The British army training in Kenya with local people.
Photo: The Guardian
The Kenyan government has launched an inquiry into allegations of abuse by the British army, which MPs say could have implications for the future role of UK troops in the country, ‘The Guardian’ informs with some surprise.
The investigation will examine the activities of the British Army Training Unit Kenya (Batuk), whose soldiers have been accused of murder, sexual abuse, and damaging land close to its base in Nanyuki, about 125 miles (200km) north of the capital, Nairobi.
Kelvin Kubai, a Kenyan lawyer, called the inquiry a “significant” move. “It’s the first time that British army activities are being reviewed in this way,” he said, since the country gained independence from the UK in 1963.
Kenya’s parliamentary defence committee, which is leading the inquiry, will this month put out a call for the public to submit petitions of any alleged crimes or wrongdoings by the army. Investigations will begin in October. The committee will call on Batuk to respond to the claims, and is expected to submit a report of its findings to parliament by the end of the year.
The report will include recommendations that could have consequences for a defence deal between Kenya and the UK, which allows British troops to train in Kenya.
“This will have serious consequences for the defence cooperation agreement, because if we realise that there’s been a lot of activity that spits in the face of [the treaty], it gives us room to re-look at the agreement,” said Nelson Koech, the chair of the defence committee, “and even to exit.”
The 2012 murder of Agnes Wanjiru is expected to be included in the wide-ranging review. The 21-year-old mother was last seen with British troops at a hotel near the barracks. Her body was found in a septic tank at a nearby lodge with stab wounds. A 2019 inquest in Kenya concluded that British soldiers were responsible for her murder and ordered further investigations. No one has been charged.
Claims that unexploded bombs left by the army on land accessible to the public will also be examined, as well as reports that dangerous chemicals being used during drills are putting lives at risk. Allegations of sexual abuse will also be examined. The army has been dogged by abuse claims for years and recent local media reports say cases persist.
The Kenya-UK defence treaty was renewed in July 2021, but only ratified in April this year due to a wave of objections from communities who live near the army base and by resurgent anger over Wanjiru’s case after the publication of a reported confession to her murder by a British soldier. Kenyan and UK authorities have faced criticism for laxity and neglect in the handling of her case, and the British army has been accused of “cover-ups”.
When ratifying the defence deal, Nairobi MPs expressed “reservations” about the treaty’s failure to list murder as a crime British soldiers can be tried for in Kenya.
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