Defence Committee to probe conduct of UK soldiers in Kenya

Defence, Intelligence, and Foreign Relations committee chairperson Nelson Koech (right) and National Administration and Security Chair, Gabriel Tongoyo (left). [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The government has launched investigations into the activities of the British Army Training Unit (BATUK) based in Nanyuki, Laikipia County.

The National Assembly Defence, Intelligence, and Foreign Relations Committee, led by Belgut MP Nelson Koech, has approved a proposal to launch an inquiry into alleged ethical breaches committed by the BATUK.  

The decision to initiate the investigations follows numerous complaints lodged by residents and key stakeholders regarding the conduct of British soldiers in the country.

“The main objective of the inquiry is to conduct a comprehensive investigation into alleged malpractices within BATUK since its inception to date,” the Committee noted.

Among the issues being probed include the alleged ethical breaches related to ethical misconduct, corruption, fraud, discrimination, abuse of power, and other unethical behaviors.

The committee will also look into "allegations of human rights violations including mistreatment, torture, unlawful detention, and killings, and to assess BATUK's operational integrity especially safety protocols, compliance with legal requirements, and adherence to established military standards."

These concerns were brought to the committee’s attention during their recent review of the Kenya-UK Defence Cooperation Agreement.

Of particular concern to residents are reports of serious offenses, including the alleged murder of Kenyan woman Agnes Wanjiru in 2012, believed to have been perpetrated by British soldiers in Nanyuki.

The committee had previously recommended that foreign soldiers, should they be found guilty of offenses such as murder, be subject to trial in Kenya. Moreover, the issue of corporate social responsibility, particularly about environmental matters, has been underscored as an essential aspect of the inquiry.

According to Article 8 of a confidential military agreement signed between Kenya and the UK in July 2021; Kenya and the visiting UK forces agreed to ensure thorough protection, preservation, and restoration of the environment comprising the training areas, service establishments, and installations.

The defence pact emphasizes that the troops “shall avoid acts that negatively impact on the human health and safety”.

It further adds that visiting troops “shall at all times comply with the host nation’s directions, regulations and laws preserving the environment”.

The committee plans to engage all relevant stakeholders, including residents, civil society organizations, the Kenya Defence Ministry, and the UK Embassy, to ensure a comprehensive and transparent investigation into the matters at hand.

The scheduled commencement of the inquiry is set for August this year, allowing for thorough fact-finding, testimonies, and collaboration among all parties involved.

This inquiry signifies a significant step towards addressing the alleged crimes and violations, promoting accountability, and safeguarding the rights and well-being of the local community.