The Drones Keep Coming
By Cassidy Regan on 07/26/2012 @ 04:00 PM
Just a few moments after reading an article on the U.S. decision to cut a portion of its military aid to Rwanda – an important response to accusations that Rwanda’s government has supported armed militant groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo – I saw news of something far less encouraging: the U.S. decision to send surveillance drones to Kenya.
While this step comes as no surprise, it’s one that furthers our concern around the role of U.S. policy in Kenya and East Africa as a whole. Though unarmed, the drones will be used “to identify targets for strikes by ground forces or other aircraft” and are part of a larger military aid package that includes “trucks, communications gear and rifles for Burundi, Djibouti and Uganda.” Once again, the U.S. has chosen to support violent means of addressing extremism – means that could exacerbate humanitarian insecurity, encourage retaliatory attacks in Kenya and elsewhere, and undermine efforts toward long-term stability.
The money for the military aid package comes from the Global Security Contingency Fund, a pooled account between the State Department and the Department of Defense meant to enhance the capacity of foreign militaries and provide justice sector assistance. FCNL has cautioned against this appropriation in the past, citing concerns around the militarization of foreign aid and advocating instead for a civilian-led fund focused specifically on rule of law and comprehensive justice reform – something that is direly needed in Kenya before the next national elections. Unfortunately, the decision to prioritize use of the fund for military capacities, rather than civilian ones, is exactly what we feared would occur.
Meanwhile, tension around political campaigns in Kenya continues to rise. A group of musicians was recently charged with hate speech, and controversy around the International Criminal Court proceedings remains a potential trigger, particularly as decisions are made regarding whether the two presidential hopefuls in question are allowed to run. Moreover, major gaps in preventing renewed violence, such as the need for a just police system, seem to grow wider. Given that reports found Kenyan security forces responsible for up to 40% of deaths in 2007-8 – and that allegations of extrajudicial killings and abuse persist – it's disappointing that the money mentioned above isn't instead being used to support Kenyans working on police and justice reform.
With Kenya’s next elections potentially occurring just eight months from now – and the end of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government rapidly approaching – it’s increasingly essential that the U.S. take steps to support local efforts toward peace and protection in East Africa, rather than perpetuate further violence. Instead of investing in the lethal equipment and training reflected in this month’s drone package, the U.S. should shift its emphasis toward partnership with those in Kenya focused on violence prevention, justice, and long-term stability, before it's too late.
(For more background information on drones and their implications for U.S. policy, see this new FCNL Q and A.)