Success, Part Two: No Funding for Abuses
By Cassidy Regan on 06/06/2012 @ 03:00 PM
In addition to fully funding war prevention, the Senate Appropriations Committee has called for accountability on human rights abuses in Kenya with its recent State-Foreign Operations bill. Though Kenya has taken some significant steps toward reform since 2007, violations committed by military and police forces remain a major concern – and the U.S. government has, in many cases, continued to fund them via hundreds of millions in security assistance each year.
A few weeks ago, FCNL sent a letter to Senate appropriators urging them to ensure vigilant oversight of all security assistance to Kenya and East Africa and to halt aid to units that may be responsible for past or ongoing human rights abuses. A number of FCNL’s supporters have also written to their representatives, encouraging greater transparency and oversight over U.S. assistance to Kenya.
This time around, the Senate seems to have heard the concerns raised by FCNL and other organizations around Washington. The FY 2013 bill has called for a broader investigation of abuses than in years past, including recent and egregious incidents highlighted in this report from Human Rights Watch. Here’s the excerpt from the Senate bill:
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.”
Though FCNL will continue to advocate for oversight that’s even more comprehensive – including incidents beyond those explicitly mentioned here – this awareness is an important step forward. It turns out that it hasn’t gone unnoticed, either, as one Kenyan journalist has already reported on the issue. While this action unfortunately will not mean an end to all lethal and military assistance to Kenya – instead calling for a halt to aid to specific abusive units – it does indicate greater concern around the consequences of U.S. security assistance (something that often goes without thought for human rights violations, let alone impact on long-term stability).
Considering the growing focus on this kind of funding, now is a particularly important time to highlight these issues. Just yesterday, an article appeared on the front page of the New York Times about a request from the military’s Special Operations Command for additional authority to “train and equip security forces in places like Yemen and Kenya.” While this specific request was denied by “House and Senate officials as well as the State Department” – an important step, perhaps, for civilian leadership – the article also notes the many other sources of funding available for similar operations (including, for example, the Global Security Contingency Fund, an account FCNL has advocated against).
In light of this atmosphere, it’s increasingly important to encourage steps toward accountability like that seen in the Senate’s bill. Otherwise, focus may continue to drift to the short-term "strategic" security assistance that may have long-term and negative consequences for civilian safety, human rights, peace and stability – an impact that isn’t strategic by any means.