Security cash hits record high amid local, regional challenges

Some of the KDF soldiers from DRC Congo peace mission match as they arrived at Embakasi Garrison in Nairobi on December 21, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Kenya’s security and military expenditure has hit a record high as the country grapples with insecurity locally and regionally.

The latest report on government spending indicates that the Ministry of Defence, the National Intelligence Service (NIS), and the Kenya Police were among the top departments to receive billions in additional  funds for the financial year 2023/2024.

This comes in the wake of concerted efforts by the Kenya Kwanza administration to align itself with the security interests of the West, which is seeking to push back against the advance of Chinese and Russian growing influence on the African continent.

In the second supplementary budget for the 2023/2024 financial year, the National Police Service, NIS, and Ministry of Defence have received a total of Sh17.7 billion in additional allocations meant for operational support and various peace missions.

The National Police Service, which had been allocated Sh107 billion for the 2023/2024 financial year, received an additional Sh5.9 billion in the second supplementary budget.

This includes more than Sh550 million meant for security operations countrywide and at key headquarters of the Kenya Police divisions, Sh400 million for emergency response, and Sh166 million for training officers for peace missions.

The additional budgetary allocations come as the government prepares for a controversial deployment of 1,000 police officers from Kenya to the Caribbean nation of Haiti, which has been plagued by gang conflict.

The Kenyan-led mission dates back to a 2021 UN Security Council meeting that included representatives from Caribbean and African nations seeking solutions to the crisis in Haiti.

The country’s deployment of security personnel has, however, been stalked by various setbacks, including several legal challenges in Kenya. During his state visit to the United States last month, President William Ruto affirmed the country’s commitment to the deployment plan.

“We don’t find that the United States is committing Kenya to Haiti,” he said when asked why Kenya is leading the mission despite facing key security challenges at home. “I am the President of Kenya, and I decide. It is up to the people of Kenya to commit their troops through their own established (legal) structures,” he said.

During the state visit, the US announced that Kenya has been designated as a non-North Atlantic Organisation (NATO) ally. The move is expected to lift the country’s profile in regional peace and security initiatives and deepen its military partnership with the US.

Over the past ten years, Kenya has been among the top ten recipient countries in Africa in humanitarian, health, and military assistance from the United States.

“The Biden Administration has maintained longstanding U.S. assistance priorities in Africa while increasing support for climate change adaptation, among other shifts in emphasis,” states a recent report from Congress.

“Nigeria ($622 million), Mozambique ($564 million), Tanzania ($560 million), Uganda ($559 million), and Kenya ($512 million) would be the top recipients of U.S. non-humanitarian aid,” states the report.

Kenya and Somalia are also among the highest recipient countries of US counterterrorism financing that goes directly through government agencies and through regional programs.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Kenya’s military expenditure in 2023 stood at over Sh130 billion and ranked ninth in Africa, just behind South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Tunisia.

The country, however, ranks lower in terms of military expenditure as a share of government spending and GDP.

The SIPRI index uses data from official budget documents reported by national governments or economic data. The data includes expenditure on the armed forces, peacekeeping forces, defense ministries, and other security agencies engaged in defense projects.

In recent years, Kenya has also diversified its sources for arms imports, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) fast rising as a key supplier of aircraft and armored vehicles. In 2022, a third of the armored personnel carriers (APCs) imported into the country came from the UAE, and in 2018, the Gulf state supplied 8 light helicopters.

Kenya’s increased expenditure on the military and police also comes amid a sharp increase in local incidences of crime in the country.

According to the Kenya Economic Survey, the total number of crimes reported to the police went up 20 per cent from 88,000 to 104,000. Some of the highest increases were reported in crimes involving theft, dangerous drugs, and economic crimes.

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