British army behind bloody death of hired worker in Kenya
He was supposed to clear up after an army exercise in Kenya, but little did he know he was collecting live explosives that left no trace of him.
A report by Declassified UK sheds light on Lolldaiga, a safari resort on Mount Kenya, where Western tourists pay up to $400 per night to stay in a colonial settler-style house in the hope of seeing elephants. On the other side is Ole Naishu, another nature reserve frequented by Boris Johnson...
The report introduces Irene Kipsuge and her humble home: a collection of three tin-roofed huts, with chickens chirping cheerfully outside.
Her 28-year-old nephew, Robert Swara Seurei, was hired as a manual laborer by the British army in 2007. He was classified as a Locally Employed Civilian, and according to Declassified UK, around 550 Kenyans are allegedly recruited in this manner to assist the UK military, which has a permanent base in the nearby town of Nanyuki.
According to Declassified UK, LECs are a key economic benefit being touted by British ministers in their current push to persuade the Kenyan government to renew their license to operate in the East African former colony. It adds that "at stake is access to 155,000 hectares of training ground – four times the size of the Salisbury Plain. Yet Irene’s experience suggests these workers are treated as disposable."
Irene, as she recalls what had happened to her nephew, says, “The events of that fateful day are quite painful for me to remember."
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“Robert came home one day with something that looked like a candle,” which her nephew had found it among the debris from a three-week military exercise in Lolldaiga that the British army was paying him to clean up after them, she recalls. “He went to light it and it detonated,” Irene adds.
In a figurative description, she goes on to say that “the explosion was so powerful, pieces of his flesh were stuck on top of the ceiling.”
His body was damaged to such an extent that it was hard to obtain a death certificate. Irene's house also caught fire and her mother lost her hearing, as a result of the explosion. "She was really disturbed and never normal again until her demise," she recalls.
The original building has mostly been demolished, except for one wall with burnt timbers and a two-meter r-shaped gouge in the mud plaster, Declassified UK reported.
In the decade since Robert’s death, the management of Lolldaiga received £1.24m from the UK’s Ministry of Defense to train on the land. More recent payments have not been disclosed, with the money going to Robert Wells, whose family acquired Lolldaiga during British colonial rule when white settlers grabbed huge swathes of Kenya’s best land.
British troops continue to train at Lolldaiga, according to the website, resulting in several devastating incidents, including one where they sparked a massive fire inside the conservancy last year, suffocating the surrounding hills in smoke for days. The report notes that the soldiers involved are thought to have been high on cocaine and approximately, so that is why 6,000 locals are suing the British army for damages caused by the fire.
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Ministers have even attempted to prohibit British troops from using live ammunition in Lolldaiga. UK Defense Minister James Heappey insisted the conservancy is only used for "blank firing" and so-called "dry exercises". But when confronted with evidence from Robert's case, according to Declassified, he eventually admitted that "there are however explosives used, for example to simulate battle noise."
Although the British army insists it has learned lessons from Robert’s death, the dangerous debris they leave behind still finds its way to people's hands. Following training at Lolldaiga last month, several illiterate Maasai herders came across a string of explosives and picked it up without knowing its true nature. They carried it around in a bag for several days and eventually dumped it, with no harm recorded.
stress the benefits of their presence to the local economy, they have repeatedly and deliberately failed to draw attention to problematic incidents that usually result in death, each attributed to a different reason other than their complicity.
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Another LEC, 30-year-old Godfrey Muriithi, collapsed suddenly, Declassified has discovered in 2016.
He had been working for the British army for just a week when it all went down. He was flown by helicopter to Nairobi and handed over to Kenyan doctors, who attempted to resuscitate him, but Godfrey had died from a heart attack. The underlying causes were not revealed, however, the post-mortem report did state that "relatives were informed by the British personnel that the deceased had fallen down and died." The pathologist found he had an enlarged heart but said the death could have been due to natural causes from subtle abnormalities in the heart.
While this may make the whole situation seem unavoidable, the full circumstances of Godfrey's work for the army at the time of his collapse have not been made public, nor was his death announced by the Ministry of Defense (MOD), which raises questions that need to be answered.
One of the questions here is, why are there still ongoing exercises in Lolldaiga?
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