Kenyans sued British army for arson in wildlife sanctuary

Linus Murangiri was crushed to death by a car while rushing to put out the fire in the Kenya Wildlife Sanctuary, which is hosting training exercises for the British army.

Although the fire in March caused widespread concern, his death was therefore not recognized.

Although there is no indication that the British army was directly involved in Mr. Mulangiri’s death, his widow now tells the BBC that she hopes to quickly investigate the cause of her husband’s death and the cause of the fire, and make the findings public. .

The fire, which was blamed on military exercises, destroyed approximately 12,000 acres of land in the privately owned Lolldaiga Reserve in central Kenya, home to elephants, buffaloes, lions, hyenas, jackals, and wild wolves. Endangered Grevy’s Zebra.

A British soldier allegedly wrote in a Snapchat post: “In Kenya two months later, we have only eight days left. We performed well in Rome, causing a fire and killing an elephant. It feels bad, but hehe.”

The official cause of the fire has not been made public, but the incident is at the core of an environmental lawsuit filed by lobby groups and nearly 1,000 local residents.

Residents said that the scale of wildfires in the reserve was unprecedented – they said the fire lasted for at least four days, and the smoke was so dense that it could not be moved.

They said it smelled like barbecue, although the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) denied that five elephants and one calf were killed.

Some elderly people said that their eyes were burning and the local missionary, Duncan Kariuki, 43, said that his 1-year-old child had to be hospitalized because of smoke inhalation.

A spokesperson for the British High Commission said that the military has conducted an internal investigation into the fire, but because “this is part of an ongoing court case, it is not appropriate to comment further.”

The location on the equator is very suitable for harsh environment training

The Lolldaiga Reserve — an area of ​​about 49,000 acres of hilly jungle with the ice-capped Mount Kenya as a background — is part of the Laikipia Plateau, where hundreds of thousands of acres were occupied by the British during the colonial era, leading to land The dispute continues to this day.

It is only 70 kilometers (45 miles) from Lewa Reserve, where Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton in November 2010.

A few kilometers to the south is the newly renovated Nyati barracks. A facility worth 70 million pounds, also known as the British Army Training Unit Kenya (Batuk), Thousands of British troops conduct large-scale exercises in Lolldaiga every year, which provides ideal conditions for training in harsh environments.

According to local residents, it has been used by the British army for more than ten years. There were also joint exercises with Kenyan soldiers.

But local support is dwindling—at least when nearby residents are interviewed by the BBC. They said they were used to hearing loud explosions, gunshots and low-flying planes near their home day and night.

A soldier and a Kenyan man were hired to play

British soldiers hold military exercises in the Lolldaiga reserve every year

The 994 signatories of the lawsuit have several complaints:

  • Their rights to a clean and healthy environment are violated

  • Military standards for safe training—including ignoring the sustainable use of the environment and the health of surrounding communities—are broken

  • Wild animals fled from the reserve and the artillery fire invaded their homes and destroyed their crops

  • They hope that the British military and water conservancy departments will take responsibility for the ecological damage in the catchment

The community hopes to use their commissioned environmental impact assessment report to support their claims.

“It has been difficult to live near this training camp, especially because wild animals have been destroying our farms and attacking our school children. The number of wild animals wandering in the village after the fire has increased significantly,” Mr. Kariuki said. Is one of the petitioners.

Macharia Mwangi of the African Corrective and Preventive Action Center (ACCPA) involved in the litigation stated that he is not opposed to the presence of the British army in Kenya and does not want the training to cease altogether.

“What we are opposed to is the continued destruction of the environment and ecosystem for nearly 5,000 people.”

In June, a lawyer for the British Army asked the Environmental Court to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that the Kenyan court lacked jurisdiction over the matter. The court will rule on the request later this month.

Karen Gatwiri has not signed the petition, but she has been struggling since she lost her husband in the fire.

Karen Gatwiri and her two sons

Since the death of her husband, Karen Gatwiri and her sons have had a difficult life

The BBC found her and her two boys, four and two years old, in a small town about an hour’s drive from the reserve. They lived in a rented three-bedroom cabin covered with tarpaulins to protect against the cold. She transformed one of the rooms into a kiosk selling household items, but the business was not good.

She said that she did not say goodbye to her husband, nor communicated with the reserve or any authorities about his death.

Her husband’s colleague told her that he fell from the car and was run over to death. Records from the local morgue indicated that he died immediately from head injuries. The reserve has now admitted the death for the first time, but said it has no obligation to publicly declare it because it happened on private property.

Karen Gatwili

Karen Gatwiri sells household goods in her cabin

“I feel sorry that his death was not admitted because I have all the documents [death certificate and burial permits] To prove that he is dead. They didn’t respect me as the mother of his children and didn’t tell everyone how he died,” Ms. Gatwili said in a trembling voice.

“I want to know the truth-an investigation should be conducted to seek justice for me and my child. Because the fact is that he died in the reserve [during the fire].”

The British High Commission in Nairobi told the BBC that “we feel sorry for the death of an employee of the Lolldaiga Reserve” and that the reserve “maintained close contact with the family” and made all necessary arrangements.

“Linus is an important member of the reserve, and our hearts are still with his family. They have received several private special payments,” the reserve general manager Harry Hanegraaf (Harry Hanegraaf) in a statement Say.

However, Ms. Gatwil insisted that she did not receive any money from the reserve.

“We don’t eat like we used to, I can’t educate my older children, I can’t pay the rent-I have to beg from my relatives. If Linus is still alive, I won’t be struggling like this. “

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