blows me away: how can a Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, fighting for the country his people have owned for a hundred generations, be a “rebel”? And the pipsqueak redcoat officer hunting him down, who was born and raised in fucking London–he’s not the “rebel,” he’s the forces of law and order, the rightful authorities. Quite a racket if you have the sheer, sociopathic nerve to say it with a straight face. (I’m talking to you, Mister Jeremy Brown!)

What does “rebel” mean, anyway? I’ve noticed that in English press it’s a bad word. Here it’s different, because we were the rebels in 1775 and proud of it. But see, people who know the American revolution think that the Brit policy against the Yankees, where (give or take a Banastre Tarlteton or two), the redcoats tried to avoid killing civvies, was normal Imperial policy.

Bullshit. The reason the Brits let us go, didn’t try scorched-earth on us, was that we WERE Brits, as far as they could tell: white protestant English-speaking humans. If you weren’t all of the above, you weren’t human. The only other war where English troops had the same restraint was–take a guess. Right: the English Civil War. In England, they fought clean. But when Cromwell marched up to subdue the Scots, who were Protestant (good) but non-English (bad), a lot of POWs never made it back to the holding pens, and a lot of crofts were torched, and a lot of girls were raped. When he moved from Scotland to Ireland, where the filthy locals were filthy Papist as well as non-English, well, you don’t want to know what happened there.

So in places like Sri Lanka, full of brown heathens, Brit policy had nothing to do with fucking Yorktown. More like Dresden, only lower-tech.

The “Wasteland” policy was smart and mean at the same time–another sure mark of the Brit Imperial Touch. It was designed to deny the “rebels” support in the short term, but in the long term it was pure punishment, taking away the land, livestock and other assets of all the Sinhalese who were even suspected of being “rebel”-lovers.

And it worked. To this day, 200 years later, the Sinhalese castes who backed the rebels are dirt poor, and worse: they’re hated by everybody around them and they even hate themselves. And nobody even remembers who did it to them, poor lab rats. They think it’s their own fault, that there’s something wrong with them.

There’s more, and worse, but to tell the truth, this is making me sick. I’ve tried to tell this story a dozen times and nobody wants to know. You just end up vomiting battery acid all night, and pigs like Mister Jeremy Brown of the Times of London never lose one second of sleep over all those bodies, and all those lies and sheer nastiness. What’s the use? I’ll just fastforward through a couple of highlight shots. Take reprisals. You know, like those bad ol’ Nazis used to do after a “rebel” attack? The Brits were there way before the Nazis. They took revenge for a half-assed Kandyan revolt by killing one out of every hundred Sinhalese. Like, at random. To keep it fair, you know, not play favorites.

And then the nastiest CI weapon of all, the demographic bomb. This was a Brit specialty all over the world (see Fiji for a weirdly similar case). The Brits ran India, so they had total control over millions of obedient Tamil peasants who were starving, desperate, and ready to go anywhere, just pile into the hold of a ship and get out to cut cane or plant rice in some place that may as well have been on the Moon for all they knew.

So along with the massacre/reprisals, the Brits came up with one of their classic two-birds-one-stone plans: to neutralize the Sinhalese, let’s import huge hordes of Tamils from India! They’re cheap and docile and they’ll give the Sinhala something to keep them busy even after we have to leave the island, haw! And meanwhile they’ll drive the price of labor down even further! Brilliant, chaps, absolutely brilliant!

And they did it. Worked so well it’s still working today. And when they were done totally destroying the poor Sinhalese, the Brits did what they do best, better than any other murder gang on the planet: they took that amnesia zapper from Men in Black and zapped everyone in Sri Lanka, then turned it on themselves and were suddenly so innocent, so damn virtuous and clean, that a pig like Mister Jeremy Brown can actually sit down at a computer and boast about all the wonderful times England has raped Sri Lanka, from olden times right down to Arthur C. Clarke buggering every little boy on the island. Heckuva job, Brownie! Satan himself is shaking his head, muttering, “Gotta give it to the fuckin’ limeys, damn it….they got no shame at all, ya gotta admire that. Damn, even I wouldn’t have had the gall to talk like that Jeremy Brown. I’m putting him down for CEO of the Hell Propagandastaffel the minute his liver packs up and he lands down here.”

