Parliamentary committee pledges justice for murdered Agnes Wanjiru

Agnes Wanjiru.

Agnes Wanjiru, who was found dead in 2012 after she went missing.

Photo credit: Pool

The unexplained death of Agnes Wanjiru and delayed compensation for the 2021 Lolldaiga wildfire dominated the first public hearings into the conduct of the British Army Training in Kenya (Batuk), which began on Tuesday.

The National Assembly's Defence, Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committee has embarked on a three-day exercise in Laikipia and Samburu counties, where locals have been invited to give their views on incidents of human rights abuses and alleged ethical breaches by British soldiers.

Committee chairman Nelson Koech led his team in gathering views from the affected communities where foreign troops conduct their military training.

The team will then produce a report that will feed into a review of the Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) between Kenya and the UK, which is renewed every five years.

The family of Agnes Wanjiru, who was allegedly killed by a British soldier in 2012, accused the Kenyan authorities of not doing enough to help them get justice.

"For more than 10 years since my aunt was killed, not a single Kenyan government official has given us a firm assurance that the culprit, who was well known, will be prosecuted. Agnes' daughter, who is now almost a teenager, is traumatised because she already knows that her mother was killed by British soldiers," Esther Njoki, a niece of the late Agnes, told the committee at Nanyuki Social Hall.

Njoki urged the committee to take the issue seriously and remove all hurdles that have delayed the prosecution of the culprit to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.

Mr Koech described the unsolved murder of Wanjiru as a huge problem that had contributed to delaying the signing of the DCA by a year after his committee had demanded that it be resolved first.

Unfortunate incident

"We take this issue very seriously and that is why we are here. It was an unfortunate incident and we will ensure that the culprit is prosecuted because murder is a very serious crime. That is why we have proposed a clause in the DCA that foreigners who commit crimes here will be prosecuted by a Kenyan court," said the chairman.

Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri, who accompanied the Koech-led committee, said he would mobilise his colleagues in Parliament to come up with laws to ensure that foreigners who commit crimes in Kenya face the law locally.

Mr Kiunjuri accused the British government of discriminating against locals on compensation, noting that the owner of the Lolldaiga farm had been compensated but the victims of the fire were yet to receive their pay more than two years later.

More than 5,000 people living near Lolldaiga Ranch went to court to claim compensation for damage to their health and environment caused by toxic smoke from the March 2021 fire.

"We understand that both the ranch owner and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) have been compensated. Why is the community that suffered the adverse effects of the toxic smoke from the wildfire yet to receive their dues?" asked Mr Kiunjuri.

The parliamentary committee also heard of alleged discrimination in employment opportunities at Batuk Nyatti Barracks in Nanyuki, while local traders and investors complained of dwindling business opportunities, claiming that suppliers were being sourced from outside the county.

Other issues of concern raised during the public hearings held at Jua Kali Centre and Nanyuki Town on Tuesday included unexploded ordnance on the training grounds and unfavourable employment procedures for casual labourers and other staff at Nanyuki Nyatti Barracks.

Mr Koech and his committee will visit Archers Post Township in Samburu County on Wednesday before heading to Doldol Town in Laikipia on Thursday for further public engagements.