Kenya's military might in spending puts to shame the whole of East Africa combined

Kenya is the biggest economy in Africa and it seems it wants to march its military might as well...

File image of a KDF soldier during a past operation

According to data released by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), an independent global security think tank, Kenya’s Defence budget put to shame those of neighbouring Ethiopia and Uganda combined for the first time.

Kenya’s military spending last year rose to a new high of $933 million (or nearly Sh100 billion) to stand the eighth largest in Africa.

“Kenya’s expenditure increase can be related to the country improving its capabilities against terrorists. There is also the issue of regional security in the context of neighbouring countries, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan,” Nan Tian, an arms researcher at Sipri told a local daily.

Kenya’s $933 million military expenditure is a 10.5 per cent growth from $844 million in 2015, accounted for 2.4 per cent of Africa’s total military spending of Sh3.9 trillion ($37.9 billion) last year.

“A key point made by (Kenyan) government is the need to improve security in order to boost economic growth and employment.”

Kenya is the biggest economy in Africa and it seems it wants to march its military might as well much as the move is likely to upset the power balance in the region.

Despite Kenya military purchases being classified, last December, for instance, Kenya received six Huey II helicopters from the US at a cost of $106 million designed to reinforce Kenya’s use of drones in waging intelligent warfare.

This was followed by another purchase of a Sh1 billion drone dubbed ScanEagle from the US last year, enabling the army to conduct real-time surveillance on terrorists’ hideouts and stage pre-emptive attacks.

Since the Westgate shopping mall terror attack, Kenya has resorted to spending billions of shillings to secure its borders as well as hunt down Al-Shabaab militants.

Morocco leads in Africa with a Defence budget of $3.3 billion, followed by South Africa ($3.1 billion) and Angola $2.8 billion.

Sudan is fourth at $2.7 billion while Nigeria is fifth at $1.7 billion. Kenya is eighth behind Tunisia and Algeria, excluding Egypt and Libya whose data were not made public.

Globally, the US retains the pole position as the highest military spender at $611 billion (Sh62.9 trillion), which is nine times Kenya’s GDP, with China coming a distant second ($215 billion) and Russia third with a $69.2 billion budget.

Global Firepower, an agency that assesses military strength of nations, last year ranked Kenya’s military the eleventh most powerful in Africa and the best in East Africa.

Kenya’s arms stockpile, according to the agency, comprises 76 battle tanks, 591 armoured fighting vehicles, 30 self-propelled guns, 25 towed artillery, 132 aircraft, 17 fighter jets, and 62 helicopters.

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