Nanyuki – The British Army Training Unit in Kenya (Batuk) has started a massive clearing of unexploded ordnance at its training grounds in Laikipia and Samburu counties in a bid to keep areas safe for humans, livestock and wildlife.
Deputy Batuk Commander in Kenya, Lt. Col. Finlay Bibby, speaking at Archers Post Training land in Samburu County, said the sweeping of all military equipment in the areas where the exercise was being conducted is a joint partnership with the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) since the country’s two armies train together.
“We have undertaken to clear our training grounds of all unexploded ordnance and other dangerous military equipment used in our training exercise so that the grounds we use are left safe for the community to graze their livestock. and also for wildlife to thrive,” Lt. Bibby says.
He added that the range sweep of the ordinance was an annual exercise and would be maintained for as long as Batuk was in Kenya to ensure a safe environment in the training areas even when the army was not present.
“Besides clearing the area, we also educate people in these areas about the dangers of picking up unexploded ordnance, we don’t want them picking it up and starting to play with it or trying to modify the same after melting at other items like clubs and canes,” Batuk’s deputy commander said during a media briefing.
During the weekend exercise, Lt. Bibby revealed the army had recovered more than 50 unexploded ordnance which would have wreaked havoc on local people and wildlife.
“We detonated some of the ordinances and there are some like fragments of mortars and other light explosives that we salvaged for safe destruction in accordance with military procedures,” Lt. Col. Bibby said.
The British military commander further said that it was his duty to ensure that the training grounds remained safe even after the training exercises had ended.
“We do a lot of work during military exercises and among those, any ordinances that we fire, we have to locate them, find out if they’ve exploded or not, and then we have to do a sweep of the whole area to make sure that we leave it as safe as it was before,” Lt. Col. Bibby added.
KDF Liaison Officer with Major Batuk Felix Okoyo said the joint sweeping exercise has played an important role in the Kenyan army in ensuring that there is know-how to clean up any military equipment in any training site.
“The Kenyan Army is now fully sensitized and well trained in the British Army’s Ordinance Sweeping, on the same note that our British counterparts have learned from the Kenyan Army, particularly on desert endurance and combat tactics. surviving in extremely hot and harsh environments was a learning experience for both armies, said Maj Okoyo.
Gladwell Ejaso, senior warden working with Batuk and local community outreach officer, has not only been actively engaged in educating other members of the Samburu community to stay away from military training grounds while grazing , but also to avoid picking up metal fragments on the ground. to modify for other elements.
“Our ranchers often come across a lot of the explosives, whether they’ve been detonated or not, and they unknowingly pick it up thinking it’s just scrap metal that they use to make clubs or irons. spears or for sale, but in most cases they explode killing them. We are now warning them of the dangers of such a situation,” Ejaso said.
The field warden added that residents have been sensitized to notify local government officials, such as chiefs, if anyone comes across metal objects in their pastures.
Lucas Kantai, a resident of Dusura village who uses the military training grounds as grazing areas, noted that many of his fellow grazers had been maimed and others killed after handling the ordinance without knowing they were could be fatal.
“We used to salvage the metal parts from things we picked up in the fields to make spears and clubs, but many of my colleagues died after the explosion,” Kantai told media.
The decision comes against the background of the 2002 legal case brought in a London court by a British lawyer assisted by local activists in which a British court awarded more than seven million US dollars to members of the community. Maasai in Laikipia and Samburu districts for injuries sustained after encountering ammunition left over from training British armies in their pastures for decades.
Currently, another case is pending in a court in Nanyuki after a section of community members in Loldaiga, Laikipia County, filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for the March 2021 fires allegedly caused by explosions during British military training in the area that killed hundreds of thousands of people. hectares of community land as well as wildlife areas. In addition, a community member is believed to have died in the fires which lasted over a week. The verdict has not yet been rendered. -Kna