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A parliamentary committee in Kenya has launched an inquiry into alleged human rights violations and ethical breaches by a British army training unit that has been active for decades in the country the U.K. calls “our defense partner of choice in East Africa.”
The U.K. Ministry of Defense didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Britain has roughly 200 military personnel permanently based in Kenya. Most of them currently are 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.
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The British government invests more than $9.6 million every year into the partnership.
But some Kenyans have raised concerns about the way British forces treat local residents and the environment in arid, bandit-plagued areas north of Mt. Kenya where they train. 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 whose body was found in a septic tank.
Soldiers prepare to take a break following a British Army Training Unit exercise in Kenya on Nov. 14, 2022. Kenya has opened an inquiry into the training unit over human rights violations. (Tony KARUMBA / AFP) (Photo by TONY KARUMBA/AFP via Getty Images)
An advocacy group and residents went to court in 2021 alleging that a British army training exercise caused a devastating fire at a wildlife conservancy. More than 15 square miles were destroyed.
Kenyan lawmakers in April ratified a new five-year defense cooperation agreement with the U.K. and also recommended allowing any British soldiers charged with murder to be tried locally. The British government has said it was cooperating in the Wanjiru case.
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The parliamentary committee chair, Nelson Koech, said in a statement earlier this year that 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.”
The National Assembly Defense, Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committee has asked the public to submit materials for its inquiry by Oct. 6.