Kenyans sue British Army over forest fire damage near training site

Some 1,000 Kenyans are suing the British army, after a forest fire on March 24 destroyed part of a wildlife conservation area and affected residents of surrounding communities.

Lawyers for the Kenyans claim the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) started the fire during military training exercises. The BATUK unit is based in Nanyuki, not far from the Loldaiga shrine and Laikipia.

The fire destroyed some 12,000 acres at Loldaiga and claimed the lives of some protected animals, although the exact number remains unclear and the Kenya Wildlife Service initially denied such losses.

More difficult has been the reported death of at least one Kenyan villager whose widow is part of the trial.

The UK government admitted responsibility at the time of the incident, but fought against allegations by the African Center for Corrective and Preventive Action, an environmental group that acts on behalf of affected communities and is a party to the lawsuit.

“We are doing everything we can to mitigate the circumstances and put measures in place to ensure this never happens again,” Jane Marriott, the British diplomat serving in Kenya, said at the time of the fire.

The African center says villagers have complained about the health effects of the fire, as well as loss of livelihoods and wider environmental damage. A Kenyan court in June rejected a request by the British army to prevent the villagers from joining the trial. A separate decision on whether to proceed with the case is expected soon.

Image: British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) file

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