Residents of central Kenya complained on Friday about a lack of compensation for a terrible fire that occurred in 2021 during a British military exercise, just ten days before King Charles III was scheduled to visit.
A Kenyan court has ordered the British Army to pay damages for the fire that destroyed more than 4,800 hectares (12,000 acres) of land when the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (BATUK) was conducting a military exercise.
At a news conference, attorney Kelvin Kubai read aloud an “open letter to the British government” on behalf of the victims, saying that “two and a half years later, zero compensation has been given to the people affected.” 7,000 litigants signed the letter, which said “The British Army is actually using every trick from the colonial rule book to try and not pay the Kenyan people compensation”.
Those affected are seeking compensation for environmental damage, as well as payment for medical problems such as “serious breathing difficulties” and “permanent issues with eyesight” which they say resulted from the fire.
“Many, many farmers have not been able to grow back the crops and regain the livestock that was lost in this terrible fire,” the letter said.
Compensation for the fire is being managed by an intergovernmental liaison committee (IGLC), made up of representatives from both countries.
The authors of the open letter criticized the IGLC for asking for more proof of the damage caused by the blaze.
“They wish to insult us further by telling us we have to prove –- again –- the damage that their careless and arrogant soldiers caused,” the letter said.
“The facts remain that the British Army destroyed the environment in Kenya where they are guests and they don’t want to pay us for it,” it added. ‘The British must go’ –
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” the letter said, calling on the British government and King Charles to “stop treating Kenya like a colonial outpost”.
Several hundred demonstrators momentarily blocked traffic after the news briefing with their chants of “We want our money” and “The British must go,” before dispersing.
From October 31 to November 3, King Charles III and his wife Queen Camilla will go to the East African country. This will be their first visit to a Commonwealth nation since the king’s coronation a year ago.