New Congressional Research Service report on the U.S. response to the Lord’s Resistance Army

The Lord’s Resistance Army: The U.S. Response was submitted by CRS on May 15 and has been published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The LRA is assessed to remain in much diminished capacity in a territory covering parts of Northern Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Sudan and the Central African Republic, but still resilient in these remote areas.

The most recent concerns are the deterioration of the overall stability and governance of the Central African Republic and South Sudan–with related questions of U.S. and regional priorities.  Likewise there are questions regarding the relationship of continued U.S. support for the Ugandan military to the intention to “review” overall U.S. relations in the wake of Uganda’s new laws targeting homosexuals and more broadly to U.S. support for democracy and human rights within Uganda. In early 2013 AFRICOM’s commander identified the anti-LRA operations, known as “Observant Compass”, as the command’s third highest operational priority after the anti-terrorism efforts in Somalia and Northwest Africa, but obviously a lot of things have been happening since then.

More Kenyan-U.S. Diplomatic History: Kenyatta’s health and succession; status of whites; military assistance

For those of us who would still like to have a better understanding of what went wrong with the last Kenyan election, and how to do better this year, it’s worth taking advantage of the passage of time (and the declassification and publication of the kind of things that we don’t have yet from 2007) to see more clearly how U.S. and Kenyan leaders have interacted over time.  And in looking at the 1970s, while Kenyatta is no longer with us, he casts a broad shadow, and Scowcroft and Moi are of course very much still around.

MEMORANDUM

  • OF CONVERSATION
  • PARTICIPANTS:
  • Brent Scowcroft
  • Ambassador Anthony D. Marshall
  • Robert S. Smith
  • SUBJECT:
  • Current Situation in Kenya

NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL

DATE & TIME: Wednesday – October 13, 1976 5:45 p.m.

PLACE: Scowcroft’s Office

Ambassador Marshall summarized the present security and political situation in Kenya. The GOK very much appreciated our moral support during the Uganda crisis. They believe this brought the Ugandans to the conference table. Ambassador Marshall remains pessimistic, however, about Uganda’s capacity for destabilizing Kenya. He does not expect an invasion, but he does see the continuation and increase of terrorist activities from Uganda. Nevertheless, he thinks that the ultimate threat to Kenya comes from Somalia with Soviet support. He also sees Tanzania’s economic difficulties and political policies affecting Kenya.

Ambassador Marshall believes that our interests in Kenya are to see the country remain stable. Military and economic aid and political reassurances from us can help. He sees Kenya as a buffer among the East African states and a means of slowing down Soviet penetration in East Africa. He believes that continuing stability in Kenya might even turn some of the other countries in the region to Kenya’s way of thinking. [Note: Unfortunately, African nations do not learn economic stability from one another.]

Ambassador Marshall said we have excellent bilateral relations with Kenyatta. Kenyatta is very pleased to be receiving our arms aid even though we are one of several suppliers. We have stressed the defensive purpose of our arms aid.

Ambassador Marshall turned over to General Scowcroft a letter from President Kenyatta to President Ford. It covers two principal issues. One is the possibility that the U.S. will provide a “fly past” in Kenya on December 12, Kenya’s independence day. This was discussed by Secretary Kissinger when he was in Nairobi in September. General Scowcroft knew of the proposal but did not know whether there would be an aircraft carrier available in the area at the time. If not, he said the planes could be ferried down.

The second important issue in the letter is Kenyatta’s prospective visit to the United States. Unfortunately, according to Ambassador Marshall, although Kenyatta knew about the trip in advance of Secretary Kissinger’s visit, he had not told his staff about it. The room was full of people when Secretary Kissinger brought it up and the invitation for November 10 drew a laugh from staff members who could not understand the implications of a date which followed our elections. Kenyatta himself did not understand that, in the event that President Ford was defeated, he would still be in office until late January.

General Scowcroft inquired as to Kenyatta’s health and the prospect that he could really travel to the U.S. Ambassador Marshall explained that Kenyatta has a blood clot which occasionally causes total unconsciousness for periods up to one and a half days. This has occurred three times in the past year. The rest of the time Kenyatta is in good health for a man of 84.

