US State Dept clears another possible $250M+ sale of light attack aircraft for Kenya; Human Development Index shows Kenya at 146 of 188 countries with “region’s worst jobs crisis”

Update: see Daily Nation: “Analysts skeptical of impact in Somalia of Kenya arms purchases“.

From the Defense Security Cooperation Agency release:

. . . .
This proposed sale contributes to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of a strong regional partner who is a regional security leader, undertaking critical operations against al-Shabaab, and a troop contributor to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

The proposed sale of the MD 530F helicopters, weapons, ammunition, support items and technical support will advance Kenya’s efforts to conduct scout and attack rotary wing aircraft operations in support of their AMISOM mission. The MD 530F will also replace Kenya’s aging MD500 fleet, which is the current reconnaissance platform supporting Kenyan ground forces. This sale will significantly enhance the Kenyan Army’s modernization efforts and increase interoperability with the U.S. Armed Forces and other partners in the region. Additionally, a strong national defense and dedicated military force will assist Kenya in its efforts to maintain stability in East Africa.

Kenya will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

The principal contractor will be MD Helicopters, Mesa, AZ. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
. . . .

The $418M L3 Air Tractor sale approved by the State Department in January remains pending for U.S. Congressional approval after objections raised by Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina.

Kenya had the largest military spending in the East African region in 2016 at $908M as reported by SIPRI.  Finalization of these two sales of attack aircraft this year would account for dollars equivalent to roughly 60% of last year’s spending.

Here is the headline story from Business Daily: UN report shows Kenya’s jobs crisis worst in region“.  The full UN Human Development Index report and related material can be downloaded here.

It may be worth noting that the United States spends quite a lot of money through many institutions scattered across our country and in many others on the study of and writing reports about the factors driving security threats from the types of things we are concerned about in East Africa.  I am not an expert on this and do not have time to read most of this as an interested amateur, but generally speaking I think the research tends to highlight concerns related to the Human Development Index factors and in particular the jobs crisis over any problems with lack of military hardware.  Perhaps I misunderstand.

Another Ugandan Weapons Procurement Scandal?

The East African reports:  “$740M fighter jets scam sneaks under the radar.”

In a deal reminiscent of previous purchases of military hardware in which the army bypassed civilian oversight, the Ministry of Defence and Bank of Uganda are in the news again following revelations that on the express instructions of President Yoweri Museveni, the ministry withdrew money from the central bank without due parliamentary approval, to buy six fighter jets and other military equipment from Russia worth $740 million.

It also emerged that this money is from the supplementary budget and that part of it — over $400 million — has already been spent. Hence government only wants parliament to rubberstamp the acquisition.

The deal marks a return to the late 1990s, when under the cover of classified expenditure, the country lost $6 million after shadowy middlemen sold the Uganda People’s Defence Forces attack helicopters that could not fly.

.  .  .  .

As usual, the president is once again on hand to let Defence off the hook.

On the night of March 24, Museveni met the National Resistance Movement parliamentary caucus at State House Entebbe and told the legislators to support the $740 million supplementary expenditure.

Although he did not mention the country the jets were bought from, the Daily Monitor reported last week that Russian defence websites claimed that Uganda and Algeria had gone shopping in the Russian capital.

It further revealed that the two countries paid a joint price of $1.2 billion for 22 jets — Uganda’s being only six.

Hence each of Uganda’s jets should have cost $54.5 million, translating into a total of $327 million.

.  .  .  .

The army also bought some 90 tanks from Bulgaria, only 10 of which proved operational.

The purchase earlier of another set of MiG jet fighters also followed a similar pattern: They arrived with one wing, had no spare parts nor bomb loading capacity.

Public policy analysts argue that these dubious procurements are not just bad luck hounding Uganda’s military.

Rather, they say, defence spending is the conduit through which public finances are channelled to fund politics.

 

In the meantime, the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation reports that the drought and increasing food prices leave 5 million people at risk of hunger in the greater Horn of Africa region:

The World Food Program – WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran has expressed fears that drought coupled by rising food prices could drive some 5 million people into hunger in the Horn of Africa sub-region.

