Uhuru's United Kingdom visit earns Kenya big defence deal

President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) at Mansion House, the Official Residence of the Lord Mayor of London, where he attended the Kenya-UK Investment Forum on July 27, 2021. [Courtesy]

Kenya and the United Kingdom (UK) have signed a five-year Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) to tackle shared threats across East Africa. The agreement was signed at a side event during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s three-day Guest of Government visit to the UK.

Once ratified by respective parliaments, support to Kenya will include Sh1.165 billion annual UK investment in defence, 1,100 Kenyan soldiers trained yearly in readiness for deployment to Somalia, Kenyan Navy trained on maritime security, safety and firefighting, assured visits, professional training and exchange of experience and expertise, Sh28 million worth community projects on sanitation, health, education and tackling gender-based violence. British Army Training Unit Kenya (Batuk) will also hire 550 local civilians, a move that has contributed Sh5.8 billion to the local economy since 2016. 

Kenya’s Defence Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma and UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace signed the new deal on Tuesday evening in London.

The agreement will anchor defence priorities between the two nations over the next five years.

The DCA comes six months after the two defence secretaries met in Nairobi to deepen wider stability and security cooperation as part of the Kenya-UK strategic partnership.

The new DCA will allow the two militaries to share expertise, experience and techniques. The two nations have a long history of military cooperation, working together on land, sea and air to find shared solutions to our shared challenges, including countering the threat from terrorists’ groups like Al Shabaab. “We held fruitful discussions and agreed a range of measures to keep both of our countries safer. Kenya has long been our defence partner of choice in East Africa and, in a more uncertain world, we will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as we tackle the threats of tomorrow,” said Wallace.

Dr Juma said the two countries have reaffirmed their commitment to defence cooperation. “The framework underpinning this strategic relationship is the Defence Cooperation Agreement, which has become an invaluable tool for enhancing competencies of our defence forces. Our cooperation continues to significantly improve ability of our forces to operate effectively in high-threat environments,” said Juma.

Over the past five years, the UK, under DCA has provided an annual training of over 1,100 Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers, with courses in the UK, or with UK military training teams in Kenya.

Further training has also been provided through the UK-funded Counter-IED Wing at the Humanitarian Peace Support School in Embakasi.

Since 2016, over 2,000 military and police from 22 countries have been trained in CIED skills and 40 CIED instructors developed, significantly improving the ability of African Union forces to operate effectively in high-threat environments, including against Al Shabaab.

Infrastructure projects at the KDF’s School of Infantry, which include an urban village, a Forward Operating Base, and an assault course, all prepare more than 600 KDF personnel for deployment in the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom). The UK has been supporting Amisom troops contributing countries since 2010 through the Short Term Training Teams from the British Army at a cost of Sh43 million annually.

Batuk has had significant benefits for the local economy and community, contributing over Sh5.8 billion to the economies of Laikipia, Samburu and Isiolo counties.

As a result, more than 550 local staff have remained in employment even during the harshest economic times brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.