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Kenyan court orders British Army to pay compensation for 2021 fire

In central Kenya, residents are still waiting for compensation following a devastating fire that broke out during a British military exercise in 2021, just days before King Charles III’s visit, reports African News. A Kenyan court has ruled that the British Army must pay for the damage caused by the blaze, which consumed over 12,000 acres of land during a British Army Training Unit in Kenya (BATUK) exercise near the town of Nanyuki, about 120 miles north of Nairobi.

Lawyer Kelvin Kubai, speaking on behalf of 7,000 plaintiffs, expressed their frustration, stating that no compensation had been provided more than two years after the incident. The plaintiffs accuse the British Army of using delaying tactics and not taking responsibility for the environmental and health damage caused by the fire.

Those affected are seeking compensation for environmental damage and health issues, including respiratory problems and eyesight issues they claim resulted from the fire. Many farmers have also suffered losses and have been unable to recover their crops and livestock.

The compensation process is being managed by an intergovernmental liaison committee (IGLC) consisting of representatives from both countries. However, the plaintiffs have criticized the IGLC for asking for more evidence of the damage caused by the fire, viewing it as an attempt to further delay compensation.

The open letter to the British government from the plaintiffs stated that the British Army destroyed the environment in Kenya and refused to provide compensation for it.

Protestors at a press conference demanded justice and chanted slogans like “we want our money” and “the British must go.”

Five elephants, including a calf, were reportedly killed in the fires. The fire reportedly started when troops cooking a meal on a camping stove accidentally set light to dry grass.

King Charles III and Queen Camilla are scheduled to visit Kenya from October 31 to November 3, their first visit to a Commonwealth country since Charles ascended the throne last year.

They will visit Nairobi and Mombasa but will not visit Nanyuki, where BATUK is based. The military base has been associated with various controversies, including the 2012 death of Agnes Wanjiru, a case that remains unresolved despite British assurances of cooperation with Kenyan investigations.