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Emerging Kenya, Britain row on military training

COUNTIES
By Cyrus Ombati and Geoffrey Mosoku | Jun 27th 2014 | 2 min read

More than 1,000 British soldiers are stranded in Nairobi following a diplomatic row between Kenya and London.

The row has been linked to the travel advisories issued by Britain over terror threats.

Kenya has allegedly refused to sign a new Memorandum of Understanding with Britain to allow more soldiers to go to Nanyuki for training following the expiry of the previous one. Sources said the Government has demanded that the UK first withdraws travel advisories before allowing in a new contingent of British soldiers for training.

The diplomatic stand-off has caused a delay in the arrival of a new group of personnel to replace those who have finished their six-week training in Nanyuki under the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (Batuk).

Under the agreement, six infantry battalions per year carry out six-week exercises in Kenya.

There are also three Royal Engineer Squadrons which carry out civil engineering projects and two medical group deployments which provide primary health care to the civilian community.

Yesterday, British Embassy Spokesperson Stephen Burns confirmed there is "a small diplomatic issue that he hoped will be resolved soon in regard to the soldiers' training".

"The UK has a longstanding, mutually beneficial, defence relationship with Kenya and we hope that the delay in receipt of diplomatic clearances from the Kenyan authorities will be resolved shortly," he said.

Other officials aware of the stand-off said Kenya wants Britain to lift its advisories first, which it said are affecting the tourism sector but Britain has stood its grounds regarding the advisories saying the threats are real.

The military personnel were supposed to leave Kenya on Thursday aboard a military plane that was to arrive with another group from Britain but officials said Kenya has indicated it could not guarantee the new group's security.

"The British soldiers have been moved to Kahawa Barracks as the UK embassy engages authorities who say the travel advisories are the main cause of this. We are waiting," said a source who asked not to be named.

UK High Commissioner Christian Turner had said in the past the Kenyan economy earns more than Sh2.5 billion annually from the activities of  Batuk.

The economic boost is mainly through acquisition of supplies and services by the British Army, which are sourced locally.

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