Divisive Legacy Of British Army Base In Kenya
Sumaira FH Published November 02, 2023 | 04:40 PM
Nanyuki, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 2nd Nov, 2023) When he was barely a teenager, Kenyan goatherder Lisoka Lesasuyan lost both arms to an unexploded bomb while crossing a field used in joint military exercises with the British army.
The British Army Training Unit in Kenya (BATUK), a permanent base around 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of Nairobi, is an economic lifeline for many in Nanyuki, but has proved a lightning rod for criticism.
Victims of alleged BATUK misconduct, including those afflicted by unexploded ordnance, had planned to march in the capital ahead of the king's visit, but police denied them permission to hold the rally.
- Bearing the scars -
"I was grazing goats when I picked up the explosive, not knowing what it was. And I started playing with it, before it went off," he told AFP, covering his amputated limbs with a checkered blanket.
Taken to hospital by British soldiers, Lesasuyan lost both arms below the elbow, part of his right eye, and suffered burns and hearing loss in the blast.
In 2018, Britain's Ministry of Defence (MoD) paid him 10 million shillings (roughly $100,000 at the time) but did not admit responsibility, saying an inquiry failed to determine if the ammunition was British or Kenyan.
"But this is far from enough. He will need life-long medical care, as well as prostheses," said Kelvin Kubai, a lawyer and activist who campaigned for Lesasuyan.
His case is not isolated.
- 'Only God can help us' -
In 2003, Amnesty International claimed to have documented 650 allegations of rape against British soldiers stationed in central Kenya between 1965 and 2001, and denounced what it called "decades of impunity".
More recently, the tragic case of Agnes Wanjiru has brought fresh scrutiny to the British military base.
She was last seen alive with a British soldier.
The report alleged that the murder was taken to military superiors, but no further action followed.
"Only God can help us, because it (the investigation) has stagnated. We are not sure whether we'll ever get justice," said Wanjiru's sister Rose Wanjiku, her eyes teary as she clutched photographs of her late sibling.
- Economic lifeblood -
But despite being convinced her sister was murdered by a BATUK member, Wanjiku does not advocate shutting down the base.
"I would not wish for the base to be closed down because we have locals who work there. It was only one person who committed the offence and not all of them," she said.
On the road approaching the camp, businesses ply their wares for the British troops stationed in town, selling Union Jack mementos, military items, and objects imprinted with Premier League football clubs.
"If they go, I have to start another life," he said.
"When the boys come here, I can earn up to 50,000 shillings per night, but when they don't, only 20,000. Nanyuki as we knew it would not exist without them."