British ranch owner murder suspect held in Kenya

British ranch owner murder suspect held in Kenya

Nairobi (AFP) - A Kenyan court on Tuesday remanded a suspect in custody over the murder of a British man who was shot dead on his ranch earlier this month.

Samson Lokayi, 25, was detained on Sunday. He will remain behind bars until March 28, pending investigation into Tristan Voorspuy's killing on March 6.

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 central Kenya's Laikipia, as they go in search of pasture in the drought stricken-country.

Voorspuy, a British citizen who was born in South Africa, had gone to inspect damage on his ranch caused by the raiders when he was killed.

"We have strong reason to believe that the man we have in custody was involved in the killing of the British rancher," a senior police officer told AFP Monday.

"We want more time to carry out investigations on his involvement because there are two others out there whom he must have worked with," he added.

The judge had to postpone the suspect's first hearing because he only speaks his tribe's Pokot dialect, and no translator was available.

Voorspuy spent three years in the British army before moving to Kenya and founding a company specialising in horseback safaris, according to his website.

He and several other shareholders also restored the once derelict Sosian ranch.

In January herders swept into the nearby 44,000-acre (17,600-hectare) Suyian ranch, burning thatched huts for tourists.

- Fear and siege -

Elephants, lion, buffalo and zebra have been slaughtered by the herders who come with tens of thousands of livestock, and black and white landowners alike speak of invasions, fear and siege.

The reasons behind the invasions are complex.

While some point to the drought gripping the country, and a spike in human and livestock populations, others say the looming election in August and long-running land gripes have sparked tensions.

Local media have reported that votes are being offered in exchange for land grabs.

The government has done little to stop the invasions and with elections around the corner, few expect vote-costing action against the illegal grazers.

And the ethnic logic of Kenyan politics means some candidates stand to benefit from a favourable shift in population dynamics ahead of the vote.

An MP for the region, Matthew Lempurkel, was charged on March 8 with inciting violence for allegedly encouraging the wave of land invasions.

Since December, eight people have been killed and 10 others injured in these invasions.

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