UK military ties to Kenya reviewed

By Katrina Manson

Britain’s long-standing military co-operation agreement with Kenya is under review after a soldier who shot dead a Kenyan pastoralist has been prevented from leaving the country.

Kenya is a key ally in the battle against terrorism in East Africa and a training ground for British troops.

Kenyan authorities have prevented the soldier, who is at a British army barracks north of Nairobi, from returning home since the incident in June despite written agreements between the two countries that allow for repatriation in such circumstances.

The details surrounding the killing are unclear, and no charges have been brought against him to date.

The incident has put additional strain on relations between the UK and its former colony in the tense run-up to national elections in March.

“Discussions are under way with the Kenyan Government on the terms and conditions under which the British army operates in Kenya, following a shooting incident earlier this year,” the Ministry of Defence said.

“Githu Muigai, the Attorney-General, confirmed that the memorandum of understanding was under review, but said that Kenya’s commitment to working with British soldiers was “unshakable.”

He said the soldier could leave Kenya, but if an offence had been committed, then it might want him to return to stand trial in Kenya.

“We are where Palestine and Israel usually are – we have held talks to hold talks,” he said.

The latest five-year memorandum of understanding – worth   at least £24.3m (Sh3.4 billion) to the Kenyan economy a year thanks to a UK obligation to spend that much on running costs – is due to expire in 2015.

Memorandum

“The shooting incident has called into question our MoU with the Kenyans,” says Colonel Mark Christie, commander of the British Army Training Unit Kenya, of the agreement he says stipulates UK soldiers should be repatriated after any alleged misdemeanour and investigated at home.

Since the incident, Christie has encouraged visiting battle group commanders to impose controls restricting their soldiers to the camp. Until recently, hundreds at a time regularly descended on Nanyuki town’s bars and hotels.

“What you don’t get now is large groups getting up to the sort of mischief we’ve seen before,” says Christie of the new controls.

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