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Kenya is threatening to tear up its military co-operation deal with the United Kingdom unless British soldiers who commit crimes while in the country face justice in local courts.
With only three weeks left before a deadline to sign a renewal contract, the Government is demanding that the UK either give in or leave.
“President Uhuru Kenyatta made the ultimatum to Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond during tense diplomatic negotiations over a long-standing deal,” the UK Mail on Sunday reported at the weekend.
“These are tough negotiations and there will be no backing down by Kenya on this issue,” presidential spokesman Manoah Esipisu was quoted as saying. “Kenya is not the same country as when these agreements were signed.”
According to the MoS, the arrangement, which has run 40 years, is currently valued at about £58 million (KShs7.9 billion) a year, up from about Sh2.5 billion three years ago. However, other estimates put it at a more modest £24 million (KShs3.2 billion).
It allows up to 10,000 British troops a year to carry out military exercises in Kenya’s harsh terrain before deploying to active operations in theatres such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
It also includes military training for the Kenya Defence Forces.
However, while it requires British troops to respect Kenyan laws, those who commit crimes are seen to fall under the jurisdiction of UK military law.
If Kenya does not renew this agreement, the UK will have to find another location to prepare its troops — an uphill task given the unique conditions available in Laikipia and Samburu counties.
In April 2014, the UK and Tanzania signed a pact that would allow British special forces to train there. There is also talk that the UK could move its soldiers to Djibouti. However, to find comparable terrain Britain would have to look to the Middle East, experts say.
The British Army Training Unit Kenya (Batuk) is a “permanent training support unit” based mainly in Nanyuki, but with a small rear element in Kahawa Barracks, just outside Nairobi.
Under the agreement with the Kenya Government, six infantry battalions per year carry out six-week exercises. Royal Engineer Squadrons carry out civil engineering projects, while two medical company group deployments provide primary health care assistance to the civilian community.
While many of their interactions with locals have been positive, there have been claims of rape of local women and mass injuries from unexploded ordnance.
There have also been several unsolved crimes linked to British troops.
In 2013, Sergeant George Madison shot and killed Tilam Leresh, an armed herdsman, during a live fire exercise in Lolkanjau, Samburu County, outside the designated military training grounds. He was confined to barracks for seven months while a diplomatic battle raged over where he should be tried before being removed from the country.
In 2012, Agnes Wanjiru Wanjiku was found murdered in Nanyuki having last been seen with two British soldiers. The case remains unsolved with the suspects having been deployed to Afghanistan before questioning by Kenya Police.
That same year, some 200 British soldiers were involved in a bar brawl near the Lion’s Court hotel. The bar was destroyed and several people injured. Some of the soldiers were airlifted to Nairobi. No charges were ever filed.
In August 2010, a 12-year-old school girl was knocked down and killed by a British army truck. The driver, who did not stop, was never identified.
The United Kingdom recently infuriated Nairobi with yet another extension of its travel advisories. The advisories have been a flashpoint for retaliatory actions by both the UK and Kenya on military training arrangements. These have seen Kenyan officers out of the UK and replacements for 700 British troops in Kenya locked out.
– Business Daily