British Army’s Kenya training threatened by land row

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By Ben Farmer, The Telegraph, 11/10/2017

A British Army Merlin hovers over an under-slung load during a training exercise in Kenya. Flight Lieutenant Clare Thomas is currently serving as the Merlin Force Training Officer, based on 28 (Army Cooperation) Squadron at RAF Benson. This is the home of the Merlin Mark 3 and Mark 3A Helicopters. She joined the RAF in 2001 after receiving a bursary during her time at university.
“I have an overview of all the aircrew training conducted on 28 and 78 Sqns. From basic conversion training, where aircrew fly the Merlin for the first time, to operational training prior to deployment; I need to make sure robust training systems are in place to ensure we train to the very highest standards. This means working closely with the aircrew to get a complete understanding of what they do and the difficulties they face operating in different, challenging environments and conditions.
“I also get involved with the test and evaluation crews who bring in new equipment for the aircraft. When a new piece of kit is required, I analyze the training needs and impact on the Merlin Force so we can plan how long it will take for engineers and aircrew to get trained up and get the new kit operational.”
But it’s not just about training in the sky. RAF Benson is home to the most advanced helicopter simulators in the world.
“The aircrew do a lot of computer based training, which includes the use of simulators. To ensure this synthetic training is effective and realistic, I liaise with the simulator staff to maintain our requirements. Upgrades need to be coordinated when changes to the aircraft and its systems are implemented, and training scenarios need to be created or enhanced to ensure we train for the environments that we may be deployed to.
Prior to her arrival at RAF Benson, Clare spent 4 months in Al Udeid as the Detachment Training and Media Officer.
“This was an extremely broad ranging job which was great as it meant I got to work with pretty much everyone on the Detachment. My duties ranged from ensuring personnel could continue with their education and p

The British Army could be forced to abandon training troops in Kenya after the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered soldiers to stop conducting vital exercises on private ranches.

The decision threatens to upend a decades-long military relationship that pumps £58 million a year into the Kenyan economy and comes after the two countries appeared to resolve long-running tensions by signing a new defence cooperation pact barely 12 months ago.

New restrictions mean that the thousands of British soldiers who pass through Kenya every year are no longer able to train on as many as 11 privately-owned ranches in the Laikipia region north of Mt Kenya.

Instead, British troops will be restricted to public land used by the Kenyan armed forces further north, in the Archer’s Post area of Samburu.

The new restrictions severely restrict the scope of what training is possible and would rule out a repeat of large scale wargames such as the regular Askari Storm exercises.

Samburu is arid and flat, while Laikipia has more varied terrain including hills and cliffs.

A British Army spokesman said troops “continue to train alongside the Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) at their training areas”.

But it is understood Britain is considering pulling training out of the country, though a final decision has yet to be made.

British efforts to clarify the issue of access to training have so far proved fruitless, although it is unclear whether this is because of Kenyan government obstruction or because of continuing political turmoil in the country.

Over the past three months, Kenya has witnessed two presidential elections, after the supreme court overturned Mr Kenyatta’s victory in the first, and widespread opposition protests that have killed scores of people. The supreme court is hearing a petition to overturn the most recent election, held on Oct 26, but instability is feared whatever the judges rule.

Local government chiefs are thought to have raised objections to the British Army using private ranches, several of which are white-owned or run, because rents are paid to the ranch owners rather than to county administrations.

Although Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, praised military ties between the two countries when he visited British soldiers in Kenya in March, relations between the two countries have often been fraught in recent years. British Army training in Kenya, which has been conducted since 1945, has often fallen foul of the tensions.

Mr Kenyatta was furious before he was first elected in 2013 with Britain for giving its support to the International Criminal Court, which had charged both the president and his deputy with serious crimes related to violence that erupted after an earlier election in 2007. At least 1,300 people were killed and 500,000 more forced to flee.

The Kenyatta administration appeared to retaliate by raising a series of objections during tortuous negotiations to renew the defence agreement that allows British soldiers to train in Kenya.

Relations appeared to ease when the case against Mr Kenyatta at the ICC was dropped after many prosecution witnesses recanted their testimony amid bribery and intimidation allegations.

But there has been an uptick in tensions as Britain and the United States seek to mediate a political deal to end the tensions in Kenya.

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