Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

In preparation for King Charles’ visit to Kenya, scheduled to commence on Tuesday, October 31, Buckingham Palace has expressed its commitment to addressing the complex and painful aspects of the shared history between the United Kingdom and Kenya. While the focus during the visit will undoubtedly encompass Kenya’s journey to independence and historical ties, there are pressing contemporary issues demanding attention and justice.

One such heart-wrenching case is that of Lisoka Lesasuyan, a Kenyan goatherder who, at a tender age, fell victim to a devastating unexploded bomb. Tragically, this incident occurred while he was herding goats on a field used for joint military exercises with the British army.

The year was 2015 when the unexploded bomb, previously used for mortar practice by both British and Kenyan soldiers at Archer’s Post, located approximately three hours north of Nanyuki, unexpectedly detonated. Lisoka, then just 13 years old, innocently picked up the explosive device, unknowing of its potential danger. The tragic consequence was the loss of both his arms below the elbow, severe injuries to his right eye, burns, and hearing impairment due to the explosion.

British soldiers promptly transported Lesasuyan to a hospital, where he received medical care, but they did not acknowledge responsibility for the incident. The British Ministry of Defence maintained that an official inquiry failed to establish whether the ammunition was of British or Kenyan origin.

However, the compensation provided by the British Ministry of Defence, which amounted to 10 million shillings (approximately $100,000 at the time), has been deemed insufficient for Lesasuyan’s extensive medical needs, including lifelong care and the provision of prostheses. Legal activist Kelvin Kubai has actively campaigned for justice on behalf of Lesasuyan, emphasizing that the compensation does not adequately address his ongoing requirements.

This is not an isolated case. In 2002, the British Ministry of Defence made payouts totaling 4.5 million pounds (equivalent to $5.45 million) to 233 individuals who claimed to have been injured by unexploded ordnance.

Controversy surrounds the origin of these munitions, as both the Kenyan and British armies conduct training exercises in these areas. For decades, the presence of British forces in central Kenya has stirred controversy, with allegations of rape, murder, and civilian casualties due to unexploded ordnance.

The British Army Training Unit in Kenya (BATUK), a permanent base situated approximately 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Nairobi, is crucial to the local economy of Nanyuki. Still, it has also become a focal point for criticism and allegations of misconduct. Amnesty International, in 2003, documented 650 allegations of rape against British soldiers stationed in central Kenya between 1965 and 2001, decrying a culture of “decades of impunity.”

A recent incident further highlighted concerns over the British military base in Nanyuki. In 2012, the lifeless body of Agnes Wanjiru, a 21-year-old mother, was discovered in a septic tank in Nanyuki. Her last known interaction was with a British soldier.

In October 2021, The Sunday Times reported that a soldier confessed to fellow servicemen that he had killed Wanjiru and showed them her lifeless body. The report indicated that the murder was reported to military superiors, but no further action was taken.

Agnes Wanjiru’s sister, Rose Wanjiku, is still seeking justice and closure. Despite the tragic circumstances and allegations, she acknowledges the economic importance of the British military presence in Nanyuki and does not advocate for the closure of the base. She emphasized that one individual’s actions should not implicate the entire British army stationed in the area.

The British government underscores the significant economic contributions of BATUK to the local economy, citing a total injection of 32 million pounds ($39 million) since 2016.

Local businesses cater to British troops, selling various items from Union Jack mementos to military merchandise and Premier League football club memorabilia. The economic impact is substantial, as businesses rely heavily on British army customers. Many locals in Nanyuki derive their livelihoods from the British army’s presence.

In light of these considerations, it is clear that the British military base plays an indispensable role in the local economy, despite the challenges and controversies it brings. Demonstrations in Nanyuki on October 20 saw residents demand compensation from the British army, underscoring the significance of the issue.

While King Charles’ visit to Kenya is expected to encompass Nairobi and Mombasa, it will not include Nanyuki, where British troops are stationed. Nevertheless, the demands for justice, accountability, and compensation continue to resonate within the community and beyond, echoing the importance of addressing these critical issues.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *