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King Charles’ visit to Kenya and the long shadow of Agnes Wanjiru’s murder

As King Charles III embarks on his official visit to Kenya to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the country’s independence from Britain, the niece of Agnes Wanjiru, a Kenyan woman allegedly murdered by British soldiers, has called on the King to address the unresolved case.

Four years after an inquest concluded that Wanjiru was murdered and fingers appear to point firmly in the direction of a British soldier being behind the killing, her family seeks justice and closure, calling on the British monarch to demand action.

In 2012, Agnes Wanjiru disappeared from her hometown of Nanyuki, Kenya, only for her body to be discovered two months later in a septic tank at a local hotel. The autopsy revealed stab wounds to her abdomen. Investigations by the Sunday Times and other have pointed at a British soldier being responsibly for her death.

If this is true, there have been no arrests and no convictions. The individuals accused of her murder have remained at large for over a decade.

The King’s visit to the former colony has thrown this death back into the news. Esther Njoki, Wanjiru’s 19-year-old niece, has penned a heartfelt letter to King Charles, imploring him to use his influence to bring justice and closure to their family. Ms. Njoki resides in close proximity to the British Army Training Unit (BATUK) base in Nyati barracks, where her aunt’s murder occurred.

In her letter, she wrote, “Your Majesty, we ask that you come to our aid by bringing attention and urgency to the case of Agnes Wanjiru’s murder. Please let not Agnes’s daughter Stacey grow up in a world where it seems that justice is elusive not only for the poor but also for people that look like her.”

Ms. Njoki’s appeal to King Charles is a move that goes beyond symbolic gestures. She demands concrete actions from the commander-in-chief of the British crown forces. However, the British government maintains that the jurisdiction for investigating the case lies with the Kenya Police Service. The inquest had also raised concerns about potential cover-ups and limited investigations in the immediate aftermath of the murder.

While Buckingham Palace has stated that the royal visit will acknowledge “painful aspects of the UK and Kenya’s shared history,” the King and Queen do not have any scheduled plans to visit Nanyuki during their trip. Instead, they will witness a display of British-Kenyan defense collaboration in beach exercises at the Mtongwe Naval base in Mombasa, shifting the focus away from the unresolved case of Agnes Wanjiru.

This visit comes amid rising discontent in Kenya about the country’s post-colonial relationship with Britain.

A 2021 fire on a British army training site in Lolldaiga, Laikipia, led to protests from 5,000 individuals who claimed it had adversely affected their health, livestock, and the environment. While the British High Commission in Kenya has asserted that no property outside of the Lolldaiga Hills Ranch was damaged by the fire and no large animals were killed, grievances persist, and demands for compensation persist.

Kenyan political scientist Professor Peter Kagwanga told Sky News that there is a perception that colonialism still lingers in Kenya, fuelling resentment. He said, “compensations have been done in a number of cases, but there has not been unequivocal apologies or denunciation of what has happened. Therefore Kenyans feel that they are second-rate citizens, the so-called children of a lesser God compared to their British counterparts – and as a result, that is adding to the cumulative grievances against BATUK in Nanyuki.”

In the lead-up to the King and Queen’s arrival, Kenyan authorities have taken measures to suppress protests in Nairobi and have blocked a news conference intended to address allegations of human rights and environmental abuses by British troops in the country.

This stifling of dissent raises concerns about the free expression of grievances and calls for justice during the royal visit.

AOAV believes that, as King Charles commences his visit to Kenya, it is imperative that he acknowledges the urgent need to address the unresolved murder of Agnes Wanjiru.

In response, Dr. Iain Overton of Action on Armed Violence says: “Just as the inquiry into allegations of British SAS killings of civilians in Afghanistan merits a trip there by the inquiry team to look at the murder scenes, so too does the killing of Agnes demand a trip by the Royal Military Police to gather evidence and pursue the case. The time for action is now. Justice must be pursued to ensure that Agnes Wanjiru’s tragic death does not become yet another British military killing that goes unresolved and forgotten.”