Villagers protest against British army ahead of King Charles' visit

Residents from villages in Laikipia County, during a demonstration on Friday, October 20, 2023.  [Amos Kiarie, Standard]

One week ahead of King Charles' visit to Kenya, residents from Jua Kali, Muramati, Kimugandoro, and Kariunga villages in Laikipia County are not a happy lot.

The villagers have protested against the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (Batuk), as they seek compensation for the damages caused by a devastating fire that was ignited by the army two years ago in the Lolldaiga Conservancy.

The residents stated that the Kenyan government should take responsibility for the prolonged delay in providing them with appropriate compensation. As such, they are now urging the visiting monarch to address this pressing issue during his visit.

The fire, which consumed about 49,000 acres of the Lolldaiga Conservancy, resulted in extensive damage to the natural ecosystem and decimated several homes. Since then, the impacted communities have been grappling with the aftermath without redress.

Agnes Murage says her father, Murage Gitonga, tragically lost his life to throat cancer, a consequence of inhaling poisonous gases emitted from the devastating fire.

"We were forced to sell our properties, in a desperate attempt to secure the treatments he needed. The financial burden was overwhelming, but we were willing to do whatever it took to save his life, he left behind three widows and 17 children,” she said.

The survivors' group chairman, John Kiunjuri, said the journey to seek justice for victims has been fruitless despite providing evidence in court.

“Since the incident, a number of victims have already died and yet Batuk wants fresh evidence, where will we get it?” he posed.

He added that the British army created an Inter-Governmental Liaison Committee (IGLC) whose main task was to decide how much to compensate those who suffered but this has never happened.

While the visit of King Charles is a momentous occasion for the country, the residents hope that the visitation is not just ceremonial but also serves as an opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue regarding their plight.

Kelvin Kubai, the lawyer representing the victims, urged King Charles to take responsibility for the current actions of the British Army.

“We are inviting the King to come to Nanyuki and see how the British soldiers are making residents suffer and they want to evade responsibilities, come with an answer to the people of Lolldaiga who have been in court for about two years in their quest for justice,” said Kubai.