President Uhuru Kenyatta has won a major concession from the United Kingdom with a new military deal that allows British soldiers who commit crimes while in Kenya to face justice in local courts.
The new agreement — which had stalled since 2013 — will see off-duty soldiers tried locally for breaking the law.
“If a UK soldier commits an offence whilst off-duty, normal Kenyan law applies as it would to any other UK national in Kenya,” the British High Commission said in an e-mail response to the Business Daily questions.
“If on-duty, UK military law would apply – however, with proceedings to be held in Kenya, as directed by the Judge Advocate General.”
The Judge Advocate General is the principal judicial officer in the UK armed forces.
The new deal, which awaits parliamentary approval in the two countries, followed a Monday meeting between British premier David Cameron and President Kenyatta on the sidelines of the ongoing UN General Assembly meeting in New York in a bid to strengthen security, economic and diplomatic ties.
Nairobi had threatened to end its military co-operation deal with the UK unless local courts try British soldiers who commit crimes while on training in Kenya.
“The new agreement will result in improved military capabilities for both sides and allow for concurrent jurisdiction, recognising that the laws of both nations apply to visiting forces,” said a statement from the British High Commission.
Kenya-UK military co-operation has run for 40 years, and is currently valued at about £58 million (Sh7.9 billion) a year, up from about Sh2.5 billion three years ago. The pact was extended by six months to October after the initial deal expired to allow for the talks.
The agreement allows up to 10,000 British troops a year to conduct military exercises in Kenya’s harsh terrain before they are deployed to active operations in areas such as Afghanistan and Iraq. The deal also includes training of the Kenya Defence Forces.
Kenya also wants more of its soldiers to be trained in the UK, up from the current two yearly. There have been several unsolved crimes linked to British troops.
In 2013, Sergeant George Madison shot and killed Tilam Leresh, an armed herdsman, during a live fire exercise in Lolkanjau, Samburu County, outside the designated military training grounds.
He was confined to barracks for seven months while a diplomatic battle raged over where he should be tried before being removed from the country.
In 2012, Agnes Wanjiru Wanjiku was found murdered in Nanyuki having last been seen with two British soldiers. The case remains unsolved with the suspects having been deployed to Afghanistan before questioning by the Kenya Police.
That same year, some 200 British soldiers were involved in a bar brawl near the Lion’s Court Hotel in Nanyuki. The bar was destroyed and several people injured. Some of the soldiers were airlifted to Nairobi. No charges were ever filed.