Donald Trump queries Kenya's health and terror funding

US President Elect Donald Trump. (Photo: Courtesy)

Kenya is worried over a possible withdrawal of US support for its campaign in Somalia, following a series of questions sent by incoming President Donald Trump’s team to the State Department.

The fight against Al Shabaab is only one among issues concerning Africa raised by the Trump transition team, made public by the influential New York Times newspaper at the weekend.

Others questions listed hint at a possible shift in American policy on trade and emergency funding for HIV/AIDS patients.

Kenya is worried because if the answers don’t appease the new administration, which takes over this Friday, it could trigger a major policy change affecting Washington’s support for the government’s counter-terrorism programme and its fight against the Aids pandemic.

One of the questions drawn up by Trump’s advisers is: “We’ve been fighting Al-Shabaab for a decade, why haven’t we won?”

Speaking to The Standard on Sunday yesterday, Government spokesperson Eric Kiraithe said the questions “should certainly worry Kenya”.

Concern revolves around what the Trump administration will do in the ongoing war against the Somalia-based Al Shabaab, in which the African Union forces receive crucial logistical support from the US.

The inquiry, which is part of Mr Trump’s preparation for government, comes on the first anniversary of the bloody attack in El Adde, Somalia, in which Kenya lost nearly 100 soldiers at the hands of the militants.

The way the Trump team has framed the question is akin to a demand for results for the billions of shillings that the US Government has sunk in the counter-terrorism offensive in the Horn of Africa. Mr Kiraithe, himself a senior security figure, remarked: “We are at war with Al-Shabaab. We appreciate the support the US has given us and we will be keen as partners in regional security if he (Trump) added more impetus to that war and even deliver a killer blow.”

Kenya has troops in Somalia fighting Al-Shabaab. President Uhuru Kenyatta has repeatedly vowed the country’s soldiers will stay in Somalia until the militants are vanquished.

Under outgoing President Barack Obama, the US has had “one of the deepest and most important security relationships for the United States in all of Africa”, according to Robert Godec, the US Ambassador to Kenya.

The formal military ties began in 2010 when the two countries signed the Kenya National Military Strategy pact and the White Paper on military cooperation. The idea was to boost Kenya’s military capabilities and augment security relations between the two countries.

Only two months ago, Mr Godec remarked, while handing over six helicopters to the Kenyan military: “We reaffirm that the United States is and will remain your steadfast partner in the fight against terrorism and extremism.”

Another question that the Trump team put to the State department reads: “Most of AGOA imports are petroleum products, with the benefits going to national oil companies. Why do we support that massive benefit to corrupt regimes?”

President Kenyatta’s administration is currently under siege over high-level corruption in government and its failure to deal with misappropriation of State funds. His relatives have been implicated in questionable deals with government ministries.

AGOA refers to the Africa Growth Opportunity Act, a preferential trade pact, which allows sub-Saharan African countries to export goods to America without paying tax.

The trade deal is a key component of Kenya’s international trade due to the exports of textile and apparel, tea, coffee and titanium, in a situation that has made the US Kenya’s third-largest export destination.

“(The question about) AGOA is a matter of concern to us,” said Kiraithe.

Another programme that could be affected is the $7 billion ‘Power Africa’ programme initiated by President Obama. As early as 2013, Mr Trump had said the programme was simply a way to pump billions of dollars into Africa’s notorious political kleptocracy.

“Every penny of the $7 billion going to Africa as per Obama will be stolen - corruption is rampant!” he tweeted.

Mr Trump’s team has also questioned the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a programme that reaches nearly 11.5 million people with life-saving anti-retroviral treatment and has provided more than 11.7 million voluntary medical male circumcision procedures in Africa.

The Trump team asked: “Is PEPFAR worth the massive investment when there are so many security concerns in Africa? Is PEPFAR becoming a massive, international entitlement program?”

The New York Times quoted J Stephen Morrison, the director of the Global Health Policy Center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, saying the questions showed an “overwhelmingly negative and disparaging outlook” on the continent.