In a pivotal development on Wednesday, the Kenyan courts conducted an initial hearing into the alleged murder of 21-year-old Agnes Wanjiru, a Kenyan woman and mother, by a British soldier in 2012. The distressing case, stemming from the discovery of Wanjiru’s lifeless body in a septic tank at the British army’s training camp in Nanyuki, central Kenya, took a surprising turn as the court decided to adjourn the proceedings until May, leaving the prosecution disappointed.

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The investigation into Wanjiru’s death began in 2019, but its progress remained undisclosed to the public until October 2021. The British weekly Sunday Times, citing multiple military personnel testimonies, alleged that a soldier seen with Wanjiru in 2012 had confessed to killing her that same evening, displaying her body to comrades. The military hierarchy reportedly failed to act on this information.

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Prompted by these revelations, Kenyan police announced a renewed investigation, leading to the recent court hearing in Nairobi. However, the decision to delay the trial until May 21 has sparked frustration among the prosecution, with Esther Njiko, Wanjiru’s niece, accusing the authorities of attempting to “hide” the truth.

The British Army Training Unit in Kenya (BATUK), located on the outskirts of Nanyuki since Kenya’s independence in 1963, has long been a point of contention. While it significantly contributes to the local economy, its presence has generated disputes over jurisdiction. British Colonel Andrew Wilde, a BATUK member, highlighted in a document submitted to the court that BATUK operates under the British government’s Ministry of Defence. He further asserted that the British government, as a sovereign state, does not consent to the jurisdiction of the Kenyan tribunal.

The question of jurisdiction over British soldiers who violate Kenyan law has been a recurring source of tension between London and Nairobi, compounding the complexity of the case. As the legal proceedings unfold, the delayed pursuit of justice for Agnes Wanjiru remains a poignant issue, echoing broader challenges in international legal cooperation.

Piers Potter

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