After a long wait for justice, over 1,500 Lolldaiga inferno victims in Laikipia North are set to be compensated.
Speaking to the media in Nanyuki town Monday, Kelvin Kubai, a lawyer representing the Lolldaiga community revealed that they had received claim forms from the Intergovernmental Liaison Committee, which they are expected to fill and submit within sixty days.
“We are very happy with the new development given the much patience and harm that has been going with the community. We appreciate the measures that are being taken to at least take action and responsibility for the environmental damage caused by the British Army,” said Kubai, adding that there was light at the end of the tunnel on environmental justice and for the victims.
The 1,500 Lolldaiga fire victims had thronged the Nanyuki law court, where they were being advised on how they would fill the claim forms by their lawyers.
The lawyer said they had received over 500 claims from the Lolldaiga community, but noted that environmental claims continue to increase due to inferno that had left at least 12,000 acres of land destroyed in March 26,2021. It is believed British Army Training Unit-Kenya (BATUK) activities in the area had prompted the fire.
Maxwell Gichui, a lawyer representing African Centre for Corrective and Preventive Action (ACCPA), said filing the claims forms was a relief for the Lolldaiga fire victims.
Sieku Kaparo, one of the victims, said the inferno had affected them and their livestock had died.
He called on the government to ensure all the victims are compensated based on what they had lost due to the fire.
Laikipia County Government Attorney, Alexander Muchemi, said they will help the community get medical reports to support the victims’ claims for compensation.
He noted that Laikipia residents had not been sufficiently involved when the government was negotiating with BATUK on Defence Cooperation Agreement to allow their operation on Kenyan soil.
However, he revealed they were addressing the anomaly in bid to ensure residents are able to highlight what they go through due to training activities, when such agreements are being negotiated and signed.
The fire incident saw the victims complain of health complications, where they said pregnant women were giving birth to children with deformities.
“New born babies to pregnant women during the fire incident have also been affected. Our record shows that six babies born in the past few months have various health complications ranging from heart failure and nerve disorders, which are a probable effect of poisonous gases inhaled by their mothers,” a summon statement that was lodged on June this year at the Nanyuki Environment and Lands court seeking to compel the former Defence Cabinet Secretary, Eugene Wamalwa, and his United Kingdom counterpart, Ben Wallace, to issue orders of compensating the Lolldaiga inferno victims read.
Further, due to the fire incident, Linus Murangiri, it was alleged he was crushed by the British Army vehicle as he tried to help stop the fire.
Karen Gatwiri, a wife to Murangiri was left with two kids both aged two years and four respectively who entirely depend on her for support.
“He was working at Lolldaiga, the vehicle lost control, he was trying to put the fire off, I am going through difficult times because he left behind two children who need education and a good life, he was our sole breadwinner,” tearful Gatwiri had told media in a past interview in Nanyuki.
“If not them (British Army) who lit fire at Lolldaiga, my husband would still be alive, every time I remember my heart breaks down, since then, I have never been a happy person,” she added.
Other, complications according to John Kiunjuri, a resident of Lolldaiga and one of the petitioners had lamented that since the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) started their training activities at Lolldaiga in Laikipia North, residents have had developed hearing loss, asthma, chest complications, crying eyes and birth of defects of both children and livestock.
He had further pointed out that water got polluted and their farms got destroyed and when they engage in farming, they get nothing.
Kiunjuri revealed when the army detonates bombs, they disturb wildlife, which further create wildlife-human conflict.
Earlier, Kubai, the community lawyer, had said BATUK had made a submission in Nanyuki Environment and Lands Court seeking to be struck out from the Lolldaiga suit in the essence of state immunity.
Meanwhile, petitioners are set to have a mention on December 5, 2022 to confirm if they will have submitted their claims to the Intergovernmental liaison committee.
By Muturi Mwangi