CW: misogynist violence, sexual violence, racist violence
This is a collaborative article with our comrades at the Revolutionary Socialist League in Kenya. [Also being published on their website], the piece discusses the recent crimes perpetrated by serving British military stationed in the country, as well as considerations of broader human and ecological impacts from modern British neo-colonialism in Africa and beyond. To learn more about the work RSL does, you can check out their website and follow them on Twitter @RSLafrica. Please also consider supporting RSL Kenya’s political education fundraiser.
From Revolutionary Socialist League Kenya:
Agnes Wanjiru’s case shows the colonial history of neglect to victims of injustice
The 2012 assassination of Agnes Wanjiru, purportedly by a British soldier, has resurfaced in the press. The body of the 21-year-old sex worker and mother of one was discovered in a septic tank 2 months after she went missing during a night out with a group of soldiers in the central Kenyan town of Nanyuki, where the British army has a permanent post. The troops had already departed the country by that point, and her family’s attempts to obtain justice had been thwarted by both Kenyan and British officials.
However, findings in the press claiming that a British soldier admitted to killing Wanjiru and showed his comrades where he left her body, as well as revealing posts on social media showing the soldiers laughing at the murder, have sparked a new investigation by Kenyan police, with pledges of British cooperation.
While the new investigation is commendable, it should be noted that the possibilities for justice are not as obvious as one might think. Kenya has a horrible track record of bringing foreigners to account for crimes against its own residents. The Kenyan government’s insensitivity and reluctance to deal with atrocities against Kenyans reflects its past committing of similar crimes upon them, as well as its colonial history.
The Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission’s report, which investigated injustices done against Kenyans between 1963 and 2008, determined that the pre and post-independence regimes perpetrated serious human rights abuses, only a handful of which were convicted.
The Kenyan and British governments’ effort to hide the Wanjiru case is also a powerful reminder how no British inhabitants, authorities, soldiers, or policemen were ever held accountable for the brutal torture and abuse of multitudes, as well as the detainment of over one million people in camps, during the seven-year emergency declared in 1952 at the peak of Mau Mau uprisings.
Indeed, for even more than fifty years, the British government stole, damaged, and buried any records that would humiliate the government or create issues for any colonial agent, government worker, or officer of the military forces, as was documented by the Guardian.
In an era when countries like Germany is convicting a 100-year-old former internment camp officer for aiding the killing of 3,518 inmates during the Second World War, it is inexcusable that those who committed equally heinous crimes in Kenya, both Kenyans and British, continue enjoying a decent retirement free of concerns about impending justice.
This is also an opportune time to question the presence foreign troops in Africa and what is their relations with the natives? A section of Kenyan parliamentarians have threatened to pass legislation ending the military pact between Kenya and Britain. Today, foreign military bases (mainly UK and US) are present in 53 of the 54 African nations which reflects the aggressive approach to protect the interest of the Pan-European, white supremacist colonial/capitalist agenda on the African countries.
According to the United States Africa Command’s (US AFRICOM) 2021 Posture Statement to Congress: “we can no longer afford to underestimate the economic opportunity and strategic consequence Africa embodies, and which competitors like China and Russia recognize.” To that end, the U.S. has employed just “under 6000 service members, civilians, and contractors…to advance U.S. interests…” Statements like these rekindle conversations on Neo-colonialism.
From Agnes Wanjiru’s case, we can see that historical injustices in Kenya and Africa go unsolved given the vertical relationship between the colonial and colonized countries. Nevertheless, we hope the deceased family gets justice.
From Red Fightback:
Against Militarism in our Communities
The above case and the more recent case of the UK military causing devastating ecological harm in Lolldaiga Conservancy, a Kenyan wildlife reserve – which left ranger Linus Murangiri dead, and destroyed 12,000 acres of land – shows the ‘imperial’ impunity with which the British Army conducts itself, particularly in countries formerly in the British Empire. Similar fires have been caused before, destroying land, crops, wildlife, and even residents’ buildings, as well as impacting their physical and mental health. As highlighted above, some sense of this attitude can be seen in the flippant tone with which the soldiers discuss these tragedies. One soldier is reported to have written on social media: “Two months in Kenya … Been good, caused a fire, killed an elephant and feel terrible about it but hey-ho, when in Rome.”
Of course, this is not a case of ‘one bad apple’. The structural basis for these attitudes is brought into relief in the institutions: in response to a court case brought by 1,400 local residents against the British Army, lawyers argued that Kenyan courts lack jurisdiction over this case, the British army having “sovereign immunity” – this reveals the continuing refusal of Kenya’s sovereignty and the legal reality of contemporary British neo-colonialism in the country.
Examples such as the murder of Agnes Wanjiru, and the devastation of Lolldaiga Wildlife Reserve, can not be seen as accidents. Cases such as these are found wherever security services are present. Racialised & gendered violence and ecological destruction are an inevitable corollary to military/police presence in a community. As such, we must see resistance against gendered violence by security services, resistance against racist violence such as #blacklivesmatter, and defense of our shared environment as necessarily linked. There are many further examples, such as the many other historical instances of sexual violence by British soldiers in Kenya, whole communities being forcibly deported to make way for UK/US military bases in the Chagos Islands, and the military conducting live fire exercises in Belize, one of the world’s most biodiverse environments, all of which further highlight these links.
Beyond direct culpability, the UK security services are also involved in enabling horrific violence and ecological destruction around the globe. For example, the military trains the repressive forces of the Colombian state: the police, who murdered 63 protestors at demonstrations this year, and the military, who have killed record numbers of environmental protectors with indigenous and Afro-descendent peoples being specifically targeted. As a result of the UK’s support, the murderous regime of Colombia’s Ivan Duque is strengthened, enabling businesses to continue environmentally destructive extractivism, and the country to be utilised by the United States as a ‘lilypad’ to destabilise other countries in the region, furthering the cycles of violence and ecocide.
Recent examples of public and trade union support for direct action groups such as Palestine Action reveal how unwelcome British militarism is in many of our communities in the UK, and equally we must show solidarity with communities resisting militarism in all its forms around the world. We need these kinds of actions (and much more besides) to expand this resistance and stand up to all aspects of the military-industrial complex’s murderous and ecocidal behaviour at home and abroad. As socialists living in the ‘belly of the beast’ our duty first and foremost must be to highlight the shameful and violent actions of the security services done “in our name”, to claw back expenditure from police and military budgets, and to support the self-determination of the peoples of the Global South, as Fanon would say, “by any means necessary”.