Residents in central Kenya on Friday denounced a lack of compensation over a devastating 2021 fire which broke out during a British military exercise, 10 days before a visit by King Charles III. A Kenyan court has ordered the British Army to pay compensation for the blaze, which ravaged more than 4,800 hectares (12,000 acres) of land during a military exercise conducted by the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (BATUK).
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.
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 criticised the IGLC for asking for more proof of the damage caused by the blaze. At the end of the press conference, a few hundred people chanted “we want our money” and “the British must go,” briefly blocking traffic before dispersing.
King Charles III and his wife Queen Camilla will visit the East African nation from October 31 to November 3, his first trip to a Commonwealth country since becoming king last year, and his fourth official visit to Kenya.
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The British monarch will visit Nairobi and the port city Mombasa, but not the town of Nanyuki where the BATUK is based. While the army base fuels the local economy, it has also been implicated in several controversies in the area.
The most high-profile case is the 2012 death of Agnes Wanjiru, 21, who was found dumped in a septic tank after she reportedly went out partying with British soldiers at a hotel in Nanyuki. London has always assured its cooperation with the Kenyan investigation, which has so far produced no known public results.