King Charles’ visit to Kenya starting Tuesday (Oct. 31) will acknowledge the more painful aspects of the UK and Kenya’s shared history, Buckingham Palace has said. However, Kenya’s independence struggle and the distant past are not the only issues to be discussed.
Kenyan teenager Lisoka Lesasuyan lost both arms to an unexploded bomb while crossing a field used in joint military exercises with the British army. Taken to the hospital by British soldiers, Lesasuyan lost both arms below the elbow and part of his right eye, and suffered burns and hearing loss in the blast.
In 2018, the British Ministry of Defence paid him 10 million shillings but did not admit responsibility, saying an inquiry failed to determine if the ammunition was British or Kenyan.
In 2002, the British Ministry of Defence paid out 4.5 million pounds to 233 people claiming to have been injured by unexploded ordnance.
Nairobi and London dispute the origin of the munitions, as both nations’ armies train in these locations. For decades, Britain has sent its forces to train in central Kenya but their presence has long attracted controversy, with soldiers accused of rape and murder and civilians maimed by munitions.
The British Army Training Unit in Kenya, a permanent base around 200 kilometers north of Nairobi, is an economic lifeline for many in Nanyuki but has proved a lightning rod for criticism.
In 2003, Amnesty International claimed to have documented 650 allegations of rape against British soldiers stationed in central Kenya between 1965 and 2001.
More recently, the tragic case of Agnes Wanjiru has brought fresh scrutiny to the British military base. In 2012, the lifeless body of 21-year-old Wanjiru, mother of a two-year-old daughter, was discovered in a septic tank in Nanyuki. She was last seen alive with a British soldier. In October 2021, the British newspaper The Sunday Times reported that a soldier had confessed to his comrades about killing Wanjiru and showed them her body. The report alleged that the murder was reported to military superiors, but no further action followed. An investigation was opened in 2019 but no results have ever been made public. Kenyan police announced they would reopen the inquiry after the Sunday Times revelations.
During his four-day trip to Kenya, the British sovereign is set to visit Nairobi and Mombasa, not Nanyuki, where British troops are stationed.
On October 20, demonstrators marched in the town to demand compensation from the British army.