Ambassador Marshall noted that a move to change the constitutional provision for a 90-day Vice Presidential succession when the President dies was squashed. Nevertheless, said Marshall, we should not put all our eggs in Vice President Moi’s basket. There are other potential candidates and so far Kenyatta has not named anyone. [Note: There are indications Kenyatta does not favor Moi.] Marshall said that part elections which are expected in early 1977 (for the first time since 1966) may fill three senior vacancies and thus be a clue to the succession.

As to the post-Kenyatta era, Marshall sees the continuation of civilian government, slightly to the left of the present government. There would be tribal disturbances but the situation would remain stable. There is a good civil service and the Kenyans are interested in maintaining foreign investment and a sound economy.

General Scowcroft asked about the status of whites in Kenya and Ambassador Marshall replied that they flourish. Scowcroft was impressed.

General Scowcroft asked about the status of the MAP program and Ambassador Marshall said that it was on schedule and the Kenyans were highly satisfied. We have requested the Kenyans to accept a U.S. Defense Attache but we are not pushing it. General Scowcroft agreed that we should not push.

There was a brief discussion of the Seychelles, to which Ambassador Marshall is also accredited. The Ambassador referred to the importance of tourism to those islands. The U.S. has an Air Force tracking station there with 300 Americans. [text not declassified] We are concerned that the Prime Minister, Mancham, is flirting with the Communists.

1 Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Africa, Box 3, Kenya. Confidential. The meeting took place in Scowcroft’s office. All brackets are in the original memorandum. The letter from Kenyatta to Ford, dated September 28, is ibid.


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

From 1975 intelligence briefing for President Gerald Ford’s Nation Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft:

2. Nairobi has traditionally maintained one of the smaller armies in sub-Saharan Africa, (see table). The Kenyan leaders — especially President Kenyatta — have not wanted a large standing army. Tribal considerations have been a major factor in this decision. The army has long been the only significant institution in Kenya not under direct control of the Kikuyu, Kenyatta’s tribe. Kenyatta, however, has been gradually but effectively changing the balance to favor the Kikuyu through reorganizations and promotions. Apparently as a counterweight to the army, Kenyan leaders also have made sure that the elite paramilitary General Service Unit remains heavily armed, mobile, and dominated by the Kikuyu.

3. The Kenyans have in the past been able to take some comfort in a mutual defense pact with Ethiopia and a long-standing tacit agreement with the UK that provides for British assistance on request in the event of major internal trouble or an external attack on Kenya. Nairobi now realizes that the chances of Ethiopian assistance have been diminished by Addis Ababa’s internal instability, its problems with Somalia, and by troubles with insurgencies in Eritrea and other provinces. Nairobi also believes, rightly in our view, that it can no longer count on British assistance in the event of an emergency.

[Map of the Horn of Africa]

The Kenya-Uganda Balance

4. Relations between Kenya and Uganda, never smooth since Idi Amin came to power in 1971, have reached their nadir in the last few months. In February, Amin laid claim to part of western Kenya. Nairobi responded by stimulating a series of virulent anti-Amin demonstrations and a boycott at Kenya’s harbors of goods destined for Uganda.

5. The Kenyans later eased the boycott, but imposed a number of economic restrictions on Kampala. They cut in half Uganda’s fuel allotment from the Nairobi refinery and are requiring cash payment for petroleum products and other goods. The sanctions appear to be hurting the Ugandan economy. This may have provoked the mercurial Amin into launching some cross-border forays by helicopter -borne Ugandan troops this month — allegedly in search of rustled cattle. Amin has followed this up with verbal threats against Kenya that he has linked to criticism of Secretary Kissinger’s trip to Africa and charges of collusion between Washington and Nairobi.

6. Other factors have contributed to tensions between Kenya and Uganda. Nairobi newspapers have frequently published stories of alleged atrocities by Uganda perpetrated against Kenyans. Such stories have recently gained increased credibility among Kenyans by the well publicized disappearance in Kampala a few months ago of a Kenyan student, now widely presumed to have died at the hands of Ugandan security police.

7. Kenyan leaders have long been uneasy about Amin’s erratic behavior. Their concerns have been heightened by Amin’s accumulation of Soviet weapons, by the presence of Soviet advisers in Uganda, and by Amin’s ties to radical Arab states and Somalia. Kenya is concerned that Amin might make some supportive military move if Mogadiscio instigated a renewal of insurgency in northeast Kenya — it supported such an effort in the 1960s — or ordered the Somali army into action against Ethiopia or Kenya.