OK, done. Now you can all pass around that amnesia gun.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A window into white privile in Kenya

A lost world

The furore surrounding Tom Cholmondeley, accused of shooting two black people on his land, has thrown the spotlight on Kenya's 30,000-strong white community. Despite 40 years of black rule, many white Kenyans lead hugely privileged lives - and some still own vast swathes of the country. Chris McGreal on life in 'Trigger Happy Valley'

Chris McGreal
The Guardian, Thursday 26 October 2006

After the first killing, there was a great deal of sympathy for the Honourable Tom Cholmondeley among Kenya's disparate white population. The aristocrats who own vast tracts of land, the alcohol and drug-fuelled "Kenya cowboys" living the fast life in tourism and conservation, and the middle-class suburbanites who "love Africa" but despatch their children to school in England could all understand how the 38-year-old scion of the country's most prominent white settler family, and heir to the Delamere baronetcy, shot dead a black game warden who ventured on to his ranch last year. Old white families in Kenya's Great Rift valley are so besieged by poaching, murder and crime, his sympathisers said, that life has become very difficult for the haves. It was a mistake any one could have made. The authorities agreed, and let the Eton old-boy go.

The second time, even before the evidence was heard, sympathy was in short supply. This time Cholmondeley was accused of killing a black poacher. "The sense here among both communities [white and black] is nail him," says Michael Cunningham-Reid, a stepbrother to Cholmondeley's father. "Once is forgivable, twice is inexcusable."

Cholmondeley, who is now on trial for murder - which he denies - has become a liability for Kenya's 30,000-strong white community, which, through more than 40 years of black rule, has clung on to its privileged lifestyle - and in the case of 12 or so old settler families, great swathes of land - largely by keeping its collective head down. Cholmondeley, who can expect to inherit a 100,000-acre ranch along with the title of Lord Delamere, had committed the unforgivable sin of rocking the boat.

The white community had spent decades trying to shake off the image of Kenya's Rift Valley as the "Happy Valley" playground of decadent and racist toffs, a view shaped by wartime Britain's fascination with the salacious details of adultery, drugs and debauchery provided in the trial of Sir Jock Delves Broughton (who was eventually acquitted of murdering his wife's lover, Lord Erroll). Infuriatingly, the story was given new life in the 80s by the film White Mischief, starring Greta Scacchi and Charles Dance. Now Cholmondeley's killings have prompted wags to redub the place "Trigger Happy Valley".

The trial coincides with the latest wave of doubt among white people over their future in Kenya - people who have always wondered whether they truly belonged, and whether one day they might be expelled like the Asians from Uganda and white farmers from Zimbabwe - and growing insecurity after a spate of murders of white people.

Kenya's independence came in 1963. A majority of the 60,000 white settlers were gone by the end of the decade. Those who remained generally took out Kenyan citizenship (although many secretly, and illegally under Kenyan law, keep their British passports). One who stayed was Michael Cunningham-Reid, a nephew of the late Lord Mountbatten and part of the extended Delamere clan that forged the path for aristocratic settlers into East Africa with an energetic enthusiasm for hunting, drinking and sex. Cunningham-Reid's mother, Ruth Ashley, the daughter of Lord Mount Temple, was on to her third marriage by the time she wed the Fourth Baron Delamere, Thomas Cholmondeley, during the second world war. When they divorced in 1955, Cholmondeley went on to marry Diana Caldwell, the by-then famous widow of Sir Jock Delves Broughton.

Today, Cunningham-Reid, 78, lives in the heart of Happy Valley, the exclusive town of Karen (named after the author Karen Blixen, who memorialised her life in Kenya in Out of Africa). "When I came out of the army in 1948, my stepfather, Lord Delamere, said, 'You've only been in the army three years. You haven't learned to do anything. No one's going to employ you in the City because you've got no training. You'd better come to Kenya and work on my farms.' That was 1948. I'm still here," he says.

The family trustees bought him an 800-acre farm and, a couple of years after that, Cunningham-Reid was successful enough to buy a 6,000-acre ranch to farm sheep and wheat. In the 1950s, during the Kenya Emergency, when Mau Mau rebels rose up against the crown, Cunningham-Reid found himself back in the army and in charge of Kenyan soldiers loyal to the UK. His views of that time - and the language he uses, redolent of old-school racism - have not changed greatly despite the recognition today of the atrocities committed by British forces. "The atrocities of the Kenya regiment were there but not on the scale of the Mau Mau," he says. "The amazing thing about the Kenyan is you could find him in the forest, shoot two of his pals, capture him and he would be working for you two days later."

At independence, much of the white population weighed up the benefits of a glorious lifestyle against what they considered the nightmare of black rule - and decided to get out.

Cunningham-Reid took a gamble. He believed that the big issue was the land, and his best hope of remaining in Kenya would be to get rid of it. "All my friends were hooking it, saying, 'We can't live with a fucking black man telling us what to do,'" he says. "I farmed happily until independence in 1963. But the British government made £22m available to buy out farmers in the Rift Valley. I was the first in the queue. Although I intended to stay, I thought all the farms would be broken up into small plots and we'd be plagued by squatters and the land would be a big political issue."

