‘We’ll bar your troops if they don’t pay for their crimes in our jails’: Kenya’s warning to Britain after claiming soldiers accused of assault, rape and murder go without punishment

  • Kenya is threatening to tear up 40-year military co-operation deal with UK 
  • British Army could lose some of its best training facilities if it doesn’t agree
  • Deal allows up to 10,000 troops a year to train in Kenya’s harsh terrain 
  • Kenyan President made the ultimatum to Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond during tense diplomatic negotiations
  • No soldiers have been prosecuted, despite allegations of serious crimes 
Face-off: Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has met Philip Hammond

Face-off: Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has met Philip Hammond

Kenya is threatening to tear up a 40-year military co-operation deal with the UK amid claims that British soldiers – who have allegedly committed serious crimes in the country – are escaping justice.

The British Army could lose some of its best training facilities worldwide if it does not agree that any soldier accused of crimes should be dealt with under Kenyan law, rather than returned to the UK.

British soldiers have been accused of crimes while serving in Kenya, but none have been prosecuted, despite allegations of serious assault and affray, alleged rape and murder, and protests by dozens of women that they were abandoned by soldiers who fathered children with them.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has now made the ultimatum to Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond during tense diplomatic negotiations over a long-standing deal which has allowed up to 10,000 British troops a year to carry out exercises in Kenya’s harsh terrain before deploying to active operations in theatres such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

A recent session between Mr Hammond and Mr Kenyatta ended without agreement. Yesterday a renewal contract remained unsigned as both sides went public with their grievances. 

Brigadier Duncan Francis, defence adviser to the British High Commission in Nairobi, claimed British soldiers had always been accountable for any crimes committed in Kenya ‘under Kenyan or UK law’, and pointed out that Britain was Kenya’s ‘most steadfast ally on defence and security matters’.

But presidential adviser Manoah Esipisu said the country’s new constitution required that British soldiers accused of offences in Kenya must be prosecuted under Kenyan law.

‘These are tough negotiations and there will be no backing down by Kenya on this issue,’ he said. ‘Kenya is not the same country as when these agreements were signed.’

The current deal is worth an estimated £58million a year to the Kenyan economy, and also involves British troops training the Kenyan Armed Forces in reciprocation. 

But that could come to an end if deep-riven problems cannot be solved. Kenyan security expert Professor Trevor Ng’ulia said relations between the two countries were so bad that it was a matter of ‘who blinks first’ in the current face-off before the deadline of April 21.

Exercises: Thousands of British troops train in Kenya. Pictured: soldiers use camels to reach remote areas

He said relations had soured since 2013 when British High Commissioner Christian Turner warned in the run-up to Kenyan elections that the UK would not be prepared to meet Mr Kenyatta if he was elected, ‘except for essential business’ as he had been indicted by the International Criminal Court and was due to stand trial for his alleged involvement in post-election violence and killings in 2007. The charges were finally withdrawn this month.

This was exacerbated by continual Foreign Office travel advisories warning tourists that Kenya was not safe from terrorism.

President Kenyatta is believed to have retaliated by refusing permits for a battalion from the Parachute Regiment due to replace 700 infantrymen who were then stranded in Nairobi for several days as a result.

One month later Britain sent five senior Kenyan army officers home in a suspected tit-for-tat.

A UK Government spokesman said: ‘Negotiations on a new Defence Co-operation Agreement are ongoing. We are working together to achieve a swift outcome.’ An MoD source said the Government hoped a new deal would be signed ‘within days’.

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