Kenya calls halt to British troops training at ranches
Army may pull thousands of soldiers out of a country in turmoil, despite signing a new defence pact
THE British Army could be forced to abandon training troops in Kenya after its government ordered soldiers to stop exercises on private ranches. The decision threatens to upend a decades-long military relationship that pumps £58 million a year into the Kenyan economy and comes after the two countries appeared to resolve longrunning tensions by signing a new defence cooperation pact barely 12 months ago.
New restrictions mean that the thousands of British soldiers who pass through Kenya every year are no longer able to train on as many as 11 privately owned ranches in the Laikipia region north of Mt Kenya. Instead, British troops will be restricted to public land used by the Kenyan armed forces further north, in the Archer’s Post area of Samburu.
As a result, Britain may pull its forces who are training out of the country.
The new restrictions severely restrict the scope of what training is possible and would rule out a repeat of large war games such as the regular Askari Storm exercises.
Samburu is arid and flat, while Laikipia has more varied terrain including hills and cliffs. An Army spokesman last night said troops “continue to train alongside the Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) at their training areas”.
Efforts to clarify the issue have so far proved fruitless, although it is unclear whether this is because of government obstruction or because of continuing political turmoil in the country.
Over the past three months, Kenya has witnessed two presidential elections, after the supreme court overturned Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory in the first, and widespread opposition protests that have killed scores of people. The supreme court is hearing a petition to overturn the most recent election, held on Oct 26, but instability is feared whatever the judges rule.
Local government chiefs are thought to have raised objections to the British Army using private ranches, several of which are white-owned or run, because rents are paid to the ranch owners rather than to county administrations. Although Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, praised military ties between the two countries when he visited British soldiers in Kenya in March, relations between the two countries have often been fraught in recent years.
British Army training in Kenya, which has been conducted since 1945, has often fallen foul of the tensions.
In 2103, Mr Kenyatta became enraged with Britain supporting the International Criminal Court, which had charged both the president and his deputy with crimes related to violence that erupted after an earlier election in 2007. At least 1,300 people were killed and 500,000 more forced to flee.