With King Charles due to visit Kenya, I am extending a heartfelt invitation for him to meet my family. My aunt Agnes Wanjiru was murdered by British troops 11 years ago near their barracks in Nanyuki. She left behind Stacey, her five month old baby.
There is a belief in many parts of the world that innocent blood cries out loudly from the ground. It may be the case for Agnes. Her daughter is at the age now where she is beginning to ask questions about what happened to her mother.
It pains me to tell Stacey that justice for Agnes has not yet prevailed. There has been a massive cover-up, starting from the moment her body was dumped in a hotel septic tank.
Although an inquest found my aunt was murdered by one or more British soldiers, the coroner warned ominously: “It is possible that even after stating a decision in this opinion, no action may be taken by any of those charged with doing so. If that be the case, then those who know the fate that befell Agnes on the night of March 31, 2012 shall be in the Hound of Heaven”.
While I trust in God to pursue these sinners, it is distressing to see authorities here on earth doing so little. We sought help from both the UK and Kenyan governments, but even after reopening her case in 2021 nothing has been done. No soldiers have been charged.
Key witnesses are yet to be interviewed by police, and we worry time is running out. One of them, Moses Moiyare, passed away last July. It makes our hearts break because he saw the events of that day.
British officials don’t seem to care. Jane Marriott OBE, Britain’s last high commissioner to Nairobi, never came to see us. Defence minister James Heappey told the media he would meet our family in Kenya, but did not follow through.
That was so unfortunate because we were eager to meet him. It feels like they are playing games with us, even though we are not asking for special treatment. This September, a British soldier on exercise in Canada was charged with murdering a local man in downtown Toronto.
The victim’s family only had to wait a few weeks before the suspect was arrested. We have waited over a decade. That’s because the British army let the suspects in my aunt’s murder leave Kenya before they could be arrested.
King Charles could change this. He is commander-in-chief of the British armed forces. All of the soldiers swear an oath of allegiance to obey him. As such, he has a special responsibility to ensure his men cannot get away with murder. He must meet us, and tell the men responsible to do the decent thing – to hand themselves in.
History of injustice
If the King does come to meet my family in Nanyuki, he will see us living together in a slum, with Stacey and my mother Rose. Our home has no running water and very poor drainage. How did we come to live here? My ancestors used to have fertile land, but it was grabbed by the British colonial authorities who subjected them to forced labour and heavy taxes.
The exploitation was so much that some of our community formed the Land and Freedom Army (or ‘Mau Mau’), to fight back against the British empire in the 1950s. My forefathers hid in the forest around Mount Kenya, which the Royal Air Force bombed relentlessly. Yet in some ways they were lucky.
Tens of thousands of people suspected of involvement in the uprising were detained. Torture was widespread. Men were castrated with pliers. What the British soldiers did – it was too much. Some survivors were compensated half a century later, but only a fraction of the total people affected.
Muthoni wa Kirima, a Mau Mau field marshal who passed away this September, said shortly before her death: “They used to rule us with force. We wanted to get the British out of here.” Despite her generation’s sacrifice, the British army is still here. It never left, and continues to take us for granted. To me, that feels like neo-colonialism.
Last year I met a young man called Lisoka Lesasuyan. He has no hands. They were blown off in 2015 when he picked up a mortar fuse left behind from a UK army exercise. It was so traumatising. One of his eyes has been gouged out. He cannot do anything and always needs his brother’s help.
He was 13 when it happened and he’s still struggling. Everything has changed for him. It makes me so sad talking about Lisoka. There are over a thousand other people injured or killed like him here due to British army negligence since independence.
I’ve also seen mothers abandoned by British soldiers who got them pregnant while working in Nanyuki. These deadbeat dads have really caused suffering. There are many of these mixed race children in Nanyuki and they get bullied at school for it.
And it really breaks my heart when I hear stories from women in Nanyuki saying how they were taken advantage of by British soldiers, because they are so poor that they offered sex to afford life. These women are often mistreated, sexually harassed and one was even raped with a bottle.
There are similar stories far away from Nanyuki, in the countryside around Samburu where British soldiers exercise. These girls are scared to report such crimes – the sexual violence desk at our local police station is funded by the British army, who they don’t trust.
The King should look into those crimes and take very serious action against the soldiers responsible. I don’t think his soldiers are trained to mistreat people. As far as I know, the duty of a soldier is to protect people.
In my travels around the countryside, I have met farmers who lost livestock after the British army caused a massive fire on the Lolldaiga wildlife conservancy in 2021. That fire polluted the environment and people living nearby developed breathing problems.
Some have died from inhaling the smoke. Five thousand people are suing the British army over that disaster, in a court case led by the African Centre for Corrective and Preventative Action (ACCPA). King Charles should listen to their suffering too. After all, his family are no strangers to this land.
His son William proposed to his wife at Lewa conservancy, just down the road from Lolldaiga. Charles’ mother heard she would be crowned Queen while on holiday in Kenya in 1952. She was staying not far from Mount Kenya, at a fishing lodge given to her as a wedding present.
At that same time, British settlers were violently evicting the Kipsigi-Talai community in Kericho. Men and women were raped and killed so tea could be planted on their very fertile ground. PG Tips still profit from this colonial land grab, as the community continues fighting to get their land back.
The British did something a human being should never do. It’s very wrong to chase someone from their habitat that they depend on for survival. They took advantage of Kenyans because we have weak leaders.
But it is time to say enough is enough. This abuse, and the culture of impunity, must stop with the murder of my aunt.
As King, Charles must hold his crown forces responsible and have mercy on us. As the Bible says: “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy”. Or as Shakespeare wrote: “The quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.”
My family has patiently waited for justice. Now is the time for King Charles to deliver it.