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Inside the Defence Agreement between Kenya and UK

Inside the Defence Agreement between Kenya and UK
Kenya and the United Kingdom signed a new five-year Defence Cooperation Agreement in July 2021

Kenya and the UK renewed their Defence Cooperation Agreement on 27th July 2021. The agreement, which is routinely renewed every five years, replaces an earlier one signed in August 2015 and which expired on 6th October 2021.

But Kenyan and UK parliaments have not yet ratified the Sh9 Billion training pact.

Here’s what you need to know.


The agreement ostensibly enables Kenya and the UK to share military knowledge and experience as well as their facilities and infrastructure. The agreement also ostensibly allows for the two countries’ defence industries to collaborate in a mutually beneficial manner.

However, since Kenya has virtually zero military presence on UK soil, and its defence industry is negligible, one may reasonably conclude that the true purpose of the agreement is to legalize the UK’s military activities in Kenya.

However, the UK provides significant military support to Kenya through infrastructure support at KDF bases and the training of over 1,100 KDF soldiers annually. This training is mostly mission-specific, focused on preparing Kenyan soldiers before deployment to Somalia.

A British officer briefing soldiers from KDF during a training exercise at BATUK HQ in Nanyuki

Implementation of the Agreement

The agreement is managed by an Inter-Governmental Liaison Committee with a minimum of 4 members from each country. It meets twice a year unless a request for a meeting is made by either side. 

All military activities must be agreed upon by March 31st of every year. Any requests by the UK to train in Kenya’s gazetted areas shall be made 9 months in advance and approved 6 months in advance.

Any issue that this committee is unable to resolve is handled through diplomatic channels, which means it’s kicked upstairs to the politicians who run the respective countries.


The UK is forbidden from taking part in hostilities or warlike operations on Kenyan soil. They are also forbidden from any operations supporting the KDF, the police, or other security forces in the maintenance of peace or law and order on Kenyan soil.

However, they shall be treated similarly to members of the KDF of equivalent rank.

Of course, it also goes without saying that political activities on Kenyan soil by the Brits are also banned, but it has been included in the agreement.


In theory, visiting British troops are under the criminal jurisdiction of the Kenyan government, unless under specific exemptions cited in the agreement which occur while in the line of duty or if the offence has not caused any harm to Kenyan interests or citizens.

If a British soldier commits a crime that is not covered by the above exemptions, they may only be tried by Kenya’s civilian courts and not its military courts. And should they be convicted; the British government makes a specific prayer to allow the soldier to be punished back home in the UK rather than go to a Kenyan jail.

Eight offences have been listed for which a British soldier may face trial in Kenyan courts and they include sexual offences, torture, inhumane or degrading treatment of others, organized crime, slavery, offences against Kenya’s national security, robbery, and third-party participation in any of the above crimes.

For some peculiar reason, murder is not included in this list.


The UK has built permanent infrastructure at the Laikipia air base and at Kahawa Garrison for which it pays License fees to Kenya. London pays Nairobi a fixed annual license fee of Kshs Ten Million (71,000 USD) for Laikipia and Kshs 27. 7 million (197, 000 USD) for Kahawa.

These amounts are adjustable upwards according to inflation figures provided by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.


The UK is required to provide Kenya with a full manifest of all equipment and weapons it brings into Kenya up to the last bullet. It is also required to provide the list of all soldiers, civilian workers, and their families who will be in Kenya and for how long.

All soldiers, civilian employees, and families are required to leave Kenya within 14 days of the expiry of their allowed stay.

British soldiers engaging in a corporate social responsibility activity

Community Relations and The Environment

The UK has committed to respecting the customs of local communities and not causing any harm to them or the environment. However, there have been some serious problems.

The County Government of Laikipia, where the British Army Training Unit (BATUK) is based, has raised serious objections to the defence agreement, accusing BATUK of committing gross human rights violations.

These include the Lolldaiga Hills conservancy fire incident which destroyed vast swathes of Kenyan vegetation, the murder of Agnes Wanjiru allegedly by a British soldier, and the blowing up of a 10-year-old boy, Lisoka Lessayun, who encountered unexploded British ordnance in 2015.

Firefighters along Lolldaiga’s perimeter during the fire. (Photo: MOD-UK)


The agreement allows British personnel various tax exemptions and also allows them to invest in Kenya. However, again, there have been some problems.

The County Government of Laikipia has accused the UK’s Department of Infrastructure Organization (DIO) and BATUK of engaging in unethical business practices. They allegedly induced Maiyan Holdings Limited to build custom houses for British Personnel at a cost of Kshs 400 million (3 million USD) and then failed to occupy them.


If the British government wants to extend its stay, it must write to the Kenya government 12 months in advance of the expiry of the existing agreement.

Kenya can terminate the agreement by giving the British government 6 months’ notice in writing.


The parliamentary committee on Defence, Intelligence, and Foreign Relations notes that Article 23 of the agreement obligates visiting forces to respect and be sensitive to the local communities’ traditions, customs, and culture of the places they’re deployed.

It recommends that Article 6 (5) be amended, inserting a new paragraph to include murder as one of the offences which are under the jurisdiction of the host nation.

The Koech committee further recommends that Article 23 of the agreement be amended to include Corporate Social Responsibility.


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