The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: The Benefits of British Army Training

opinion

Recent media articles in the Kenyan press have asked for assurances that British soldiers be held to account for any crimes or incidents in which they may be involved. I am able to categorically give that assurance.

The British Army Training Unit in Kenya, known as BATUK, has been undertaking training in Kenya for decades. BATUK has a strong partnership with the Kenyan Defence Forces and with the local communities around the areas that they use for training. This cooperation with our Kenyan partners is set out in a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with transparent processes for resolving any disagreements.

BATUK also provides an opportunity for UK forces to train with the Kenyan infantry. This fits with the UK's position as a strong supporter of Operation Linda Nchi and shared UK-Kenya objectives in Somalia.

But BATUK provides a number of benefits beyond training. BATUK injects substantial benefit into the local economy, not only through the money that the British military community spends, but also through organised expenditure.

For example the British Army has recently invested £12.25Mn (KSh1.7Bn) in infrastructure, and it is contractually committed to spend £24.3Mn (KSh3.3Bn) annually in running costs at BATUK in Nanyuki and elsewhere.

BATUK is a significant employer of local people, and also has a local engagement programme to help local communities and to promote the British Army's presence in Kenya.

This is all part of a mutually beneficial, long-standing relationship. This activity provides opportunities for visiting British recruits to do something positive and constructive with their time while in Kenya, and learn from the cultural exchange.

For example one recent project saw soldiers provide assistance to a local primary school at Archer's Post, the 'Gir Gir' school; whilst another project involved 50 British soldiers helping to rebuild part of an orphanage in Nanyuki called 'Hope & Home'.

The UK looks forward to further building on these ties, working closely with our friends in the Kenyan military and with the local communities.

In this activity, as elsewhere, the UK is completely committed to justice, the rule of law, and accountability. Under the terms of our Memorandum of Understanding British Soldiers are subject to Kenyan law when off duty, and primarily to British law if they are taking part in operations, such as specific training exercises. We take this obligation extremely seriously.

We take great care to ensure that British Army equipment, including uniforms, night vision equipment and so on, does not fall into the hands of civilians. Strict accounting procedures are in place to prevent unauthorized sale of any items.

Other procedures are in place to stop incidences of theft. If thefts do occur then we work with local police to confiscate stolen items, and keep our procedures in constant review to prevent future thefts.

A challenge we do face is encroachment into the Kenya Ministry of Defence live firing training area by civilians. This has not only increased the chance of theft but also of injury to civilians. We are working closely with Kenyan authorities to prevent this.

In the case of the unfortunate shooting of a civilian in the live firing range area at Archer's Post last year, the soldier involved has fully complied with the investigation, with full cooperation under the MoU on both the UK and Kenya sides.

In the immediate aftermath of the incident a trained medical officer attended the fatality, and the British soldier involved was identified and arrested by the British Service Police. This is in accordance with the jointly agreed MoU where, in circumstances like this where the British soldier acts whilst on duty, the UK retains jurisdiction.

At the end of the investigation they shared the evidence with Kenyan authorities, so as to help with the inquest that will be held in a Kenyan court. Both parties continue to work in close cooperation to ensure that all parts of the investigation are complete, and that all procedures, as agreed under the MoU, are followed.

The soldier in question has now returned to the UK, as agreed with Kenyan authorities. We will continue to work on this case in partnership with Kenyan authorities as necessary.

Clearly the desire of both UK and Kenyan authorities is that no further incidents occur, whether on or off duty. But if they do then I give my assurance that the UK will continue to cooperate fully with the Kenyan authorities, working closely together, and supporting each other where required, under the terms of the MoU.

Our interests are shared. This is a relationship which benefits both the Kenyan and British military and the Kenyan people. We are committed to maintain that, in supporting Kenyan security, and doing so whilst ensuring the rule of law and accountability.

Dr Turner is the British High Commissioner in Kenya

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