He used the money to buy a mansion in Karen, a house that was being left behind by Lady Twining, wife of the former governor of Tanganyika. "I basically liked the African and I couldn't picture myself going back to England and buying a very small farm or something," he says. The money also extended to a house on the coast and a hotel next to Lake Naivasha, which was to become the crucible of the family's future in conservation.

The gamble paid off. More than four decades later he is still installed in Lady Twining's sprawling old house, with servants to hand and the chauffeur ever ready with the Mercedes for the swift drive to his club. He has no regrets about staying. "There were times when I had serious doubts: have I been a complete fool? Am I going to lose everything? There have been moments when I considered sending my family away. Not myself though. I'd stay and go down with the ship," he says. "The white community has survived by laying low, keeping their mouths shut. We stayed out of politics. That was the big taboo. We must be no challenge to the black man's political power."

Not everyone stayed out of politics. Richard Leakey, who heads Kenya's other most prominent white family, confronted white Kenyan society's deep-seated paternalism - at times hardly removed from the views of the old colonial officers who proclaimed they had brought Christianity and civilisation to the natives - by wading into the forbidden territory of politics. Leakey's parents, Louis and Mary, made the Leakey name with a multitude of anthropological finds; Richard established himself as a paleoanthropologist in his own right with the discovery of the oldest human skull yet found, before going on to make a name as head of Kenya's Wildlife Service. He saved the country's elephants by winning a worldwide ban on ivory trading and brought Kenya's 51 parks from the brink of collapse. He is also one of the few Europeans to openly distance himself from the white clan in Kenya.

"These people bore me stiff and I'm not part of that set at all," he says. "Some of them are pretty racist people deep down. They don't mix and have very negative attitudes to their fellow Kenyans. I keep them at arm's length and I find them offensive."

Leakey is unusual among white Kenyans in having sent his two daughters to a Kenyan government school where almost all the other pupils were black. "They are both real Kenyans," he says. "They speak perfect Swahili and they know all the important networks in this country because they went to school with people who are now part of them."

White Kenyans revelled in the kudos Leakey brought them until a decade ago, when he scared the hell out of them by daring to point the finger of responsibility for rampant corruption, mismanagement and cynical political violence at the man responsible - President Daniel arap Moi. He broke the taboo on white people embroiling themselves in opposition politics, launching Safina, a party that promised to combat police brutality and shambolic public services. Moi accused Leakey of being a neo-colonial racist, traitor and atheist.

Another white Kenyan who joined Leakey in Safina, Rob Shaw, also found himself under attack from the neighbours. "I had several come round to me and say, 'We've had a good life here since independence, we've kept our heads down. Why are you putting your head above the parapet?'" he says. "If I look back to my parents' generation, through independence and after there was a large element of, 'We don't know how long we've got here.' That sort of insecurity was ingrained."

White people were, however, welcome to serve the government. Leakey's brother, Philip, was an MP for the ruling party for 15 years and briefly a minister. He led 88 white Kenyans to pay homage to President Moi on bended knee and distance the white community from Richard. "Some were starting to think of us as a potential target," says Philip Leakey, "and we felt it was necessary to prevent ourselves from becoming a target by clearing the air and getting the response we got from the president - that we should carry on being good Kenyans, as we've been."

Richard Leakey says white Kenyans' fear of politics is a reflection of their failure to integrate and their desperation to hang on to privilege. "I feel sufficiently sure that Kenya is my home to be able to criticise the president," he says. "Very few Europeans have got involved in public life and politics, and that's because they haven't felt integrated. They haven't made the effort to integrate. So many of these people live a privileged life. They don't want to integrate socially. They don't speak the language. They send their children to schools in England and South Africa, and then say there's no future for them in Kenya. They must feel like fish out of water. I suppose it's because they have a very privileged life. It's very peachy."

Life is still very privileged in Happy Valley, but the whiff of scandal is never far off, and the detail is astonishingly reminiscent of another age. Cunningham-Reid's daughter, Anna, established herself as a designer whose clothes proved a hit with the likes of Kate Moss, Princess Caroline of Monaco and Jemima Khan. She married Antonio Trzebinski, an artist from one of the most prominent and long-standing white families in Kenya. He was murdered five years ago by a single shot through the heart as he drove to see his Danish mistress, Natasha Illum Berg, the only licensed female big game hunter in East Africa. Trzebinski, a surfer and big game fisherman renowned for his drinking, drug use and womanising, was killed little more than a mile from where Lord Erroll was shot.

