Court directs Kenya, Britain to resolve dispute over wildfire incident

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A Kenyan court on Thursday ordered British and Kenyan governments to resolve a dispute over a fire that destroyed vegetation on 10,000 acres of land at the privately-owned Lolldaiga conservancy in central Kenya.

Justice Antonina Kossy Bor in her ruling delivered at a court in Nanyuki, referred the dispute pitting a community in Lolldaiga, Nanyuki, and the British Army Training in Kenya (Batuk) or British soldiers to the Inter-governmental liaison committee within 14 days.

The community has accused British soldiers of starting a wildfire during a training exercise that damaged a wildlife conservancy in March last year.

Justice Bor said in the ruling that although the Environment and Land Court has jurisdiction to determine the dispute, the more than 1,000 residents should have exhausted alternative dispute resolution mechanisms established before moving to court.

The judge agreed with the residents that the court has the power to determine the dispute since the British government waived its state of immunity by signing the Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA), implemented in 2016.

“The court finds that the government of Kenya and the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland in the Defense Cooperation Agreement dated December 9, 2015, waived diplomatic immunity to the extent of that agreement. This court, therefore, has jurisdiction to deal with the claims made in the petition,” the judge ruled.

She however, said the community needs to exhaust the dispute resolution mechanism set out in the Defence Cooperation Agreement.

The agreement, she noted, stipulates that all civil cases be heard by the committee, which comprises members of the UK and Kenyan governments.

Justice Bor said the Inter-Governmental Liaison Committee will present its determination before the court within a period of 14 days and if the parties fail to agree, the residents are free to reactivate the case in court.

The residents who live in the vicinity of the Lolldaiga conservancy where the British forces used for their training, sued Batuk after fire destroyed the rangelands, pushing wild animals to their farms causing huge monetary losses.

The residents of Lolldaiga and the African Centre for Corrective and Preventive Action accused Batuk of starting a fire during a military training exercise.

Batuk then raised an objection invoking a claim of sovereign protection. Enditem

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