Category Archives: Horn of Africa

Senate considers funding cuts to Kenyan security forces over human rights abuses (Part II)

In my last post, I wrote about how the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations had asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to submit a report to the Committee to verify that the U.S. government is not providing security assistance to Kenyan military or police personnel who may have been involved in human rights abuses in Mt. Elgon in March 2008 and in North Eastern Province between November 2011 and January 2012. In her report, Secretary Clinton is to document the steps the Government of Kenya has taken to conduct thorough, credible investigations of such violations.

In order to get a sense of the scale of the funding that may be at stake, let’s take a short crash course on security assistance funding. It’ll be fun, I promise.

Without getting too down in the weeds on U.S. security assistance, the Secretary of State maintains oversight for some security assistance under Title 22 (Foreign Assistance) of the U.S. Code. However, under Title 10 (Armed Services) of the U.S. Code, the Secretary of Defense has oversight of Section 1206 funds. This gives the Secretary of Defense the authority to train and equip foreign military forces for two specified purposes — to enable foreign military forces to perform counterterrorism operations, and to enable foreign military forces to participate in or to support military and stability operations in which U.S. armed forces are participating. (For background on the origins and future of Section 1206 funding, see the Congressional Research Service report Security Assistance Reform: “Section 1206” Background and Issues for Congress or the Government Accountability Office report Section 1206 Security Assistance Program—Findings on Criteria, Coordination, and Implementation.) There are other Title 10 authorities, but to be quite honest, some of this security assistance data is so opaque that efforts to dig up what other Title 10 funding Kenya might receive may be futile.

No matter who maintains the authorities for security assistance, funding is supposed to comply with the Leahy Amendment of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which stipulates that all units scheduled to receive training or equipment should be vetted so as to ensure that the U.S. government is not funding security forces that have been involved in gross human rights violations.

According to the FY13 Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations, Kenya receives the following Title 22 funds:

Type of Funding

FY11 Actual

FY12 Estimate

FY13 Request

Foreign Military Financing (FMF)





International Military Education and Training (IMET)




International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE)




Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Programs (NADR)




As a caveat, this may not be an all-inclusive list of Title 22 funds, as Kenya may receive additional assistance on a regional basis as a part of the Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism (PREACT) – a multi-disciplinary, interagency counterterrorism initiative formerly known as the East Africa Regional Strategic Initiative (EARSI). Regardless, we can still see that in accordance with the request of the Senate Committee on Appropriations report, and based on the FY13 Request in the Congressional Budget Justification, Secretary Clinton will have to verify that at least $9.8M of Title 22 security assistance funding would not be going towards Kenyan military or police personnel who may have been involved in human rights abuses.

Kenya also receives Section 1206 funds, which do not fall under State Department oversight, since they are Title 10 funds. I do not have visibility over what Kenya may have received in FY12 or what may be planned for FY13. But as a reference, Kenya received $46.5M in Section 1206 funds between FY06 and FY11. To break that down, that’s $25.9M between FY06 and FY09, $8.5M in FY10, and $12.1M in FY11. 

The question I’m left with is, if the Secretary of State must verify that Title 22 funds are not allocated to Kenyan security forces involved in human rights abuses, is the secretary of Defense being asked to carry out a similar investigation for Title 10 funds? Or is there a reason the Title 22 funds for Kenya are being placed under special scrutiny?

Senate considers funding cuts to Kenyan security forces over human rights abuses (Part I)

Last month, the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations released a report of the Department of State Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2013. In the section of the report that discusses Foreign Military Financing (FMF), there is a paragraph about Kenya that reads as follows:

“The Committee directs the Secretary of State to take steps to ensure that no United States training, equipment, or other assistance is provided to any Kenyan military or police personnel who have been credibly alleged to have violated human rights at: Mount Elgon in March 2008; Garissa, Wajir and Mandera in North Eastern Kenya between November 2011 and January 2012; and in the Dadaab refugee camps in North Eastern Kenya in December 2011. The Secretary shall submit a report to the Committee on steps taken by the Government of Kenya to conduct thorough, credible investigations of such violations and the identification of military units responsible.”

Spokesman for the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) Colonel Cyrus Oguna declined to comment on the appropriations bill, but characterized the relationship between Kenya and the United States as “cordial, historical and important.” And he’s correct. Relations between the United States and Kenya have generally been amicable, with occasional instances of discord – as one might expect from any bilateral relationship. Kenya has historically been a key partner for the U.S. military, considering the country’s geostrategic location for counterterrorism and counterpiracy operations as well as for its utility as a staging ground for crisis response operations in other countries in the region. Of note, the KDF is considered a relatively professional military, and receives considerable security assistance from the United States. The KDF is also part of a vital effort to stabilize Somalia as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which also receives U.S. funding.

The report on the appropriations bill alludes to two operations during which there were allegations of human rights violations – Operation Okoa Maisha (Save Lives) and Operation Linda Nchi (Protect the Nation). For additional details on former – the police and military’s heavy-handed response to the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) insurgency in March 2008 and the victims’ inability to receive justice for human rights abuses four years later, read the Human Rights Watch report “Hold Your Heart” Waiting for Justice in Kenya’s Mt. Elgon Region. For additional details on latter – the police and military’s violence against Kenyan Somalis and Somali refugees in the fall of 2011, read the Human Rights Watch report Criminal Reprisals: Kenyan Police and Military Abuses against Ethnic Somalis.

