Tristan Voorspuy, a former British soldier, was shot dead by raiders Sunday while inspecting damages on his ranch in Laikipia, Central Kenya.
Thousands of herders armed with crude weapons and AK47s have been invading private ranches and wildlife parks, destroying property and slaughtering wild animals while allowing their livestock to feed on farmers’ crops.
Kenyan authorities have blamed the murder on local herders who have been terrorizing ranch owners in the drought-stricken region as they force their livestock in to private farms in search of pasture.
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“It is true the Sosian Ranch director was shot dead while going to inspect damage at his ranch. He was riding on his horse, when he was felled by bullets. Even the horse was also shot at and is lying there,” a Kenyan government official told the Guardian in an interview on Sunday.
“These people [herders] are dangerous; they don’t spare anyone.”
A Man with a Vision
Mr. Voorspuy served in the British army for three years before relocating to Kenya more than 15 years ago, where he started a company dealing in horseback tours.
He, together with other shareholders, re-established the once-neglected Sosian Ranch in Laikipia.
According to the chairman of the Laikipia Farmers Association, Martin Evans, Voorspuy went to check on a fellow shareholder whose house had been attacked on Friday by raiders, when he encountered his death.
An aerial and ground search was launched on Sunday morning, when he failed to return home. His body was later found lying by the ruins of his friend’s house with gunshot wounds.
According to Evans, Voorspuy had a great passion for Laikipia, its land, and its wildlife and always wanted to show the local people that cattle, people, and wildlife could co-exist peacefully if there was proper management of the available land.
Ethnic & Political Undertones
While the government has continued to blame the ongoing attacks on ranch owners in Laikipia on the current drought, locals are now pointing to a possible political and ethnic motivation.
They suspect that the blatant attacks by local raiders could be aimed at forcing foreigners out of the area with the intention of taking over their land.
And with the next general election just around the corner, local politicians stand to benefit from any changes in population dynamics.
Although Laikipia is a cosmopolitan region, it is predominantly inhabited by two ethnic communities, Maasai (pastoralists) and Kikuyu (farmers). There are also a few White settlers who own large ranches and wildlife conservancies.