What you need to know:
- Batuk is petitioned for starting a fire at the Lolldaiga ranch during training on March 25 which ravaged more than 10,000 acres of land.
- The fire affected over 1,000 families living around the Lolldaiga conservancy.
Lolldaiga Hills Limited has fired its lawyer Mr Gibran Darr just when a Nanyuki court was set to deliver a ruling involving 1496 residents of the Lolldaiga community and the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (Batuk).
In the suit in which the community has sued alongside an environmental non-governmental organization - the African Centre for Corrective and Preventive Action - Lolldaiga Hills Limited is listed as the first respondent.
Also in the suit are the Army Commanding officer of Batuk in Nanyuki, and Batuk as the second and third respondents.
In the suit, Batuk is petitioned for starting 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
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Kenya Forest Service (KFS) are also enjoined in the case as interested parties.
Lawyers in the suit have since confirmed that they yesterday received unofficial communication that Mr Darr will no longer be representing the firm in the suit.
“We were informed that the Bowmans Law Firm will be taking over the suit and advised to direct any communication to it,” one of the lawyers in the suit who sought anonymity told the Nation.
It is still unclear why the respondent fired its lawyer on a day when the court was to deliver its ruling.
Documents in court show that Lolldaiga Hills Limited is also yet to file a Notice of Change of Advocates even after having informed other parties in the suit.
When the case came up for mention on Thursday morning before Justice Antonina Kossy Bor of the Environment and Lands Court, the judge said that her ruling wasn’t ready.
However, Lolldaiga Hills Limited was unrepresented during the session in which the ruling was postponed to December 14 as the Bowmans Law Firm failed to appear before the court.
The ruling was initially slated for Wednesday, November 24 but the parties informed the judge would not be sitting that day.
Locals seeking compensation
In the suit, the petitioners are seeking compensation under the Polluter-Paye principle.
They 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.
Some of the community members who were in close proximity of the ranch have since been forced to flee 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 the homes of the locals where they damaged property and crops.
Should the court in its decision rule in favour of the petitioners, this British Military officers could face trial before Kenyan courts for the alleged offences.
Batuk, in its defence, told Justice Bor 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 (UK) 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.