The UK’s efforts to shed its barbaric-colonizer badge may be driving its British Army Training Unit in Kenya (BATUK) to launch a half-baked information campaign of painting itself as a victim of Cholera from China. As the UK continues sponsoring the Israeli Massacre of Gazans, bombing Houthis in Yemen, and signing a mutual defense agreement with Kyiv’s Nazi regime, its media and military are hell-bent on deceiving Kenyans that BATUK was experiencing a cholera outbreak linked to China, a claim that rapidly spread across the social media before it was quietly retracted. This false claim remained among the top trends in social media (X) between 26th and 30th January and was craftily reinforced by an article by Mail Online on 29th January (here) which reported different information crafted as a continuation of the prevailing information. On the 29th, the Mail Online reported how 172 soldiers, about 20% of the BATUK’s personnel became sick with diarrhea, between February, and April 2023, nearly a year ago. One wonders what the purpose of sharing such stale news was. Noteworthy, one Kenyan outlet (here) reported falsely that the Mail Online’s article confirms the presence of an ongoing cholera outbreak at BATUK camp.
The story of the alleged ongoing Cholera outbreak at BATUK broke out just before 10:00 am on 26th January with the headline “Kenya Records Cholera Outbreak Common in Monkeys in China”(here). This line was rapidly popularized on X (formerly Twitter), probably by paid influencers, and trended throughout the weekend, even after the initial report was retracted the same day, 6 hours later. The initial claim appears to have been calibrated to dupe people who believe news without verifying, but was too outrageous for those who prefer verifiable information. Searching to find the source led to an article by Citizen Digital, owned by Royal Media Services (not linked to the British royal family), which has the widest coverage across Kenya. The article has been pulled down, but can be found through the internet archive (here). Similar information was found in Kahawa Tungu (here) and Kenya.co.ke (here). Below is a short excerpt from the Citizen Digital’s article;
The government, through the Ministry of ICT, has confirmed an outbreak of Cholera in Nanyuki, Laikipia County. …”The British Army in Kenya has confirmed a severe diarrhea outbreak. A unique parasite subtype linked to farmed monkeys in China has been identified”
Note the explicit reference to ‘cholera’, ‘farmed monkeys in China’ and the authority of the directorate of Public Information in the Ministry of ICT as additional measures to boost credibility. However, the information was carefully retracted on the same evening under the headline “Laikipia County Gov’t Denies Reports of Cholera Outbreak at British Army Camp” (here). The annulling report did not trend in social media, while Kahawa Tungu and Kenya.co.ke have not removed their initial claims. In addition, the latter has linked to the Mail Online article (here) in a post insisting that there is an ongoing cholera outbreak at BATUK and suggesting that the Kenyan government is lying. This claim is cartoonish, noting that the link it provides as evidence shows that the outbreak it describes occurred nearly a year ago and was caused by Cryptosporidiosis and not Cholera (here). Therefore, the Mail Online adds impetus to the initial false claim. Is it a coincidence?
Arrogant King Charles III, UK, and US
The UK may be trying to act as a victim of ‘big bad China and gain Kenyan’s sympathy after King Charles III lost the veneer of the UK’s humanity by declining to apologize for the horrendous crimes of the UK colonial government. The internet has no information on China farming monkeys or cultivating cholera bacteria in them, making media reports about it outrageous. In addition, the Citizen Digital article retracting the original claim (here) stated that cholera cannot be transmitted from monkeys to humans, while the Mail Online article shows that the pathogen infecting BATUK soldiers was Cryptosporidiosis. Also, remarkable is how the UK and the US tend to claim that diseases affecting them originated elsewhere. For instance, they claimed that Covid-19 originated from China, even without conclusive evidence. Also, they described an illness that was spread among gay people in the West as ‘Monkeypox’ (here). Westerners were desperately trying to link this illness to the regions where most monkeys are found. In the current case, the British trying to link Cholera to China is interesting because the UK has a long history of unsanitary conditions and repeated cholera outbreaks (here). Therefore, an outbreak of diarrhea at the BATUK camp should warrant investigating into its sanitary conditions and also England as a possible source of pathogens.
BATUK’s known Malice Dents its Credibility
BATUK might not easily convince anyone of its being a victim, since its history is marred with incompetence and crime. It is linked to the killing and cover-up of a Kenyan girl and the dumping of her body in a septic tank in a famous hotel in Nanyuki in 2012 (here). In 2023, the highly insolent BATUK claimed to be above Kenyan laws, and that its soldiers could not be held to account for murder. One wonders if BATUK feels that Kenya’s Ministry of ICT should countenance its questionable claims of a disease outbreak in its camp.
BATUK is also incompetent and reported ‘losing’ equipment worth millions (here). It did not specify which equipment, but it could have been weapons, making it interesting, especially with the evolving security challenges in Northern Kenya. Such weapons could have been given or sold to bandits, contributing to insecurity, but we might never know what happened. A military that cannot secure its equipment does not appear to me as capable of observing high sanitation standards to prevent cholera outbreaks. On the other hand, some social media users wondered if BATUK runs secret biolabs, a possibility that should be investigated.
BATUK has also demonstrated malice and contempt for Kenya, making it appear capable of hurting Kenyans to advance British colonial interests. In 2021, it conducted a military drill inside an animal sanctuary, using white phosphorus, which ignited forests and farms and destroyed over 12000 hectares (here). One man was killed while trying to extinguish the inferno (here). The unit has declined to take responsibility and started several dodgy procedures to absolve itself. Also, it often leaves unexploded ordinances, which have led to the death and injury of unsuspecting Kenyan citizens. These unexploded bombs and white phosphorous were surely not made in or supplied by China. BATUK as a colonial military formation should know that some Kenyans are suspicious of its intentions.
Simon Chege Ndiritu, is a political observer and research analyst from Africa, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”