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MPs question deals with US, British forces

BUSINESS
By | July 13th 2011

By David Ochami

MPs are questioning immunity granted to British and US soldiers while in the country and their “unfettered access” to security installations.

This arises from several Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) that allow them to dock, fuel, train in Kenyan ports and arid areas.

The MoUs, signed in 1980s at the height of the Cold War, were disclosed on Tuesday when Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang’ testified before the Defence and Foreign Relations Parliamentary committee.

But some of them were signed or renewed as late as 2002 and last year, evidently against the advice of the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS).

The MoUs also allow the foreigners to engage in military training, duty free importation of goods and they limit the ability of Kenyan authorities to detain and prosecute errant soldiers.

The presence of foreign forces training in the country has been a divisive issue especially when they were accused of rape in Samburu and

Laikipia where British forces entered a financial settlement with women who accused them of forced sex and exploitation.

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Besides alleged rape, foreign forces in arid areas have been accused of carelessly disposing or leaving behind unexploded arms that kill and maim pastoralists.

On Tuesday, Kajwang’ said the “MoUs are binding” and “we must just follow the agreements” arguing that Kenya derives immense benefits in joint training with foreign forces.

He added the memoranda can only be terminated or amended by mutual consent. But committee chairman Adan Keynan noted “foreigners have unfettered access to the country” through the agreements.

Committee member Jeremiah Kioni termed the agreements a “tool of exploitation” with his counterpart George Nyamweya saying the huge tax exemptions do not benefit Kenya.

Grave danger

“People who negotiated these MoUs must have seen the benefits,” Kajwang said. The minister disclosed that Kenyan forces training in other countries are also exempted from certain taxation.

He said immigration officials only capture the identities of soldiers for record purposes but do not require them to declare the armaments they carry along. Nyatike MP Omondi Anyanga said some of the agreements put Kenya and its citizens in “grave danger.”

However, Keynan disclosed that NSIS told the committee that he had advised against renewal or signing of some of the agreements.

He said there ought to be a full disclosure of the weaponry used by visiting British and American soldiers. He said that some of the armaments used by the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were tested in Kenya.

He also said visiting armies “have left used and unused ordinance after training” and exposed Kenyans to danger.

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