BATUK: Britain's base in Kenya

Construction has begun on a 100-mile elephant fence around the area used by the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK)...

Construction has begun on a 100-mile elephant fence around the area used by the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK).

Intended to protect local people and resources, as well as the British training area, the fence will run around community land and ranches, and will cost around 88 million Kenyan shillings (nearly £600,000).

Forces Network, meanwhile, has featured UK soldiers at BATUK on a number of occasions.

But what are they doing there? And why Kenya?

BATUK: Britain's Base In Kenya

BATUK is a permanent training unit in Kenya which currently includes stations in Kahawa, Nairobi and Nanyuki. 

By 2018, however, it's hoped a seven-year, £120 million project will be complete, which aims to bring all of the unit's assets onto one central site in Nanyuki.

Consisting of just under 300 military personnel, BATUK provides logistical support for visiting British Army units, with around 10,000 troops coming to train in the country each year in preparation for operations in places like Afghanistan. 

Take a look below at British Army riflemen in action on exercise in Kenya...

Some personnel at BATUK, which has one of the largest live-firing training areas used by the British military, stay for a six-month posting, while others spend two years there with their families.

It's all made possible by a 40-year agreement between the British and Kenyan governments, which allows six infantry battalions to train in the nation annually on six-week exercises

The Armed Forces Minister, Penny Mordaunt, said on a recent trip to BATUK:

"The UK shares a long-standing and mutually beneficial defence relationship with Kenya."

"We are bound together by a wide range of shared interests and this is more important now than ever given Kenya's commitment to the AMISOM [UN-approved peacekeeping] mission in Somalia and its fight against terrorism in the region."

Strained relations?

That's not to say the relationship is by any means perfect.

A series of diplomatic disputes between the UK and Kenya in 2013-2015 saw the Kenyan government criticise the British Army on a number of fronts. 

Confusion arose over whether British troops would have to abide by Kenyan or UK military law, with the situation coming to a head in 2013 when an armed intruder on a UK military training area was shot dead by a British Army sergeant.

Penny Mordaunt in Kenya
The Armed Forces Minister recently visited British troops in Kenya

There have also been claims that British military equipment has been subject to large-scale theft during exercises, and that up to 50 Kenyans (mainly herders) have been killed by unexploded British ordnance since 1945.

There were even accusations as recently as November of British soldiers "abducting" a 10-year-old Kenyan herd boy after he was badly injured by unexploded UK ordnance, which the MoD strongly denied.

The UK government, meanwhile, says that those injured had been illegally encroaching on marked training areas, and that ordnance could have been left by Kenyan troops who share the training areas.

Matters don't seem to have been helped by British condemnation of President Uhuru Kenyatta's election in 2013, following crime against humanity proceedings against him at the International Criminal Court, which were later dropped.

A brighter future?

In recent times, however, the frostiness seems to have thawed somewhat.

Productive talks between UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Mr Kenyatta in September last year led to a number of agreements, signalling a 'warming' of relations.

It was decided that British military sites would become subject to inspection, with British soldiers charged with committing crimes to be tried in Kenya (but not necessarily under the country's law).

David Cameron & Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta
David Cameron and Uhuru Kenyatta held productive talks in September

Kenyan soldiers, meanwhile, are now offered more training opportunities, both in Britain and with UK forces stationed there.

They also take part in joint exercises with the British Army, who provide support for the country's fight against Al Shabaab, including the deployment of British personnel to Somalia, and are involved in anti-terrorism training for Kenyan police and border guards.

The Royal Engineers, meanwhile, carry out civil engineering projects in the country while on exercise there, while two medical company group deployments provide healthcare assistance to the civilian community.

British Army troops also help prevent poaching of endangered species such as rhinos and elephants, and are said to contribute £58 million to the Kenyan economy each year.

More: British Army Meet Their Match On The Plains Of Africa