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Stuck with tanks we don’t need

By | Feb 16th 2009 | 2 min read

With Somali pirates releasing the MV Faina on Thursday, the Kenyan military is effectively stuck with 33 Russian made tanks rumoured to have been ordered by the government of Southern Sudan.

With the international spotlight shining rather too brightly on Kenyan authorities, it is unlikely that the shipment of T-72 tanks will proceed to Sudan.

The Kenyan government would be highly embarrassed to be found supplying arms to South Sudan. It was Kenya that helped broker an end to the civil war between South Sudan and the government in Khartoum in 2005.

MV Faina was released on February 5 after a ransom of about Sh250 million was paid by its owners. The arrival of the MV Faina in Mombasa was the moment of truth for the Kenyan government and its South Sudan allies.

Since Kenya insists that it owns the weapons, it will have to take possession of the tanks for the time being. In fact, there are likely to be press photo releases of Kenyan soldiers happily training with the tanks. However, this presents technical challenges for the military.

Kenya’s military uses Nato standards in its training and weaponry. From independence in 1963 until the 1990s, Kenya bought military hardware from the United States, Britain, Germany, South Africa and Israel. Kenya’s army is one of the few in the region that does not use the Russian-made AK-47 rifle, but uses a 1960s European model.

Military systems

It will be very difficult for the Kenya Army to integrate T-72 tanks into their operations structure. They would have to ensure that the tanks work with Nato ammunition and other military systems developed over the years.

Alternatively, the military may have to adapt its existing systems to the capabilities of the T-72. This is likely to arouse great resentment from military rank and file, majority of whom were trained under western military tactics and who remain loyal to Nato standard equipment.

Apart from tanks, the weapons aboard the MV Faina include rocket-propelled grenades, artillery shells, tank shells and millions of rounds of ammunition.

—Nairobi Chronicle

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