Then, a year ago, Anna raised eyebrows by marrying a semi-nomadic warrior, Loyaban Lemarti, in a ceremony that involved the slaughter of a bull. Lemarti wore a toga and lion skin. She now divides her time between her husband's rural village, white society in Karen and fashion shows in London. Michael Cunningham-Reid describes the marriage as "an experience" that has not gone down universally well among white Kenyans. But he calls Lemarti "a very close friend of mine". "I think [racial] attitudes have changed with some families," he says. "With me it's changed. Tom Delamere was my stepfather. He considered the black man a necessary evil. You had to have him around to do the work. Since then I've found out that the black man is a human being after all," he says.

The unwelcome attention caused by Tom Cholmondeley aside, the old family names are increasingly an irrelevance in Kenya. They have largely ceased to matter. The white community is now better represented by a comfortable middle class that has carved out a future in tourism and conservation. New white immigrants continue to arrive. Arabella Akerhielm, who hails from a wealthy family in Chelsea and was part of the Sloane Ranger set in the 80s, first came to Kenya in 1990. Four years later she married Baron Carl-Gustav Akerhielm, a member of one of the first Swedish families to settle in East Africa.

"I'm here to stay," she says at her relatively small home in a Nairobi suburb. "I was in financial advertising in the City in London. To me the quality of life is better here, although we're not as rich financially. I suppose it's somewhat colonial. Our husbands do the work. There are moments of insecurity, but there's the freedom. Life's wilder here, more cavalier. It's not so materialistic. In England I came from a very privileged background. I like being away from the City boys talking about their cars."

Baroness Akerhielm - as she says she does not like to be known - says there is not much racism but recognises there is not much integration either. "Some people are quite scathing [about Kenyans], but as a general rule I don't think there's much racism. If anything there's racism against whites in getting jobs," she says. "But we are quite tribalistic. I suppose I don't have a lot of black friends. My husband, even being brought up here, does not have a lot of black friends, but I believe my daughter will mix more freely. A lot more children educate their children here or in South Africa than in the past. There are still the school flights to England, but fewer go." Nonetheless Akerhielm has already put her own seven-year-old daughter down for a place in 2011 at her old Catholic private school in Ascot.

Ask Michael Cunningham-Reid if his family will still be in Kenya in two or three generations and he is doubtful. "My feeling of 100% belonging here may not be right for my children and grandchildren. I am completely sure I will die here peacefully rather than have a panga in the back of the neck. I don't know about my children," he says.

Others are already making plans to leave. Barry Gaymer is a professional big game hunter who lives on an island in Lake Naivasha. Since hunting is banned in Kenya, he takes his rich American clients to Tanzania. "People say we're racist, but we've never been comparable with anywhere south [Rhodesia or South Africa] in the way we treated the blacks," he says. "I think the majority of blacks in my area like me. I drink with them. I get along with them. Generally, I think they like the old-time whites. In this country, the word for respect is fear. Because they fear me, they respect me."

Gaymer's father was one of those who came on a grant after the war and became a ranch manager. Gaymer bought land but sold up in the late 70s and turned to tourism. Today he is chairman of the Naivasha wildlife conservancy that has 23 members who own or farm a combined total of 380,000 acres that is home to 55,000 head of wildlife. About half of them are white. "I didn't even think of myself as coming from England. I could hardly imagine the place. But now, very recently, I've been thinking about moving, leaving Kenya. It's getting too much," he says.

Naivasha is not the happy place that the white population once imagined. Seven white people have been murdered in the area in the past two years (no one can tell you how many black people have been murdered). In January, a renowned British conservationist, Joan Root, 69, was killed at her home on the banks of Lake Naivasha where she had lived for decades. Root had been trying to put an end to the illegal fishing on the lake that has caused a collapse in the fish population over the past five years. The water level is falling alarmingly, and the lake is increasingly polluted by pesticides and sewage.

The established families blame the sprawling flower farms that provide roses and carnations to Marks & Spencer and other European stores. The farms tap into the lake and spew out waste. They have also caused an influx of black Kenyans to Naivasha to work, or in search of work, that has seen the population of the town rise tenfold to 300,000 people, many living in considerable poverty. With that have come the killings and other crimes.

Gaymer also believes that Kenya's wildlife will be wiped out in the coming years unless there is a dramatic change in government policy to permit licensed hunting. "I'm looking at Tanzania now," he says. "I've bought 2m hectares there with antelopes, hippo, buffalo, zebra. The country was a mess because of socialism, but the one thing they did was get rid of tribalism. I think it has a future".

