Monday, May 10, 2010

East Africa: Integration Spawns Cut in Military Budget

Steve Mbogo [Business Daily], 15 April 2010

Development spending will increase as Kenya seeks to stabilise its military and intelligence spending because of reducing threats from her neighbours as a result of regional cooperation initiatives that allow sharing of defence information.

The new Budget Policy Paper from Treasury shows that Kenya's military and intelligence spending will stabilise in the next three years after a rise caused by buying military hardware in the current financial year.

From a high budget of Sh54 billion spend this financial year, the military and intelligence budget will reduce progressively to Sh52.8 billion in the financial year 2012/2013.

The spending jumped from Sh48.5 billion in 2008 to Sh54 billion -- a 10 per cent increase -- in the financial year ending next June because of purchase of second hand military aircraft from Jordan and helicopters from China, according to a report by the International Peace Research Institute.

The spending was linked to the upgrading of military equipment that had been ongoing since 2007.

For example, Kenya Airforce is seeking to replace its Northrop F-5 Tiger fighter jets with second hand Jordanian F-5Es with radar upgrades.

Analysts said they did not forecast major increase in military and intelligence spending because the integration of the East Africa Community and formation of the Africa Standby Force will reduce the threat nations face from each other.

Joshua Kivuva, a political science lecturer at the University of Nairobi, said the integration of the East Africa Community will enhance the level of confidence among regional countries resulting in reduction of threats.

Reduced risk of war

EAC members are Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi with South Sudan and Ethiopia being the next likely candidates to join the community.

"There is going to be reduced risk of war when regional cooperation is strong," said Dr Kivuva.

The EAC, for example, has developed a common Peace and Security Protocol, a legal plan on how the countries will cooperate on issues of security.

Cooperation steps taken so far include joint training exercises and a defence chief's conference held in Uganda in February.

Analysts say that the formation of the Africa Standby Force that will be a rapid reaction peacekeeping and stabilisation army is also a good reason why military budgets could stabilise.

"Cooperation is creating opportunities to share military and criminal intelligence. So you know what your neighbour is doing and therefore the threat levels become minimal," said David Ndolo.

In addition to the EAC defence cooperation, the region has also been grouped together with additional countries including the Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Somalia and Sudan to form the East Africa Standby Brigade, one of the five regional brigades that combine to form the Africa Standby Force.