Kenya-UK teams to assess Batuk fire damage, court told

Nanyuki Law Court where the British Army Training Unit in Kenya-Batuk has been sued over a fire that was sparked by their training exercises.
 

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi I Nation Media Group

The Inter-Governmental Liaison Committee will hear a dispute between the Lolldaiga community and the British army in Laikipia over a fire that destroyed 10,000 acres of land at a private conservancy, a court has heard.

For the past one year, the community and the African Centre for Corrective and Preventive Action, a local NGO, have been embroiled in a legal tussle with the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (Batuk following a fire sparked during training military exercises in March 2021 that destroyed over 10,000 acres.

Justice Antonina Kossy Bor of the Environment and Lands Court in Nanyuki heard from Batuk lawyer Lawson Ondieki on Wednesday that the committee held its first meeting on June 28.

It comprises UK and Kenyan Defence officials.

Mr Ondieki said two working committees, one in Kenya and the other in the UK, were formed.

The teams will evaluate the damage done by the fire and issue reports to the Inter-Governmental Liaison Committee.

He said a follow-up meeting was scheduled for July 14 to discuss how to handle the case.

Because the UK and Kenyan governments are working to solve the dispute, Justice Bor ruled that the case be “mentioned on October 3 to … confirm whether the committee has held subsequent meetings to solve the matter”.

In a court affidavit, Brigadier Westerman, the head of the British defence staff in East Africa, denied allegations from the Lolldaiga community and the NGO that the Kenyan and UK governments had dragged their feet in forming a panel to hear the dispute.

Ms Westerman said the delay was caused by the large group of claimants. Some 1,496 members of the Lolldaiga community have been enjoined in the suit.

“The committee has never been required to process over 1,000 claims arising from one incident in the Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA). It is therefore necessary to agree on the procedure to be adopted when handling the civil claims,” she says in the affidavit.

A ruling by Justice Bor on March 10 saw the suit referred to the Inter-Governmental Liaison Committee, which per the DCA signed by the two countries should handle civil disputes.

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