IS THE UK-KENYA GOVERNMENT ROW OVER MILITARY TRAINING ALL IT SEEMS?
Since the end of the Second World War the British Army has used the area around Archers Post in Samburu County as a training ground for its troops, and since the 1950s maintained a substantial military camp in Nanyuki as a base for training in Laikipia. Now it is possible the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) may pull out of Kenya altogether.
The disagreement between the British and Kenyan governments is ostensibly over permission for British troops to train on private land in Laikipia for which BATUK pay rent to local landowners. But could there be more to it than that?
BRITAIN-KENYA DEFENCE COOPERATION
In December 2015 the British and Kenyan governments signed a Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) which the British believed allowed them to carry on military training in Laikipia and Archers Post until 2021.
The basis for the agreement is that BATUK pay private landowners in Laikipia to be allowed to train on their land. The amount paid by BATUK is reported to be £3 million (Sh405 million) per year on leases with ranches and rent to landlords in the Nanyuki area.
In total the British military spends some £50 million (Sh6.75 billion) every year on its operations and facilities in Laikipia.
In April of this year, however, the Kenya Defence Force (KDF) told the British to cancel all leases with private landowners, supposedly in line with Article 10 (b) of the DCA which stipulates that they must obtain “consent from the Implementing Ministry of the Host Nation prior to commencement of negotiations and procurement of licences”. The British thought they had this consent as a result of signing the DCA in 2015.
In October the KDF again reiterated to the UK authorities that there could be no training of British military personnel on private ranches.
With consent denied the UK government informed Laikipia landowners that the leases wouldn’t be renewed.
The UK’s Chief of the General Staff, General Nick Carter (who was born in Kenya) has just visited British troops at Archers Point and it has been reported that the British Government are to give their Kenyan counterparts an ultimatum – to decide “yes of no” whether they want British troops to remain in Kenya.
The KDF are not happy, the British military are not happy, local landowners are not happy (they’re losing substantial income), and local businesses are not happy (British spending in Laikipia supports hundreds of jobs).
The Kenya Forum has been told that despite the DCA the KDF wanted the BATUK to increase the payment for the use of the Nanyuki show ground and training areas from £14 million to £356 million but then relented.
MONEY OR LAND?
So what’s it all about? Is it just a question of the amount of money the British should pay for training grounds in Kenya (where they also train KDF personnel)?
One insider told the Kenya Forum that it’s just financial brinkmanship. “This is just poker”, our source said, “The Brits want to stay. The Kenyan government wants the Brits”.
So that’s it then, just a bit of bargaining over the price to be paid for British forces to remain in Kenya.? But perhaps there’s more to it than that.
Land prices in Laikipia have soared in recent years. With no income flowing from the British military local landowners may be tempted to sell up. All that nice training ground ripe for development…