Kenyan MPs Urge That UK Troops Accused of Murder Be Judged Locally
12:09 12.04.2023 (Updated: 15:41 12.04.2023)
Under an agreement between the two countries, several British short-term military training teams are deployed in Kenya to build the capacity of military forces and enhance the response to security threats. However, their deployment has been marked by some incidents that fueled public outrage seeking for justice to be served.
Troops of the British Army training in Kenya who commit murder in the country might have to face prosecution in Kenyan courts if recommendations proposed to the parliament by a Defense and Foreign Relations Committee are adopted, local media has reported.
The recommended amendments to the Defense Cooperation Agreement between Kenya and the UK
debated by the National Assembly on Tuesday have yet to be ratified.
The move comes amid rising public debate over the alleged murder of Agnes Wanjiru by a British soldier in Nanyuki, Laikipia County, more than a decade ago. The 21-year-old mother was allegedly killed in March 2012. Her body was found in a septic tank at Lions Court Hotel in Nanyuki. British media reported that the soldier confessed to his colleague of the crime.
It was also reported that the British army was accused of trying to cover up the atrocity, but the country's Ministry of Defense reiterated that it was cooperating with Kenyan authorities in the investigation of the death. However, no one has been convicted of her murder, thereby postponing the case's long-awaited closure and justice for her family.
To put an end to such kinds of incidents and prevent them from happening again, the Defense Committee report to the parliament demanded that visiting forces be subject to Kenya's Constitution, laws and regulations.
Commenting on the recommendations, MP Nelson Koech, chairman of the Defense and Foreign Relations Committee, underlined that they are aimed at holding responsible those who commit crimes on "Kenyan soil". It is expected that the amendments would allow Kenya to resolve all sorts of problems involving British troops that have remained in legal limbo for decades.
"It behoves the host nation to make sure that anyone we’ve signed an agreement with [...] is made to adhere to the rules and regulations of the land, whether the county or Constitutions of this country. Such cases of murder or degradation of the environment would not happen if Kenyan officers were training in the UK. We should allow that to happen on our soil," said Nelson Koech, as cited by local media.
The proposed changes provide in particular for murder to be added as one of the offences that must be prosecuted under Kenyan law. Article 6 of the cooperation agreement subjects the British forces to the laws of the host country. However, it doesn't include murder as an offence under the jurisdiction of Kenya. The amendments are set to change this shortcoming.
The committee also noted that the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) failed to observe the country's laws and obligations under international law regarding environmental preservation
. Apart from that, Kenyan lawmakers propose that the visiting troops should respect the customs and culture of local communities, and serve them in accordance with corporate social responsibility.
BATUK is a permanent training support unit based in Nanyuki, Laikipia County, under an agreement with the Kenyan government. In its report, the Defense committee emphasized that the country is willing to benefit from this agreement, and the amendments are expected to improve the cooperation
and enhance intelligence-sharing to tackle various security challenges. The unit consists of about 100 permanent personnel and reinforcing short tour contingent of another 280 staff.