Kenya will spend Sh4.45 billion to keep its troops in the mineral-rich Democratic Republic of Congo in the next six months, Parliament heard Wednesday.
This follows last week’s decision by President William Ruto to deploy 903 soldiers from the Kenya Defence Force (KDF) to join a regional peacekeeping mission, known as the East African Community Regional Force to the Democratic Republic of Congo (EACRF-DRC).
The Kenyan troops will join others from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania on the mission in Eastern DRC.
The National Assembly’s departmental committee on Defence, Intelligence and Foreign Relations said the budget for keeping KDF in the DRC could rise to Sh6 billion if the troops stay beyond the initial six months.
Committee chairperson Nelson Koech told MPs that in the event of a lengthy stay in the DRC, the annual cost of maintaining troops in the country will rise to between Sh5.5 billion and Sh6 billion annually.
“In terms of the financial implications of the deployment, the grand total budget stood at Sh4.45 billion which is Sh601.87 million above the Sh3.85 billion in the memorandum to the National Security Council on the matter,” Mr Koech said.
“However, the Cabinet Secretary for Defence explained that the discrepancy emanated from changes effected on the budget after a reconnaissance visit to the area in question that necessitated a change of strategy.”
The expenditures will mainly go towards equipment, operations and payment of sustenance allowances.
The budget presented by the Ministry of Defence has the bulk of the Sh4.451 billion going towards operations and maintenance (Sh1.99 billion), procurement of equipment (Sh1.42 billion) and ammunition (Sh1.03 billion).
Salaries will cost taxpayers (Sh1.04 billion), sustenance allowance (Sh1.04 billion), kitting (Sh80 million), arms (Sh24.7 million) and major equipment (Sh286.6 million).
“However, if the Kenyan troops stay for one year, the cost implication will be approximately Sh7.2 billion. In case the troops stay on, the annual cost implication will be approximately Sh5.5 billion to Sh6 billion,” Mr Koech said.
MPs observed that the budget was too high for a country that had recently embraced austerity measures due to limited fiscal space.
Mr Koech said it is envisaged that international financing may be secured for the operation if the troops stay longer than six months.
He also sought to justify the expenditure by citing the need to ensure stability and protect Kenya’s interests in the DRC.
“Our interest is peace and stability in the East African Community. We have many agencies seeking to partner with us and fund the stay of KDF in the event our troops stay longer in DRC,” Mr Koech said.
He said most financial institutions in Kenya have invested in the DRC and there are other businesses to protect in the new East African Community Partner State.
Article 240 (8) of the Constitution of Kenya and the KDF Act require that Parliament approves any deployment of troops out of Kenya.
Mr Koech said the deployment request made by Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale had also complied with the UN Charter, the EAC Treaty, the EAC Protocol on Peace and Security, the EAC Protocol on Co-operation on Defence Affairs, the Constitution of Kenya and the Kenya Defence Forces Act.
Mandera North MP Bashir Sheikh said Kenya has a stake in the DRC conflict, pointing out banks with operations in the Great Lakes country and the use of the port of Mombasa to transport goods.
“After initial deployment, we are likely to attract funding and the pressure on the exchequer will ease. Peace missions are expensive. This is different because of its peace enforcement mission. We must ensure our troops are well equipped to crush the conflict that started in 1996,” the MP said.
This is the second time Kenya is deploying troops after Kenya’s incursion into Somalia in 2010.
Refunds for Kenyan troops fighting Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia show that grants from the European Union, the US, the UK and other partners rose to Sh3.6 billion against a target of Sh3 billion.
The disbursements for the year ended June 2022 were, however, the lowest in more than six years, having slid sharply compared with Sh8.94 billion in the prior year.
African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) took over from Amisom on April 1 following approval from the United Nations Security Council, ending the former’s 15-year mission.