Unfortunately, I am at a loss for interpreting what Kenya’s inclusion in the report on the appropriations bill means. Given the existence of far less reputable militaries on the continent, I was surprised that the KDF was called out for further scrutiny in the report. (The police, however, were less of a surprise.) The timing is odd, considering the United States presumably desires that the KDF be successful in stabilizing southern Somalia. One could see how, in this situation, the investigation of such allegations could get pushed to the back burner – but it was not. Furthermore, although both the military and the police stand accused of some rather egregious human rights abuses detailed in HRW’s reports, if you look at the State Department’s 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, you will notice that the police are far more frequent human rights violators. In addition, it appears that the KDF tends to get into trouble when deployed domestically, but has not had a reputation for human rights violations when deployed abroad as members of African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations, for example.

Basically, what I’m trying to get at is that yes, bad things have happened and the United States is prepared to call Kenya out on these incidents. But based on what I have learned about the  U.S.-Kenya relationship, I have observed that sometimes things are not as they seem. So my underlying assumption is that Kenya’s security forces being placed under additional scrutiny may not be about Operation Okoa Maisha or Operation Linda Nchi. It may be about pressuring Kenya to cooperate with the ongoing International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation of six high-profile individuals suspected of being responsible for the 2007-2008 post-election violence. It could also be a way to exert pressure on Kenya to have credible polls free of electoral violence next spring. Or perhaps there are tensions in the mil-to-mil relationship and the United States is using security assistance as leverage when Kenyan security forces need it most in Somalia and for homeland defense. (Or perhaps it is actually about human rights and I need to stop being such a conspiracy theorist.)

But it is just pure torture that I don’t know for sure what this might really be about. Any thoughts?

Do we understand perceptions of U.S. military involvement in Africa?

Earlier this week, The Independent published an interview with Ugandan academic Mahmood Mamdani, “Somalia, Museveni, and Militarising the Region.” The interview was a good read and confirmed many of my suspicions of Uganda’s (read: President Museveni’s) perception of the country’s role in regional security. However, I was slightly annoyed at his allusions to the U.S. military’s role in the matter because I think he made it seem like Uganda’s militaristic proclivities were as a result of the U.S. military engagement in the region. I think it’s an oversimplification for him to allude to the United States causing Uganda to be more militaristic. It is, however, fair to say that increased U.S. military engagement in the region has probably facilitated a trend that was organic to the Museveni regime.

Regardless, the article reminded me of a conversation I had with a handful of academics several years ago about African perceptions of U.S. military engagement in Africa. I was in an East African country for a conference, and after the first day, a bunch of us went out to dinner. As the token American on the trip who also happened to work on African security issues, I was soon confronted with complaints about increased U.S. military activity in the region since 9/11, and most particularly, criticisms of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). My first instinct was to be defensive. After all, I did (and still do) believe that a military command whose priority was Africa (like U.S. Central Command’s priority is the Middle East and U.S. Pacific Command’s priority is the Asia-Pacific region) was, in principle, a good thing. This was also around the time that AFRICOM was doing a lot of damage control because the public relations part of rolling out a new combatant command hadn’t gone over well in many parts of Africa. However, I quickly realized that as an objective analyst, it wasn’t my job to defend what the U.S. military was doing, but rather to shut my trap and listen.

The more salient points of the ensuing conversation were as follows:

  • U.S. policies in Africa are contradictory, and mixed messages delegitimize U.S. engagement. For example, we preach good governance while simultaneously supporting corrupt regimes.
  • Military-to-military engagement, as envisioned by AFRICOM, was not ideal because it strengthened regimes that were democratic on paper, but not in reality, such as Uganda and Ethiopia. Furthermore, they were concerned that U.S. military training could be used to suppress popular discontent and keep authoritarian leaders in power.
  • Many blamed the U.S. military for the fallout of its counterterrorism-focused operations in the region since 9/11. They were particularly concerned that kinetic counterterrorism operations were destabilizing to the region, and created terrorist problems in areas where they did not exist before

While I learned quite a bit from this conversation, I realized that I needed to take the academics’ points with a grain of salt for two reasons. First, these academics were all from the Horn of Africa, where U.S. strategy has been executed through an almost exclusively counterterrorism lens. This may explain their hostile views on U.S. military involvement in Africa. Second, my dinner companions all came from academia or think tanks, so their perspectives were a subset of civil society perspectives in the Horn of Africa.

This experience, which was reawakened by the Mamdani interview, made me wonder what other perceptions of increased U.S. military engagement in Africa are out there. Do perceptions differ by region or by position in society? It would be nice to be able to systematically gather those perspectives from ministers in African governments, members of parliament, and members of civil society, including NGOs, advocacy groups, academia, and the media. If I ever got the opportunity to collect that data, I think I would get closer the answering that question. Because I think it’s an important question to answer if the United States plans to continue security cooperation with African countries.

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