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New UK Envoy Arrives Amid Unresolved Murder Case in Kenya

New UK Envoy Arrives Amid Unresolved Murder Case in Kenya

Image of Neil Wigan, UK's New High Commissioner-Designate to Kenya

The United Kingdom’s newly designated High Commissioner to Kenya, Neil Wigan, has officially arrived in Nairobi to commence his role as the British Head of Mission in the country.

His arrival coincides with the launch of a parliamentary probe into alleged atrocities committed by British soldiers on Kenyan soil, including grave human rights violations such as sexual abuse and murder, particularly in Laikipia County.

In a press release issued on Monday, August 14, Wigan conveyed his enthusiasm for assuming this important position, at a time when the relationship between Kenya and the UK continues to strengthen and evolve.

Wigan’s connection with Kenya spans decades, dating back to the 1970s.

“Leading the team at the British High Commission in Nairobi has been a cherished ambition of mine. I first set foot in Kenya in 1977, my children received their education in Nairobi, and I have been privileged to visit Kenya on multiple occasions. I am thrilled to be back and eagerly anticipating the opportunity to explore the wonders of magical Kenya,” affirmed Wigan in a statement released by the embassy.

At the forefront of his agenda is enhancing the ties between Kenya and the UK. He has expressed a particular interest in the substantial Sh500 billion British investment in environmentally sustainable infrastructure projects.

“These transformative projects, among others, are poised to enhance the quality of life for Kenyan citizens, promote sustainable development, and make substantial strides in addressing climate change. I eagerly anticipate observing the progress of these initiatives and witnessing the numerous collaborative partnerships between the UK and Kenya,” emphasized Wigan.

PROBING ROGUE BATUK SOLDIERS

Looms Large is the unresolved murder case involving Agnes Wanjiru, a 21-year-old hairdresser, who was brutally murdered in Laikipia in 2012. Her stabbed body was stuffed in a hotel septic tank while still bleeding out.

No one has ever been convicted of her killing. The closest it came was an inquest in 2019 that found Wanjiru had been murdered by one or two British soldiers, who paid her for sex.

Wigan’s predecessor, Jane Marriott left Kenya and was promoted to Pakistan without any progress seemingly made on this case.

One of Kenya’s television stations NTV devoted a documentary to the Wanjiru travesty. Dubbed Camouflaged Crimes, they broadcasted the names and badge numbers of British soldiers who were staying at the hotel the night Wanjiru was murdered.

The Kenyan Defence, Intelligence, and Foreign Relations Committee, led by Belgut MP Nelson Koech, in late July unanimously approved a proposal to launch an inquiry into alleged crimes committed by the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (BATUK) based in Laikipia, Nanyuki county.

The decision to initiate the probe follows numerous complaints lodged by residents and key stakeholders regarding the conduct of British soldiers in the county.

These concerns were brought to the committee’s attention during their recent review of the Kenya-UK Defence Cooperation Agreement.

Of particular concern to residents are reports of serious offenses, including the alleged murder of Kenyan woman Agnes Wanjiru in 2012, believed to have been perpetrated by British soldiers in Nanyuki.

Additionally, allegations have surfaced that BATUK activities may have been responsible for the destructive fire that swept through a section of the Lolldaiga Hills Ranch in 2021.

Koech emphasized the significance of the inquiry as a means to deliver justice to aggrieved Kenyans.

He gave the committee’s unwavering commitment to holding visiting troops accountable under Kenyan law for any crimes committed on Kenyan soil.

The committee had previously recommended that foreign soldiers, should they be found guilty of offenses such as murder, be subject to trial in Kenya. Moreover, the issue of corporate social responsibility, particularly about environmental matters, has been underscored as an essential aspect of the inquiry.

According to Article 8 of a confidential military agreement signed between Kenya and the UK in July 2021; Kenya and the visiting UK forces agreed to ensure thorough protection, preservation, and restoration of the environment comprising the training areas, service establishments, and installations.

The defence pact emphasizes that the troops “shall avoid acts that negatively impact on the human health and safety”.

It further adds that visiting troops “shall at all times comply with the host nation’s directions, regulations and laws preserving the environment”.

The committee plans to engage all relevant stakeholders, including residents, civil society organizations, the Kenya Defence Ministry, and the UK Embassy, to ensure a comprehensive and transparent investigation into the matters at hand.

The scheduled commencement of the inquiry is set for August of this year, allowing for thorough fact-finding, testimonies, and collaboration among all parties involved.

This inquiry signifies a significant step towards addressing the alleged crimes and violations, promoting accountability, and safeguarding the rights and well-being of the local community.

And as Neil Wigan assumes his role as the new British High Commissioner to Kenya, the unresolved case of Agnes Wanjiru serves as a poignant reminder of the need for accountability, transparency, and the pursuit of justice.

The shadows of the past continue to cast a long shadow, and the journey toward resolution remains an arduous path.

 


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