8. Amin is probably planning to keep alive the threat of additional cross-border raids to keep Nairobi off balance and to emphasize for domestic consumption the “threat” to Uganda. The Kenyans are nervous over reports that Amin has been stirring up his senior officers with threats to “crush Kenyatta.” Nairobi fears that the likelihood of some erratic move by Amin — a terrorist incident, an assassination attempt against Kenyatta, or the seizure of some Kenyan territory — will increase when Amin ends his term as chairman of the Organization of African Unity in July. Our judgment is that these concerns in Nairobi are exaggerated, but we cannot completely rule out such actions because of Amin’s personality.

9. The Kenyans are being careful not to push Amin too far publicly. President Kenyatta has returned the two Ugandan helicopters and several soldiers captured during the recent incursions, although he has privately issued a stern warning to Amin. Nairobi may ease the current economic restrictions once it feels it has made its point. Amin is already complaining loudly about a fuel shortage, and the Kenyans are probably wary about giving him grounds for justifying some military move by claiming he is being economically strangled.

10. Nonetheless, Nairobi has recently begun providing limited covert support for a group of Ugandan exiles in Kenya who have been plotting the overthrow of Amin. The group does not appear well organized, and the effort could backfire on Nairobi by providing justification for Amin to take counteraction against Kenya. For example, Amin might respond to any Kenyan-supported attempt to unseat him with a greater show of force on the border. In such a case, a major border incident could arise from a miscalculation by either side.

11. Kenyan concerns about Amin are compounded by his overwhelming superiority both in weapons and number of troops. Although Kenyan units are better trained and disciplined than Ugandan forces, Kenyan leaders are uneasy over an official assessment questioning the will of the army to defend the nation’s borders. Some army officers are concerned that the attention Nairobi is paying to Uganda will divert it from what they see as the far more serious Somali threat.

12. Recognizing its military inferiority, Kenya has approached the US and other potential sources for military assistance, especially aircraft. (Kenya continues, however, to turn down Soviet offers of military assistance.) Kenya has tried to interest the British in providing troops or aircraft for a joint exercise or some other show of force, preferably near the border, but London apparently has turned Nairobi down.

.  .  .  .

The Horn of Africa

15. Kenya’s policy toward the Horn of Africa countries continues to be marked by an alliance with Ethiopia, its partner in a 13-year-old defense pact, and by a deep distrust of Somalia, which claims about one fifth of Kenya as well as a large part of Ethiopia and all of the neighboring FTAI. Kenya supports Paris’ announced intention to grant independence to the FTAI, and has called for OAU and UN guarantees for the independence and territorial integrity of the state.

16. The likelihood of military conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia over the FTAI has sharpened Kenya’s worries about its security and the intentions of the Mogadiscio government. Kenya fears it would be drawn into such a conflict because of its defense pact with Addis Ababa.

17. Nairobi also believes that a successful Somali takeover of the FTAI would encourage Mogadiscio to reassert its claims to the northeastern part of Kenya inhabited primarily by ethnic Somalis and to press a new insurgency effort there. The Kenyans already suspect that Amin’s recent claims to parts of Kenya were made in collusion with Somali President SIAD in an effort to keep the Nairobi government off balance. We have no hard evidence to support the Kenyan suspicions, but relations between Amin and SIAD are relatively close.

Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Africa, Box 3, Kenya. Secret; Noforn; Nocontract; Orcon. Prepared jointly by the Central Intelligence Agency, The Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Sent to Scowcroft on May 7 by B.E. Layton, Acting National Intelligence Officer for South and Southeast Asia and Africa, Central Intelligence Agency.

Comparison Table of Military Forces

Somalia  Kenya  Uganda

Air Force
Personnel 750 760 2,000
Bombers 3 6 None
Jet Fighters 50 3 68
SAM Battalions 4 None Unknown
Helicopters 12 None 9

Obama, Oil and AFRICOM–Pambazuka

“Obama, Oil and AFRICOM” from Daniel Volman in Pambazuka.

No real editorial comment here–lots of key budget numbers relating to AFRICOM, and Defense and State Department military training/assistance/ etc., for African states. Important stuff.

The existence of and significant budgetary “space” for AFRICOM is a fact of life. At the same time, it seems to me that much remains entirely “To Be Determined” as far as how it actually works and interacts with other institutions over the next few years with opportunities for it to be steered various different ways, or to simply proceed on bureaucratic momentum which might well be the worst case scenario in the long run.