Kenya has been ranked among the countries with the highest defence budgets in Africa, thanks to two decades of a steady increase in military expenditure.
It is ranked seventh behind Algeria, South Africa, Angola, Libya, Nigeria, Egypt and Morocco, having surpassed Tunisia last year.
The country spent Sh45.8 billion last year down from Sh47.7 billion the previous year but remained by far the highest in East Africa relative to its GDP, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), an independent research organisation.
Algeria had the highest spending on defence at Sh736 billion followed by South Africa with Sh434 billion and Angola at Sh309 billion.
Analysts say Kenya has been spending in a bid to modernise its military hardware. “There has been serious modernisation of the country’s defence systems, which started during the Anglo Leasing scandal,” said Simiyu Werunga, the director of the African Centre for Security and Strategic Studies.
Having ordered eight warships in 2010, Kenya last year sought 67 armoured vehicles— Puma M-26 —of which 37 have so far been delivered at a cost of Sh1.6 billion from South Africa. Kenya also ordered 67 US-made heavy truck diesel engines (B5.9) from South Africa with 37 delivered but at an undisclosed cost. One engine is estimated to cost about Sh500,000, which brings the total to about Sh33 million.
Kenya is faced with problems of terrorism, attacks from Oromo militias in Ethiopia and piracy in the Indian Ocean that have exposed the country’s military inadequacies.
“Due to the military “achievement” of KDF against Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia, Kenya would most likely want to obtain a greater influence on the political and administrative future of the region,” said Sipri in a email to the Business Daily.
Kenya is said to have used recent imports of armoured vehicles from South Africa, helicopters from China (Z-9) and Russia (Mi-17) and refurbished second hand F-5E combat aircraft from Jordan and new M-4 rifles from the USA in Somalia.
But the data does not fully capture the country’s military expedition into Somali which started in October 2011 and is expected to increase the 2012 budget by at least Sh12 billion.
It also received one ex-French P-400 patrol aircraft at an undisclosed price.
The data shows that Kenya’s spending on defence was far much higher than that of Uganda and Tanzania whose budget stood at Sh21 billion and Sh22 billion (local currency) respectively.
Kenya’s military spending as a ratio of GDP has increased for the last 10 years from 1.3 per cent in the year 2000 to 1.9 per cent in 2008. Relatively Kenya rivals unstable democracies like Chad and Central Africa Republic and spends higher than South Africa whose defence budget is 1.3 per cent of the national income.
Uganda however depicted the largest number of weapons imported annually in recent years in the region.
“Overall amongst the three countries Ugandan procurement has been the most extensive and involves the most modern major arms,” said Peter Wezeman senior researcher at Sipri.
Uganda last year bought an unspecified number of anti-ship missiles, guided bombs and short range air- to- air missiles from Russia. It is also expecting the delivery of 150 ex-Ukranian surface to air missiles having received an equal number in 2010.
Uganda has been battling an internal conflict against the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), conflicts in neighbouring DRC and South Sudan and has a substantial number of troops in Somalia. “However, Uganda’s main arms procurement in the past few years— six advanced Su-30Mk combat aircraft from Russia delivered in 2011-2012, has been questionable in the light of Ugandan needs and resources,” says Sipri.
Tanzania imported 30 tanks, diesel truck engines from China and 10 armoured personnel carriers last year alone.
The budget of the Kenya Defence Forces is set to be exposed to scrutiny if a proposed Bill is passed into law. The Bill requires KDF to submit its annual financial reports to Parliament and the President.