British army ruling in a Nanyuki court over Laikipia fire aborts

Nanyuki Law Courts

Nanyuki Law Courts where a ruling involving 1,496 residents of the Lolldaiga community and the British Army Training Unit in Kenya was on November 24, 2021 postponed.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

A Nanyuki court on Wednesday postponed a ruling involving 1,496 residents of the Lolldaiga community and the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (Batuk).

Justice Antonina Kossy Bor of the Environment and Lands Court was to give her decision on whether Kenyan courts have jurisdiction over offences by the UK military officers based in Laikipia.

This was after Batuk started a fire at the Lolldaiga ranch during training on March 25 which ravaged more than 10,000 acres of land, causing damage to plants, animals and the communities living near the ranch

But when the suit came up for ruling Wednesday morning, the parties in the matter were told that the judge would not be sitting.

Speaking to the Nation outside the Nanyuki Law Courts, lawyer Kelvin Kubai, who is representing the Lolldaiga community, said that the Lands Registry advised them to take another date for the case.

“We have been told to come back tomorrow and take another mention date for the ruling,” he said.

Seeking compensation

In the petition, the Lolldaiga community, which has sued alongside a non-governmental organisation — The African Centre for Corrective and Preventive Action — is seeking compensation under the Polluter-Paye principle.

The petitioners say that the fire affected over 1,000 families living around the Lolldaiga Conservancy.

The fire emitted smoke that contained dangerous chemicals that have caused adverse health effects like serious eye-sight problems and miscarriages in both human beings and livestock, they say.

Some of the community members who were in close proximity of the ranch have since been forced to abandon their homes due to the howling hot winds.

As a result of the fire, the hot winds also forced wildlife to leave the conservancy and invade local homes where the animals damaged their properties and crops.

In the suit, Lolldaiga Hills Limited is listed as the first respondent while the Batuk army commanding officer in Nanyuki and Batuk are the second and third respondents respectively.

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Kenya Forest Service (KFS) are also enjoined in the case as interested parties.

Should the court in its decision rule in favour of the petitioners, this could see the British military officers face trial in Kenyan courts for the alleged offences.

Batuk, in its defence, has since told Justice Borr that it cannot submit to the jurisdiction of a Kenyan court because the training arose from a defence co-operation agreement (DCA) signed by both the United Kingdom and Kenya.

It has requested the court to instead direct the suit to the Intergovernmental Liaison Committee which is tasked with handling civil claims in the DCA.