Kenya takes arms war to EA with Sh17.5bn budget

Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers in Somalia. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers in Somalia. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Nairobi will spend Sh17.5 billion on weapons acquisition for the year to June 2019 in a regional arms race that saw Uganda overtake Kenya in arsenal spending last year.

The allocation will be on top of the Sh7.4 billion that Parliament approved last week as additional expenditure for arms purchase via a mini-budget.

Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) had gone slow on the acquisition of weapons as neighbouring Uganda made a strong comeback to lead in East Africa’s arms race.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) last month revealed that Kenya slashed its spending on military hardware by half to Sh1.3 billion ($13 million) in 2017 from Sh2.8 the previous year.

Uganda, on the other hand, ended its lull last year with an arms stockpile worth Sh1.8 billion, a departure from 2016 when it made nil purchase. In 2017, Tanzania did not make any purchase.

Tanzania’s non-action in the global arms market came amid austerity measures by President John Magufuli who is pushing for cuts in expenditure deemed non-essential.

“Nairobi’s arms orders last year included a second-hand naval gun, AK-630 30mm, from Montenegro “for modernisation of Jasiri OPV (offshore patrol vessel),” the Sipri report says.

Kenya’s heavy military spending is informed by the need to defend its territory against the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militants that have in past targeted civilians and security in major towns as well as in border towns.