Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Kenya: Sh27 Billion Arms Purchase Questionned

Daily Nation, by Dominic Wabala - 21 March 2010

The government was on Sunday on the spot over its massive expenditure on military hardware. A whopping Sh27 billion ($348 million) was used to buy combat aircraft, helicopters, grenade launchers and other light arms in a single year, according to a report by a peace studies institute.

In the report released last week, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, says Kenya came fourth behind South Africa, Angola and Sudan in a group of 23 east and southern African countries in the 2008 weapons purchases.

Transparency International has termed Kenya's expenditure as "gross miscarriage of justice for a country that is not at war". "Kenya is not at war with any country, yet our military expenditure compares with Ethiopia, which has a larger army and is at war with two countries," Mr Job Ogonda, the executive director of TI Kenya chapter, said.

The money, he added, should instead have been used on urgent needs like free primary education, buying farmers' maize or milk that is going to waste. "Why do we need all that military hardware, yet we don't have money for the referendum or for the interim electoral commission to begin voter registration?"

The TI boss said the weapons may be used against Kenyans in case of political violence similar to the one that followed the disputed presidential poll in 2007.

Large sums of money

Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Security, Fred Kapondi, said it was unjustifiable to spend such large sums of money on weapons. But the Mt Elgon MP also raised the possibility that most of the money alleged to have been spent on weapons may have been stolen by officials.

"There is no correlation between what the government says we have spent and the equipment we have. A lot of this money goes into individuals' pockets," Mr Kapondi said. Among the hardware Kenya is said to have bought were 15 combat aircraft from Jordan and four helicopters from China.

South Africa, which is modernising its military, spent Sh285.7 billion while Angola used Sh184.2 billion. Department of Defence spokesman Bogita Ongeri, disputed the figure saying although the military is modernising, it did not spend that kind of money on hardware purchases.

"The amount being mentioned could be the total allocation to the department, which includes what is used to pay emoluments and other expenses to staff," Mr Ongeri said. The report titled, "Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2009", reveals that Kenya received 40,000 rifles and 405 grenade launchers from Ukraine in 2007.

It notes that in several cases, small volumes of arms supplies to sub-Saharan African countries have had "a major impact on regional conflict dynamics." According to the report, Kenya's expenditure on weapons has been rising steadily over the years from Sh16.7 billion in 1999 to Sh27 billion in 2008.