Sheeran said the number of hungry people in the Horn of Africa was growing and WFP aims to assist 5.2 million people as drought, rising food and fuel prices and conflict take their toll.

“More and more people need help in the Horn and we’re now on high alert over the impact of the March to May long rains. The drought began with the failure of the October to December short rains last year in eastern parts of the Horn of Africa, pushing an additional 1.4 million people into hunger,” said Sheeran.

The World Food Program is also warning that the number of people in need of assistance may increase if the current long rains – from March to May – are poor.

Sheeran who is in Nairobi on a fact finding mission noted that farmers in producing areas that have abundant supplies are selling their produce to WFP so that it can be used to help the poorest in drought-stricken areas.

In 2010 WFP bought food worth a total of US$139 million in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.

Food prices have started rising in areas that relied on the failed short rains for food production, with increases for maize of 25 percent to 120 percent in some remote parts of the Horn.

Cereal prices in the region over the next six months are expected to increase by 40 to 50 percent.

Kenya: 40% Done?

Approaching Jamhuri Day, a year after the protests and arrests over the Media Bill at the 2008 celebration, the “Government of National Unity” has now expended 40 percent of the potential time remaining before the end of the second Kibaki term and the next election.

I always agreed with those who felt that a stop-gap coalition government was only appropriate as an interim measure, rather than for a full five year term as insisted on by the US government at the time, and I have remained skeptical about how much of substance can be agreed on by this sort of coalition that goes beyond things that are merely of common interest to all members of the current political class.

To start with, it took a full year to fire the old ECK.  In return for severance and impunity–and impunity of the worst kind in that there was no attempt to actually investigate the conduct of the commission and all were treated equally regardless of whether they tried in good faith to do their jobs or not.  They even managed to get away with declining to turn over key records to the Kreigler Commission.

Another year later, it certainly appears that the alleged legislative agreement to “implement” the Waki Report is no deeper than a press release.  While Annan has stayed engaged and Ocampo has stepped up, the reality remains that almost two years after the election what we have legally are only preliminary steps that  might lead to a full investigation that might later lead to legal charges that might later lead to actual trials–and only for the limited category of “crimes against humanity” as opposed to murder, rape, mayhem, bribery, extortion and all the other things that account for what happened with the election and its aftermath.  At this point, I am skeptical that the ICC process is all that likely to run its course before the 2012 campaign begins in earnest.

We have seen a successful rebellion against the president’s reappointment of the KACC head, but we haven’t seen new investigations keeping up with the new scandals, much less starting to work on the backlog.

On the positive front, we have the promulgation of the draft proposed constitution and the seizure of a very large cache of weapons.   We’ve seen draft constitutions in years past–maybe this will go better, and if so, it has the potential to direct some of the competition in 2012 in slightly different directions than what we have seen in other recent elections, which might be good.  Maybe we will have follow up investigations, arrests and prosecutions from the weapons seizure and there will be some accountability for the people involved–if not, at least we will have clarified how badly Kenya is in trouble in regard to the flow of weapons.

On balance, it seems to me that as we enter 2010 people who care about Kenya while remaining committed to democracy in the international community need some fresh thinking beyond the occasional jawboning and visa bans.   You can sometimes pressure people into doing specific things that you want them to do–you can’t pressure people into transforming their character and priorities.  And surely the US isn’t relying primarily on the ICC since we decline to join.

UPDATE–Some good news of sorts:  http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/820330/-/item/1/-/lmlu84/-/index.html“>The Daily Nation reports:

They said they are investigating the theory that a senior security officer and a foreign military base were connected to the illegal military equipment.

One of the leads being followed is that the officer, based at the AP Training College, facilitated the smuggling of bullets out of the institution.

Detectives said they suspected that the bulk of the bullets came from the AP armoury and the foreign military base in Northern Kenya.

Of course, we have a classic example of Kenyan reporting in an era of a partially free press:  important news, but “the foreign military base in Northern Kenya” . . . . hmm, which one?