Friday, June 27, 2014

Kenya/UK: Row Arises Over UK's Possible Hope That Odinga Had Won Election, Travel Warnings

According to the UK-based The Telegraph, an estimated 700 British soldiers are reportedly stranded in Kenya after Nairobi held up diplomatic permits for troops, in a dispute with Great Britain over UK travel advice for Kenya appeared to escalate. 

Soldiers have been stuck in the country for several days after completing infantry training because the Kenyan government has delayed “diplomatic clearance.”

Sources said Nairobi was delaying clearance for troops from the 2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, to fly into the country, in what diplomats believe is a rebuke for Britain tightening travel advice to the East African nation. 

The delay means troops from the 3rd Battalion, The Rifles, who have finished their  training and are due to leave Kenya, have been politically stranded. 

Diplomatic relations between London and Nairobi have been tested since Uhuru Kenyatta, the president, came to power alleging that Britain had backed his rival, Raila Odinga.  

COMMENT: If the British Foreign Office had actually preferred Odinga over Kenyatta, they should have classified such information so it could have effectively been protected from leaking, media speculation and rumors.

British troops have for many years participated in a bi-lateral agreement whereby UK soldiers cycle through Kenya for infantry training. A regular agreement between the two countries on the arrangement is not due for renewal for another two years, but has become contentious of late in some Kenyan political circles. 

Nationalist elements of President Kenyatta’s party criticized his government for failing to withdraw the permission for the training as a reprimand for Britain’s perceived favoritism toward the opposition coalition. 

One Ministry of Defense source said Britain may now have to charter commercial flights to get their stranded troops back from the UK’s training base in the central Kenyan town of Nanyuki. 

British military cooperation with Kenya is worth £58 million (US$98,618,000) a year, most of which flows directly into the local economy, largely in Nanyuki, Christian Turner, British High Commissioner, said at a speech on the Queen’s Birthday in Nairobi last week.