Kenyan villagers fight British army in fire case

About 1,500 people living in areas near Nanyuki town in central Kenya are in court to fight what they see as attempts by the British military to avoid legal action in a case where they have been sued for loss of livelihoods and environmental damages.

A fire started by the activities of British soldiers training at the Lolldaiga Conservancy in Kenya five months ago destroyed about 12,000 acres of land, with claims of at least one human death.

The British Army Training Unit in Kenya has filed for state immunity.

The petitioners, including affected locals and the African Centre for Corrective and Preventive Action, want reparations for human effects, destroyed lands as well as financial damages.

The petitioners claim wild animals escaping the inferno swept through their homes, destroyed their farms and caused them mental trauma.

They also claim one person died trying to put out the fire.

The suit also claimed some soldiers who were alleged perpetrators of the fire were found to have been under the influence of cocaine and heroin.

The environment court in Kenya has set October 26as the date when all parties will present their submissions, after which it will determine whether the case will proceed.

Linus Murangiri was crushed to death by a vehicle as he rushed to help put out a fire at a Kenyan wildlife sanctuary which was hosting a training exercise by the British army.

Despite all the publicity over the fire in March, his death has not previously been acknowledged.

Although there is no suggestion the British army was directly involved in the death of Mr Murangiri, his widow has now told the BBC she wants a speedy investigation into how her husband died and the cause of the fire, and for the findings to be made public.

The fire, which has been blamed on the military exercise, destroyed about 12,000 acres of land at the privately owned Lolldaiga conservancy in central Kenya, home to animals such as elephants, buffalos, lions, hyenas, jackals and the endangered Gravy’s zebra.

One British soldier allegedly wrote in a Snapchat post: “Two months in Kenya later and we’ve only got eight days left. Been good, caused a fire, killed an elephant and feel terrible about it but hey-ho, when in Rome.” -BBC

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