MPs amend rule over prosecuting UK troops

Mess used by British soldiers in training in Kenya

British soldiers prepare for operations around the world at the Kenya training unit

Kenyan MPs have voted to amend a defence agreement with Britain after allegations that troops training there committed serious crimes.

It means UK soldiers could be tried for murder, amongst other grave offences, committed against Kenyans in Kenya.

It comes after a lack of progress in getting justice for the 2012 murder of a young woman.

Agnes Wanjiru went missing after she was seen walking out of a Kenyan bar with British soldiers.

The 21-year-old’s body was later found in a septic tank at a hotel nearly three months later. To this day no-one has been brought to justice for her killing.

The UK Defence Ministry has insisted it has been co-operating with Kenyan authorities over the investigation after allegations of a cover-up reported by the Sunday Times in October 2021.

On Wednesday, the ministry reiterated this message in a statement to the BBC: “The jurisdiction for this investigation lies with the Kenyan Police Service. The Defence Serious Crime Command and Unit are proactively engaged with the Kenyan Police Service in support of their investigation where appropriate.”

It also added it would not comment further in order to “protect the integrity” of the investigation.

However, the amendment voted through on Wednesday does not apply retrospectively, meaning that it would not materially change how the Wanjiru case is handled.

Speaking in an interview with BBC’s Focus on Africa Radio, the chair of the Kenyan parliament’s Defence Committee, Nelson Koech, said he hoped the change would stop a case like Agnes’ happening again.

This will ensure that if that ever happens again “we have a faster local mechanism… to bring the culprits to book,” Mr Koech said.

The defence agreement was initially proposed in 2021 under former President Uhuru Kenyatta, but its parliamentary ratification was delayed due to a presidential election and local objections over the agreement.

The amended deal will now go to the Kenyan Ministry of Defence for further negotiation with their British counterparts.

Notably, the ministry cannot simply ignore the amendment if it does not wish to implement it. Rather, the entire document would have to be reopened and fresh negotiations started.

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