Cholmondeley Trial opens old colonial wounds

By Nick Wadhams
06 August 2007

Thomas Cholmondeley is the sole heir to one of Kenya's largest land-owning dynasties, and the scion of one of its most famous colonial settlers. For the second time in a year, he is accused of murdering a black Kenyan. As Nick Wadhams reports from Nairobi, his case has stirred fears that whites continue to receive preferential treatment in Kenya's judicial system.

Thomas Cholmondeley sits in courtroom, surrounded by prison wardens (file photo)
Thomas Cholmondeley sits in courtroom, surrounded by prison wardens (file photo)
A little over a week ago, Thomas Cholmondeley sat in a wood paneled courtroom, surrounded by curious onlookers, his family, and a host of photographers eager to snap his picture.

He listened as his lawyer, Fred Ojiambo, appealed a court ruling that he disclose his defense witnesses. And he sat silently as the judge ordered the case adjourned for nearly two months - until September 21 - while Ojiambo's appeal is considered.

And then, silently, he stood up and was escorted away, never saying a word, his expression never changing. As he walked, cameramen got all the pictures they wanted, and everyone in the packed courtroom stared.

Cholmondeley's silence and the furor that surrounds him have come to define his case ever since he allegedly shot and killed a poacher on his family's 22,000 hectare ranch north of Nairobi in May 2006.

In the months since, observers and lawyers on both sides say the case has come to be about much more than a single murder. It has been hijacked by politics and exposed some of the festering wounds in Kenyan society: resentment toward wealthy landowners from poor locals who surround them, fears that whites get special treatment, or fears that Cholmondeley is being made an example of to prove exactly the opposite.

Outside the courtroom after the latest hearing, Ojiambo said he feared exposing Cholmondeley's witnesses could put them at risk. He argued that the case had long ago stopped being about what Cholmondeley did or did not do that evening on his family's ranch.

"What seems to be the well-known constitutional right of an accused person could very well be trampled upon and would expose the accused and the witnesses of the accused to undue pressure from police," he said. "The evidence by the defense witnesses could be very important and if police know who they are there's no reason why they can't lean on them."

Cholmondeley's case touches a raw nerve partly because of his background. He is the great-grandson of the 3rd Lord Delamere, who was a central figure in the sex and booze-soaked expatriate community dubbed "Happy Valley" that sprouted up in the Kenyan highlands between the two World Wars.

It is also the second time he is accused of killing a black man on his family's ranch. Kenyans were furious when charges were dropped against Cholmondeley in May, 2005 after prosecutors determined they didn't have enough evidence against him in the shooting death of an undercover wildlife officer.

The dismissal of those charges brought people into the streets in anger. In recent weeks, lawyers for the slain officer have sought to have the charges reinstated. They claim that the public prosecutor who made the decision was acting in Cholmondeley's interests.

"It is our view that he was quite mistaken in the actions he took and that mistake was motivated by circumstances that are not legitimate," he said. " If he had applied his mind objectively and fairly, he would clearly have seen that there was absolutely no basis for him to have sought to terminate the charges. And that is the basis on which we are maintaining the argument in court that the charges should not have been dropped at all."

Cholmondeley's case is particularly potent this year. Kenya is gearing up for presidential elections in December. In the intricate world of Kenyan politics, where everything seems interconnected, an acquittal could draw Kenyans' ire against President Mwai Kibaki, who is seeking a second term.

The same judge that oversaw the previous case against Cholmondeley is again on the bench, and he too may want to send a message. Cholmondeley, who has denied murder, could face the death penalty if he is found guilty.

"It is a test case for our criminal justice system in that, if it is found to have been poorly investigated and he is acquitted, the public will still take it with a pinch of salt," said Ojwang Agina, a legal analyst with decades of experience in Kenyan courtrooms." If he's acquitted the general impression will be that whites get preferential treatment in the Kenyan judiciary."

That is exactly that attitude that Cholmondeley's lawyer, Ojiambo, bridles against. He has barred Cholmondeley's family from speaking to the media. He argues that no one, including the police, is looking at the facts - examining the possibility - as he contends, that a friend who was walking with Cholmondeley that evening fired the fatal shot.

And he argues that Kenyan politicians have purposefully inflamed tensions surrounding Cholmondeley. Last year, Kenya's assistant information minister vowed to take the law into his own hands if Cholmondeley is released.

"It is quite possible that the publicity that this case has attracted could turn out to be to his disadvantage because much of what is being recorded and much of what is being said is mainly against him," he noted. "Nobody has tried to be very fair and very balanced about reporting what actually goes on in court."

