What you need to know:
- Kenya pushed Britain to agree to the extradition of British soldiers implicated in the murder of Agnes Wanjiru in Nanyuki to break the deadlock in the ratification of a military contract between the two countries.
- Ratification of the new Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) that was signed in London last year has stalled for over a year with the Kenyan parliament delaying its approval.
- In December, Batuk was caught up in yet another scandal after its troops set fire to more than 10,000 acres of Lolldaiga Hills on fire.
Kenya pushed Britain to agree to the extradition of British soldiers implicated in the murder of Agnes Wanjiru in Nanyuki 10 years ago and compensation of Laikipia fire victims to break the deadlock in the ratification of a military contract between the two countries, the Nation can report.
During months of intensive lobbying that saw President Uhuru Kenyatta intervene, the UK government was also compelled to resolve a dispute with some 5,000 residents of Laikipia who are seeking compensation over a bushfire at Lolldaiga Hills last year in exchange for the renewal of its military deal with Kenya, which expired last year.
Ratification of the new Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) that was signed in London last year has stalled for over a year with the Kenyan parliament delaying its approval.
However, the pursuit for a new military contract is far from over after a special parliamentary sitting meant to debate the ratification last Wednesday was aborted at the last minute.
The sitting was called off by Speaker Justin Muturi on Tuesday, citing the failure of the Government Printer to publish the notice.
The Defence committee adopted the report on Tuesday and was ready to table it. Nyaribari Chache MP Richard Tongi, who chairs the committee, told the Nation they had approved the DCA.
“My committee has approved the agreement and signed it yesterday [Wednesday last week]. The President is very keen for it to be concluded even though there are some administrative issues to be worked on,” Mr Tongi said.
The approval was preceded by more than six months of intensive lobbying from top UK officials in Kenya and in the UK.
Following the signing of the DCA, 2021, the UK had anticipated the Kenyan parliament would ratify it as easily as the UK parliament did.
They even opened a new base christened Nyati Barracks at the cost of Sh10 billion.
This was, however, dealt a blow by an explosive exposé over the cover-up of the murder of Ms Wanjiru in Nanyuki in 2012.
The exposé by the Sunday Times detailed confessions by soldiers under the British Army Training Unit (Batuk) of how senior command aided the cover-up of the murder.
In November, members of the defence committee threatened to reject the DCA until her killers were extradited to Kenya for trial.
Lolldaiga Hills fire
Not so long after, in December, Batuk was caught up in yet another scandal after its troops set fire to more than 10,000 acres of Lolldaiga Hills on fire.
The two scandals saw the ratification process stall with Kenyan MPs demanding accountability by the UK government.
As of June, parliament was still holding onto and making real of its threat after the UK failed to extradite suspects in the Wanjiru murder case, despite committing to do so.
In the background, the UK was pulling the strings in an attempt to push the DCA through.
The Nation has learnt that diplomatic and top military officials at the British High Commission were in constant communication with the MPs to see the deal through.
The defence committee were invited to Batuk’s new Nyati Barracks in Nanyuki for negotiations.
They were also supposed to hold public participation forums with Laikipia residents. However, the lawmakers pulled out at the last minute.
A source at Batuk and the British High Commission at the time told the Nation that the MPs’ refusal to ratify the deal was causing jitters among diplomats in Kenya and defence officials back in the UK.
Their main concern was, and still is, the expiry of the previous deal, DCA 2015, and a six-month continuity period after the expiry to allow negotiations for a new DCA.
This was exacerbated by the expiry of the term of the parliament ahead of the general elections.
Currently, Batuk’s presence in the country is backed by longstanding diplomatic relations between Kenya and UK where KDF benefits from joint training exercises with British troops.
“We are committed to this partnership, and we have ensured continuity through a diplomatic agreement, which is a bridging mechanism that has been operating successfully since the previous DCA expired. We look forward to continuing cooperation under this bridging mechanism until the DCA is ratified by Kenya’s Parliament,” a representative of the British High Commission told the Nation.
The abortive visit to Batuk is said to have rattled the UK, which was at the time conducting non-stop corporate social responsibility campaigns in a bid to repair strained ties between Batuk and Kenya.
Among the publicity campaigns was sponsoring the establishment of a gender-based violence desk at Nanyuki Police Station under Policare, a National Police Service initiative.
When talks in Kenya failed, the UK defence department intervened directly, this time inviting the MPs to London for talks.
Between June 5 and June 11, six members of the defence committee travelled to the UK at the invitation of Minister for Armed Forces James Heappey.
The Nation is reliably informed that the main agenda of the meeting held at the UK Defence Headquarters was the speedy ratification of the DCA.
The MPs are said to have held their ground that they would only ratify the deal if the UK agrees to extradite its soldiers implicated in Ms Wanjiru’s murder.
The defence committee, in its exit report dated June 2, had stated that the unresolved murder of Agnes had hindered the ratification of the military deal.
The trip by the MPs is said to have yielded consensus where the UK committed to cooperate in the extradition of suspects in the murder case and settle a dispute with Lolldaiga residents over last year’s fire.
However, with the 12th parliament already in recess ahead of the elections, there was the need for higher intervention if parliament was to be recalled to ratify the DCA.
The DCA is facing resistance from Laikipia residents, who say they have not been included in the process through public participation.
“We are actually surprised to hear millions were used in public participation which never occurred. Why did the MPs travel to the UK even before meeting with the communities that live with Batuk? And who says that Laikipia’s economy depends on them? What happened to the case of Agnes? These are the questions that need to be answered in public participation forums before the DCA is ratified,” Lolldaiga resident’s lawyer Kelvin Kubai told the Nation.
The committee has on two occasions called off scheduled public participation meetings with locals in Laikipia, Samburu and Isiolo that were meant to assess the challenges facing residents in relation to British Army operations in their regions before the renewal of the five-year pact.
National Assembly Clerk Serah Kioko initially slated the meeting for April 28 to 30 but it was deferred to May 5 to 7 following the state funeral of former President Mwai Kibaki that week.
Laikipia County Government lawyer Alexander Muchemi told the Nation that the second scheduled date was also hit by a setback because of an event on the appointment of state ambassadors.
“The committee wrote to us again postponing the matter and promised to get back to us in two weeks’ time with another date,” he said.
This, however, never happened and the county attorney says they only got to hear of the matter last week on Friday in a parliamentary notice written by Speaker Justin Muturi.