NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A British man was shot to death by pastoral herders in central Kenya who have been invading large farms, some of which double as wildlife conservation areas, officials said Sunday.
Rancher Tristan Voorspuy was shot sometime after going to inspect some of his lodges, which had been burned by the attackers Friday, said Simon Kipkeu, commander of police in Laikipia County. Kipkeu said the victim's body was found Sunday lying next to his injured horse and witnesses were being interviewed about the incident 190 kilometers (118 miles) north of Nairobi.
Some officials have blamed the land invasions on a severe drought that has made poor herders desperate, and the U.N. humanitarian chief has appealed for assistance for herders affected by what Kenya's government has declared a natural disaster. Ranchers, however, say the land invasions are politically motivated and part of plans to take over their land.
Martin Evans, chairman of the Laikipia Farmers Association, said Voorspuy had been a shareholder in Sosian Ranch for more than 15 years and "went to look at the house of a fellow director and friend that had been burnt by invading and well-armed 'pastoralists' on Friday."
When he didn't return by Sunday afternoon, an aerial search spotted Voorspuy's injured horse but didn't catch sight of the rancher, Evans said. A ground team later found his body by the ruins of the house.
He said Voorspuy was passionate about Laikipia, its land and its wildlife. He said that as a safari operator, Voorspuy sought to show that cattle ranching and wildlife and people can co-exist if the land is well looked after.
"We are very sad and despondent tonight. We have lost a good man and a great friend," Evans said.
Kenya has been hit by a cycle of violence of land invasions and evictions in the 1992, 1997, 2007 elections. Kenya will hold general elections in August.
More than 1,000 people died after the 2007 elections, the deadliest clashes in the country's history. A majority of the deaths were in the Rift Valley, where Laikipia is. More than 600,000 were evicted from their homes during the violence.
A 2008 government commission found historical injustices such as unequal land distribution were partly responsible for the violence. A 2013 report reinforced those findings, saying historical grievances over land constitute the single most important driver of conflicts and ethnic tension in Kenya.