NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A Kenyan parliamentary committee has launched an inquiry into alleged human rights violations and ethical breaches by a British Army training unit active for decades in what the UK calls “our defense partner of choice in East Africa.”
Britain’s Ministry of Defense didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
The British have roughly 200 military personnel permanently based in Kenya, most of them training more than 1,000 Kenyan soldiers a year before their deployment to neighboring Somalia to combat al-Qaida’s longtime East Africa affiliate, al-Shabab. The British government invests more than 1.1 billion Kenyan shillings ($9.6 million) every year into the partnership.
But some Kenyans have raised concerns about the way British forces treat locals as well as the environment during the military training in arid, bandit-plagued areas north of Mt. Kenya. In late 2021, Kenyan police said they were reopening the case of a local woman, Agnes Wanjiru, allegedly killed by a British soldier in 2012 and found in a septic tank.
And in 2021, a local advocacy group and residents went to court alleging that a devastating fire at a wildlife conservancy had been started by a British Army training exercise. More than 10,000 acres (15 square miles) were destroyed.
Kenyan lawmakers in April ratified a new five-year defense cooperation agreement with Britain and voted to recommend that British soldiers be tried locally for murder. The British government has said it has been cooperating on the Wanjiru case.
The parliamentary committee chair, Nelson Koech, earlier this year said the inquiry “would provide an opportunity for aggrieved Kenyans to finally get justice, and that this would be a critical pillar to the committee’s resolve to ensure Kenya can hold to account visiting troops that flout the law on Kenyan soil,” according to a Parliament statement.
The parliamentary committee on defense, intelligence and foreign relations has asked the public to submit materials for its inquiry by Oct. 6.
AP writer Danica Kirka in London contributed.