Kenya's National Elections: Counterterrorism and Military Might or Peaceful Prevention?
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With Kenya’s national elections tentatively set for March of 2013, the upcoming months will prove critical in determining whether the country returns to violence or can sustain a path toward long-term peace. While initiatives are and must be led by those in Kenya working toward justice and reconciliation, the U.S. can take concrete steps to ensure its policies complement—rather than undermine—Kenyan efforts to peacefully prevent deadly conflict.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s FY2013 budget request reveals an increasing emphasis on counterterrorism and military aid that could exacerbate current tensions, hinder stability in the years to come and undermine violence prevention and other civilian programs. Congress also increasingly favors military engagement with the region over peacebuilding. While a full accounting of all U.S. security assistance to Kenya is difficult to find, the overall trends indicate a growing militarization of U.S. aid to East Africa and unclear priorities for U.S. dollars to Kenya in this critical year.
As the Kenyan polls approach, the U.S. government must shift its emphasis away from militarized engagement and toward violence prevention and peacebuilding initiatives. Investments aimed at helping to support internal stability and address root causes of conflict are essential to both Kenyan national and regional security—and are the best means of preventing violence, deterring extremism and building peace in the long-term.