No diplomatic immunity for British soldiers blamed for Nanyuki inferno

The soldiers were high on cocaine when the fire started

Seen from a helicopter, smoke ascends from the moorlands at Kenya's highest mountain on March 1, 2019, during a fierce forest fire raging on Mount Kenya's national park for nearly a week as wildlife rangers, soldiers and teams of volunteers fight to stem the fire. (Photo by TONY KARUMBA/AFP via Getty Images)

British soldiers accused of burning down 12,000 acres of land in Nanyuki on March 26, 2021 have lost their right to diplomatic immunity against lawsuits in Kenya.

The soldiers who were apparently high on cocaine sparked the huge wildfire at Lolldaiga Hills Ranch, which houses the Nanyuki army base used by British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) for military drills.

When the African Centre for Corrective and Preventive Action (ACCPA) brought legal action against BATUK seeking compensation and reparations, they denied the allegations and claimed the soldiers were protected from prosecution by diplomatic immunity.

However, High Court Judge Antonina Bore argued that the UK Government waived diplomatic immunity to legal action by signing an agreement in 2015 governing the terms under which its soldiers would be allowed to operate in Kenya.

"It is evident that Kenya would have jurisdiction for civil claims and liabilities arising from activities in its territory under the agreement while the UK would have jurisdiction for civil claims and liabilities arising from activities in its territory," said Bore.

Judge Bore further revealed that the agreement signed between the two countries stated BATUK was required to respect and be sensitive to the traditions, customs and culture of the communities in the places where they were deployed.

In the event they violate the terms and conditions, they were supposed to "pay compensation where they were found liable for causing any death, injury, loss or damage to the persons and/or property of members of such local communities."

The judge ordered that ACCPA and the local people must now go through a dispute resolution process in a bid to agree terms with the UK government. If an agreement cannot be reached the case will return to be tried in the Kenyan courts.

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