A liaison committee formed by the Kenyan and United Kingdom governments has given the Lolldaiga community 60 days to seek compensation for a fire that occurred in March 2021 at the Lolldaiga conservancy.
In a session on Monday before Nanyuki Environment and Lands Court Judge Antonina Kossy Bor, the British Army’s lawyer, Mr Lawrence Ondieki, said the Inter-Governmental Liaison Committee will this week publish a notice in the media informing the public about the claims process.
Mr Ondieki said this was the committee’s first step in resolving the dispute involving 1,496 community members.
The Lolldaiga community has been embroiled in a legal tussle in the past year with the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (Batuk) over a fire sparked during military training exercises that destroyed more than 10,000 acres of vegetation at the Lolldaiga conservancy.
The community and environmental lobby group African Centre for Corrective and Preventive Action sued Batuk, claiming the fire emitted smoke that contained dangerous chemicals and explosives and caused adverse health effects like serious eyesight problems and miscarriages in humans and livestock.
Forced to flee
Some community members who lived near the ranch had to flee their homes due to howling hot winds. The winds also pushed wildlife out of the conservancy and damaged properties and crops.
Besides Batuk, its army commanding officer and Lolldaiga Hills Limited are also listed as respondents in the suit.
Lawyer Ondieki said the committee had issued samples of the claim forms to the parties in the case. The forms show that the claimants will be expected to provide their personal details and the nature of the claim, whether it is personal injury or environmental damage, accompanied by evidence.
“This is the first step the Inter-Governmental Liaison Committee has taken after forming working sub-committees in Kenya and the UK to handle the dispute,” Mr Ondieki told the court, adding that the high number of claimants posed a major challenge.
The community’s lawyer, Kelvin Kubai, requested the court to intervene and have the matter resolved quickly, saying 30 of the petitioners had died since the suit was filed.
“We would like the committee to treat the matter as urgent owing to the health and environmental effects that the community continues to undergo,” he said.
But Justice Bor found that the court could not intervene as the matter was already being resolved out of the court by the committee.
He said only the liaison committee could handle the request but “they should take note of your concerns”. He directed Mr Ondieki to ask the committee to consider resolving the matter quickly.
The case continues on December 5.