Kenya’s fight against the terrorist group Al Shabaab received a major boost on Monday with the signing of a cooperation agreement with the United States that will see Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers trained and provided with financial and technical assistance over the next five years.
“The agreement will also see the two countries collaborate on peace and security efforts within the country and in the region, including the planned deployment of Kenyan police officers to Haiti,” US Secretary of Defence Lloyd James Austin III said at a press briefing in Nairobi yesterday.
“The US government deeply values our partnership with Kenya in countering Al Shabaab and is grateful to Kenya for its leadership in addressing security challenges in the region and around the world. I also want to thank the minister today for Kenya’s willingness to consider leading a multinational security assistance mission in Haiti,” he said.
Austin, who was welcomed in the country by Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale and Chief of Defence Forces General Francis Ogolla, announced that the US is prepared to provide up to Ksh14.8 billion ($100.3 million) in addition to technical assistance to the mission in Haiti once it is approved by the UN Security Council.
Following parliamentary approval, Kenyan police officers from specialised units of the Administrative Police will leave for the Caribbean country in the next few months to tackle armed gangs that control areas in the capital and provincial towns.
Duale noted that the Al Shabaab is currently the largest terrorist group in East Africa.
“They are recruiting and radicalising young people for their own terrorist operations and within this framework we are working on the whole area of counterterrorism, our maritime security, peace and security in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region and how we can benefit from US defence technology and innovation,” he said.
He also noted that the cooperation will see Kenya’s contribution to peacekeeping missions globally supported by the US, aside from receiving training, technology and innovation to enhance KDF’s capabilities.
“The framework places special emphasis on interoperability between our two militaries in an increasingly complex and interconnected world. Our ability to work together seamlessly is paramount and this cooperation will enable us to respond effectively to the ever-evolving security challenges in our region and beyond,” Duale said.
“Together, we are charting a course for a more secure and prosperous future for our nations and the world,” he added.
This is Austin’s first trip to Africa since taking up his post in January 2021. Before coming to Kenya, he visited Djibouti. He is expected to meet with President William Ruto before visiting the US Manda Bay camp in Lamu before departing for Angola.
Austin noted that Somalia has made remarkable progress in the past year in the fight against Al Shabaab by recapturing more territory from the group.
“But we know that progress is not always a straight line, and we can see significant improvement one day and challenges the next. Our approach across the continent has always been a combination of defence capabilities, development and diplomacy, and I think that is the right combination to ensure that you make a lasting impact,” he said.
While in Djibouti, Austin met with Somali President Hassan Mohamud who explained why he had called for a 90-day halt to the second phase of the drawdown of the African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (Atmis) troops.