In the end, legal bureaucracy may defuse the worst of the political wrangling. Defense arguments have yet to begin, and it's now possible that Cholmondeley's trial will not be finished by the time the presidential election takes place.

Kenya: the shooting that reignited land ownership tensions

Descendant of British settler dynasty Thomas Cholmondeley had shot dead two black men in two years

Xan Rice in Nairobi
Thursday 7 May 2009 12.05 BST

White man accused of killing black man: even stripped of its details the murder trial was bound to cause a stir in Kenya.

But the defendant was no ordinary white man. He was the cravat-wearing only son of Kenya's best-known British settler dynasty, the Delameres, whose colonial-era exploits invited admiration, scandal and resentment and who continue to divide opinion across the racial spectrum today.

What's more, Thomas Cholmondeley – the 40-year-old Etonian and heir to the fifth Baron Delamere, who was today found guilty of the manslaugher of a poor poacher on the family estate – was no stranger to the police when he was arrested in May 2006. He had shot dead another black man on the farm just a year before.

In April 2005, Cholmondeley shot Samson Ole Sisina, a Masai game warden with the Kenya wildlife service who was conducting an undercover investigation into the illegal bushmeat trade on the Delameres' 19,000-hectare (48,000-acre) Soysambu ranch. Cholmondeley admitted shooting Ole Sisina but said he was acting in self-defence after being fired upon first. The attorney general decided to drop the case before it came to court, causing a furore.

Masai leaders – who blame the original British settlers, including the third Baron Delamere, for moving them off their land a century ago – threatened to invade the Delamere farm, situated between the well-known tourist destinations of Nakuru and Naivasha, 55 miles west of Nairobi. Media commentators wondered how the country's notoriously slow justice system had functioned so swiftly. One newspaper headline read: "Why Cholmondeley is the luckiest Kenyan in penal code history."

The luck lasted a year.

On the evening of 10 May 2006, Cholmondeley was driving around Soysambu with a white acquaintance, Carl Tundo, whose rally driving exploits had earned him the nickname Flash. According to his court testimony, Cholmondeley encountered a group of black men who had been poaching and were carrying a dead impala. He shot three of the poachers' dogs, two fatally, with his Winchester bolt-action rifle. One of the men, Robert Njoya, a 37-year-old stonemason, was hit by a bullet and died soon afterwards in hospital.

Cholmondeley called the police, who arrested him and Tundo. Though Tundo was soon released, Cholmondeley was sent to the Kamiti maximum security prison in Nairobi after telling police he had shot Njoya by accident.

To Kenyans who thought that he had got off easily for the first shooting, this seemed only fair. Among the 30,000 or so whites living permanently in Kenya there was also little sympathy. Most still live a privileged existence – a few in a manner barely unchanged from colonial days – but they stay out of politics and try not to draw undue attention to themselves.

While individual white property holdings, even the Delameres', are dwarfed by those of a few Kenyan families, including those of the country's first two presidents, Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi, the country's vast inequalities mean that land ownership is a highly emotive issue.

Even those who defended Cholmondeley the first time – pointing out that whites living in the Rift Valley felt on edge due to increasing crime, poaching and even murders – offered few excuses this time.

"The sense here among both communities [white and black] is nail him," Michael Cunningham-Reid, a stepbrother to Cholmondeley's father, told the Guardian in 2006. "Once is forgivable, twice is inexcusable."

Considering his family were once described as the "Kennedys of Kenya" by the Spectator magazine, Cholmondeley's incarceration in Kamiti represented a huge fall from grace. Hugh Cholmondeley, the third Baron Delamere (each generation of heirs is alternately called Hugh or Thomas), had arrived in Kenya in 1903, and through his work in farming and politics is credited with doing more than any other settler to found the colony.

Legend has it that he used to ride his horse into the dining room of Nairobi's Norfolk hotel, where the bar bears the family name. He is credited with helping found the so-called Happy Valley set, where wealthy British colonial settlers passed the nights swapping partners and taking drugs.

The fourth Baron Delamere, Thomas, kept the family in the gossip press by marrying Diana Broughton. Her earlier love affair with the Earl of Errol, who was subsequently murdered, scandalised society and was turned into the book and film White Mischief.

Since Kenya's independence, Hugh Cholmondeley, the fifth baron, has led a less colourful but scarcely less comfortable life with his wife, Ann, on the Soysambu ranch, hosting tourists and producing dairy products under the Delamere name.

