EU slashes $49 million from KDF pay in Somalia mission

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The Kenya Defense Forces [KDF] will have to operate with a deficit of $49 million in the 2021/22 budget, it has emerged, after the European Union slashed the donor reimbursements to Kenya by 66 percent, ahead of AMISOM exit from Somalia.

It is anticipated that AMISOM troops will withdraw from the Horn of Africa nation upon full implementation of the Somali Transition Plan [STP] by the end of 2021. AMISOM has close to 22,000 soldiers in Somalia, fully paid by the European Union, UN, the US among other partners.

In a report tabled at Kenya’s Parliament by Treasury, the EU and other partners are expected to refund Nairobi $25 million for the new fiscal year down from $74 million. This is necessitated by the planned exit of AMISOM, which is set to hand over security responsibilities to Somali security forces.

Kenya has a total of 3,500 soldiers in Somalia, mainly serving Sectors II and IV of AMISOM jurisdictions in Jubaland. The troops are deployed on a rotational basis annually after Kenya joining AMISOM in 2012 following the completion of Operation Linda Nchi.

Usually, Kenya gets grants through the African Union Peace Facility in Addis Ababa. The soldiers are key partners in the fight against Al-Shabaab and are credited for liberating many towns in Somalia, key among them Kismayo, the regional administrative capital of Jubaland.

Estimates from KDF indicate that each soldier serving in the mission takes home $1,028 but upon the dedication of $200 [administrative costs], he or she pockets $800. The troops who are deployed to the mission are chosen by top generals upon undergoing training.

Largely, the European Union funds the AMISOM team which includes troops, police, and civilians working for the team in addition to operational costs. The United Nations Support Office in Somalia [UNSOS], on the other hand, provides logistical field support to the Amisom troops and Somali National Security Forces during joint operations.

A leaked report by PwC that was exclusively published by Garowe Online raised questions about accountability, with evidence showing either exaggerated payment to ghost officers [those who may have died or left the mission]. Millions of dollars are estimated to have been pocketed by unscrupulous individuals between 2016-18.

In March, the African Union Peace and Security Council extended AMISOM’s mandate to Dec 31, 2021. This was after Somalia failed to carry elections upon the expiry of Parliament’s life span and that of embattled President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.

Although African Union offered to mediate the crisis, Somalia declined, citing claims that former Ghanaian President John Mahama, who had been appointed to mediate, was a close ally of Kenya. However, stakeholders have since agreed to carry elections within the next two months.

The stand-off drew condemnation by the international community amid fears that it risked throwing the country back into the clan-based violence that scarred the country after the fall of the Siad Barre regime in 1991. In fact, security forces had split into two, further threatening to plunge the country into a civil war.

Somali elections are conducted under a complex indirect system where clan elders select MPs, who in turn choose the President. The country had failed to lay down logistics for the universal suffrage polls, which are yet to happen in the country since 1969.

Kenya Defense Forces troops have also suffered immense losses despite the liberation of many towns in Somalia. One of the most memorable attacks was in El-Adde in 2016, which left close to 200 soldiers dead after which the military also fell to the Al-Shabaab trap in Kulbuyow, leaving 70 dead.

There have also been complaints in Somalia of human rights abuse by KDF besides complaints on indiscriminate airstrikes within the Gedo region. Last week, Somalia demanded that KDF inform authorities before such airstrikes which ideally target Al-Shabaab.

Notably, the United States is set to deploy Special Forces to Kenya and Somalia according to a report published by The New York Times. Joe Biden, the report notes, is keen to help East Africa combat the Al-Shabaab insurgency, just over six months after close to 700 soldiers were withdrawn by Donald Trump’s regime.