Residents in central Kenya are demanding compensation for a devastating fire that occurred during a British military exercise just days before a visit by King Charles III. A Kenyan court has ruled that the British Army must pay compensation for the blaze, which consumed over 4,800 hectares (12,000 acres) of land during a military exercise conducted by the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (BATUK).
The BATUK unit is situated near the town of Nanyuki, approximately 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of Nairobi. The victims, represented by lawyer Kelvin Kubai, expressed frustration over the lack of compensation, stating that “two and a half years later, zero compensation has been given to the people affected.” An open letter, signed by 7,000 plaintiffs, accuses the British Army of using tactics reminiscent of colonial rule to avoid compensating the Kenyan people.
Those affected are seeking compensation not only for environmental damage but also for medical issues, such as severe breathing difficulties and permanent eyesight problems, which they attribute to the fire. The letter highlights that many farmers have been unable to recover their lost crops and livestock.
The compensation process is overseen by an intergovernmental liaison committee (IGLC), which includes representatives from both countries. However, the authors of the open letter criticize the IGLC for requesting additional proof of the fire’s damage.
The letter concludes with a call for the British government and King Charles to treat Kenya as an equal partner rather than a colonial outpost. The upcoming royal visit is King Charles’s first trip to a Commonwealth country since ascending to the throne and his fourth official visit to Kenya. While the BATUK army base contributes to the local economy, it has also been linked to various controversies in the area, including the 2012 death of Agnes Wanjiru, whose body was found in a septic tank after reportedly socializing with British soldiers.