Thomas, or Tom to his friends, was born in 1968 and is their only son. After attending the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, he returned to Kenya to work on Soysambu ranch. A keen outdoorsman, he was gored by a buffalo while walking to a paragliding launch site in the Masai Mara in 1997. He has two children, Hugh and Henry, with wife Sally, from whom he split after the first shooting. From the beginning of the trial in September 2006, Cholmondeley's parents maintained a constant presence in the courtroom, alongside Sally Dudmesh, his current partner, and a revolving cast of other white friends.

Susan Njoya, the widow of the man he killed, was regularly in court, often seated just a row or two away.

Cholmondeley, a tall man who was always smartly dressed, remained impassive throughout. In his testimony last year he denied shooting Njoya and suggested that Tundo might have fired the fatal shot. During his court appearance Tundo strongly denied having a weapon at the scene.

As the case dragged on and it appeared that shoddy police work might make it difficult to link the bullet that struck Njoya to a specific weapon, other events in the country, especially the post-election violence and subsequent political wranglings, pushed the trial into the background.


May 8, 2009
White mischief Cholmondeley gets its comeuppance
By Cahal Milmo, Chief Reporter
The Independent

For more than a century, the name of Cholmondeley has gone unchallenged as one of the most powerful in Kenya, epitomising the white settlers' colonial lifestyle of privilege and earthly excess.

But to audible gasps of astonishment in Nairobi's High Court yesterday, the family's standing among its one-time colonial subjects was changed for ever when Tom Cholmondeley – great-grandson of Lord Delamere, one of the first British colonists of Kenya's fertile highlands – was found guilty of the manslaughter of a poacher on his ranch.

The Eton-educated divorcé betrayed no emotion as Judge Muga Apondi threw out his defence that the fatal shot may have been fired by a friend. He warned Cholmondeley that he could face life imprisonment for killing Robert Njoya, a 37-year-old stonemason, in 2006.

In Kenya, the long-running case has encapsulated the country's colonial legacy and simmering resentment at the large landholdings still controlled by some of its 30,000 white citizens.

Cholmondeley, a dapper, besuited figure, who will become the 6th Lord Delamere and has spent the last three years in Nairobi's notorious Kamiti Prison, became a focus for bitter complaints of racial inequality in 2005 when he was cleared of killing an undercover Masai bush ranger, Samson Ole Sisina.

This time, Judge Apondi threw out a murder charge against Cholmondeley because there had been no "malice aforethought" in his actions, but said he was in no doubt that the landowner had fired the shot which killed Mr Njoya with his bolt-action Winchester rifle.

The court heard that Cholmondeley had come across the poacher, who was carrying a dead impala, after dark on his 55,000-acre Soysambu ranch, in the Rift Valley 55 miles west of Nairobi. He shot at his three dogs, killing two of them.

The judge said he had some sympathy with Cholmondeley's claim to have acted in self-defence but dismissed as an "afterthought" the farmer's claim that the fatal shot was fired by Carl Tundo, a white friend accompanying him on the night, whose exploits as a rally driver earned him the nickname "Flash".

The verdict overturns an earlier not-guilty finding by a lay assessment panel, the Kenyan equivalent of a jury, which is intended to advise the presiding judge. Fred Ojiambo, the lawyer representing Cholmondeley said after the verdict: "I am shocked, amazed and dumbstruck. This is not acceptable. We will appeal."

The squalid cells of Kamiti, built by the British to house 1,400 inmates but which currently hold 3,600 prisoners, are a far cry from the luxury of Cholmondeley's upbringing in Eton and on the lands awarded to Lord Delamere by Kenya's British rulers following his arrival in 1903. Hugh Cholmondeley, the 3rd Baron Delamere, became a figurehead for the colonial occupation after being granted a swathe of Kenya's highlands and devoting himself to developing the country's farming economy. At the same time, he became synonymous with the culture of excess cultivated in the lake-studded region known as Happy Valley for its riotous parties, wife-swapping sessions and drug taking. This lifestyle inspired the book and film, White Mischief, based on the story of Tom Cholmondeley's step-grandmother Diana, whose lover was murdered and her first husband accused of the killing.

Economic problems have led to a growing sense of insecurity in the Rift Valley, with many landowners arming themselves against violent robbers and poaching gangs. Cholmondeley will be sentenced at a later date. Speaking outside the court, the widow of his victim, Sarah, a mother of four, said: "The court's decision, in my opinion, is not that bad. Life has been hard without a husband and a father for my children."

Dear God, stop brainwashing children

Worship is forced on 99 per cent of children without even asking what they think

Friday, 8 May 2009

The Independent (UK)
by Johann Hari
Let us now put our hands together and pray. O God, we gather here today to ask you to free our schoolchildren from being forced to go through this charade every day. As you know, O Lord, because You see all, British law requires every schoolchild to participate in "an act of collective worship" every 24 hours. Irrespective of what the child thinks or believes, they are shepherded into a hall, silenced, and forced to pray – or pretend to.

