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 Daily Telegraph - - World news - By Adrian Blom­field in Nairobi and Ben Farmer

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.

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