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Thursday, 18 July, 2002, 17:31 GMT 18:31 UK
Masai fight Army over mines
Mazai tribeswomen
The Masai say the Army left bombs on grazing lands
Kenyan Masai warriors marched through London on Thursday en route to a meeting with Ministry of Defence officials.

The delegation represented hundreds of Kenyans who have been injured or killed by bombs allegedly left behind by the British Army.

They began two days of mediation with MoD representatives in a bid to agree compensation for 238 cases.

The British Army has trained for 50 years in an area which is also used by the tribe as grazing land.


I picked it up, then it exploded - it cut off both my legs and both hands

Beatrice Lelekong
Victim

The Masai are accusing the MoD of failing to clear their training grounds in Kenya with the same attention as they reserve for their other foreign training grounds in Cyprus and Canada.

Many Kenyans have been injured and some killed, by unexploded bombs they say the Army left behind.

Among the Kenyans meeting with officials, is Beatrice Lelekong, who was maimed at the age of five.

Now 26, she described seeing a metallic object on the ground which she picked up.

Compensation

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I was playing. I saw the metallic object and I went nearer and nearer.

"I picked it up, then it exploded. It cut off both my legs and both hands."

The Kenyans are seeking compensation, estimated to total 4m, from the MoD for the injuries.

Last year a compensation claim was lodged at the High Court in London.

James Legeye, a project officer of Osiligi, a programme which helps looks after Masai welfare, said the number of victims could be much higher.

'Safeguard life'

"It is against their culture to report the dead, so it is difficult to establish the exact number," he told Today.

"We wish that the British MoD fairly compensates these people and we come to an agreement."

Martin Day, a lawyer representing the Kenyans, said he thought there were "around 500 people who have been killed or seriously injured" by mines or abandoned weapons since the 1950s.

He said the vast majority of the victims were Masai and 90% were children, injured or killed while playing with abandoned weapons.

The Ministry of Defence is challenging the claim.

"The British army are very careful, when they train anywhere, to make sure that they clean up everything that they use," a spokesman said.

"It is difficult because we are not the only country which uses these ranges."

Mr Day said the Kenyan Army, and more rarely the United States Army, have also used the training grounds but they were predominantly the responsibility of the British Army.

See also:

04 May 01 | Africa
23 Mar 01 | Africa
06 Feb 01 | Country profiles
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