If they refuse to bow their heads to You, they are punished. This happened to me, because I protested that there is no evidence whatsoever that You exist, and plenty of proof that shows the texts describing You are filled with falsehoods. When I pointed this out, I was told to stop being "blasphemous" and threatened with detention. "Shut up and pray," a teacher told me on one occasion. Are you proud, O Lord?

Forcing children to take part in religious worship every day is a law worthy of a theocracy, not a liberal democracy where 70 per cent of adults never attend a religious ceremony. That's why the Association of Teachers and Lecturers – one of the teachers' unions – has recently moved to ask the Government to stop forcing its members to take part in this practice.
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Why does this anachronism persist in this blessedly irreligious country? For all their whining that they are "persecuted", the religious minority in Britain are in fact accorded remarkable privileges. They are given a bench-full of unelected positions in the legislature, protection from criticism in the law, and vast amounts of public money to indoctrinate children into their belief systems in every school in the land.

I can understand why the unelected, faltering religious institutions cling to this law so tightly. When it comes to "faith", if you don't get people young, you probably won't ever get them. Very few people are, as adults, persuaded of the idea that (say) a Messiah was born to a virgin and managed to bend the laws of physics, or that we should revere a man who at the age of 53 had sex with a nine-year-old girl. You can usually only persuade people of this when they are very young – a time when their critical and rational faculties have not yet been developed – and hope it becomes a rock in their psychological make-up they dare not pull out.

But why do the rest of us allow this fervent 5 per cent of the population to force the rest of our kids to follow their superstitions? Parents can withdraw their children if they choose – but that often means separating the child in an embarrassing way from her friends and exposing them to criticisms from the school, so only 1 per cent do it. Most don't even know it is an option.

More importantly still, why is worship forced on 99 per cent of children without their own consent or even asking what they think? As the author Richard Dawkins has pointed out many times, there are no "Christian children" or "Muslim children". I was classed as "Christian" because my mother is vaguely culturally Christian, although at every opportunity I protested that I didn't believe any of it. Children are not born with these beliefs, as they are born with a particular pigmentation or height or eye colour. Indeed, if you watch children being taught about religion, you will see most of them instinctively laugh and ask perfectly sensible sceptical questions that are swatted away – or punished – by religious instructors.

I am genuinely surprised that no moderate religious people have, to my knowledge, joined the campaign to stop this compelled prayer. What pleasure or pride can you possibly feel in knowing that children are compelled to worship your God? Why are you silent?

The prayer-enforcers offer a few arguments in their defence. At first, they claim it instils "moral values" in children. The scientist Gregory S Paul produced a detailed study in 2005 to find out if rates of murder and rape went up as levels of religion went down. He found the exact opposite. On detailed international comparisons, the more religious a country is, the more likely you are to be stabbed or raped there. There isn't necessarily a causal relationship – but it blasts a bloody hole in this claim.

Of course, if you actually followed the morality explicitly commanded by the Bible, Torah and Koran, you would kill adulterers, gay people, apostates, and disobedient children and be sent to prison. Thankfully, the vast majority of religious believers long since decided to disregard much of "God's word", because it is manifestly appalling, and read it metaphorically. But you have to strip away an awful lot of the texts as metaphor before you get to a few bland lessons about being nice to each other. Can't we get the lessons about niceness from somewhere else, without the bogus metaphysics and endless injunctions to kill our friends?

Once the morality defence dissolves, the religious switch tack, and claim that children indoctrinated into religion perform better academically. As "proof", they point to the fact that faith schools perform somewhat better on league tables. It's true – but look a little deeper.

There have been two detailed studies of this, by the conservative think tank Civitas, and the Welsh Assembly. They found faith schools get better results for one simple reason: they use selection to cream off highly motivated children of the wealthy and weed out difficult, poor or unmotivated students who would require more work. Once you take into account their "better" intakes, faith schools actually underperform academically by 5 per cent (and that's before you factor in all the other problems they cause).

I am absolutely not saying that schools should teach children to be atheists. No. Schools should take no position on religion. They should be neutral, and equip children with the thinking skills – asking for evidence, and knowing how to analyse it rationally – that will enable them to make up their own minds, when they wish, beyond the school gates. How can a religious person object to that, without admitting that open-minded, evidence-seeking adults would see through their claims in a second?

And so, O Lord, I ask you – and the British Government – to set our children free, at last, from being forced to worship You. Amen – and hallelujah.