“Competition for Military Superiority” between Uganda and Kenya not a sign of political maturity

British Helicopter

British Helicopter at base near Nanyuki

 

The Daily Nation reports on new data on Ugandan and Kenyan defense spending from SIPRI, “Arms race hots up in East Africa”:

Competition for military superiority in the East African Community has seen Uganda’s arms expenditure surpass Kenya’s for the first time this year, a new global arms report shows.

Kampala spent US$1.02 billion (Sh83 billion) — much more than Kenya’s US$735 million (Sh61 billion), the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) says. The institute does research into conflict and arms control.

The most advanced

In particular, Uganda’s acquisition of six SU-30MK Russian jets is said to have elevated its air force to one of the most advanced in East and Central Africa.

The reasons for the increased budget, according to the report, include competition for regional military superiority, especially with Kenya, and the threat of a spillover from potential conflict between Sudan and South Sudan.

Others included the operation in Somalia against Al-Shabaab where the region’s armies, including Kenya’s, are fighting under the African Mission in Somalia (Amisom), and against Joseph Kony’s rebels in the DR Congo are quoted as reasons for Uganda’s ballooning military expenditure.

The friction with Kenya over Migingo Island almost sparked a confrontation and this is also cited as justification for more military spending by Kampala.

Kenya’s military expenditure has also been going up in the last decade. The country spent only Sh14 billion on the military in 2000 compared to more than Sh60 billion today.  .  .  .

There are plenty of positive opportunities for competition and national pride within the East African Community, but acquisition of military hardware in support of governing egos is not something that is affordable for either country in the context of need, and supports the temptations of saber rattling for political gamesmanship.  Any type of military confrontation within the EAC would be an absurd tragedy.  Since the U.S. and our European allies are heavily engaged in interacting with the Ugandan and Kenyan militaries, perhaps we can be positively influential in dissuading this type of behavior in conjunction with our support for less tangible types of political reform.

A little Kenyan-American history: Kissinger, Waiyaki, Kibaki; getting the F-5s, safaris and slums

History–Kenyatta, the Kenyan military and GSU; origins of U.S. military assistance

More Kenyan-American diplomatic history: Kenyatta’s health and succession; status of whites; military assistance

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