Kenya and Tanzania sharply cut their purchase of military weapons last year even as Uganda made a comeback to emerge the top spender on arms in East Africa.
Kenya slashed its spending by half to Sh1.3 billion from Sh2.8 billion a year earlier while Tanzania didn’t make any purchase, according to a report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).
The report indicates that Uganda ended its lull with its last year’s arms stockpile worth Sh1.8 billion, a departure from 2016 when it made no purchases.
Nairobi’s arms orders last year included a second-hand naval gun, AK-630 30mm, from Montenegro “for modernisation of Jasiri OPV (offshore patrol vessel)”.
The Kenya Defence Forces last July also received the last two of the eight Bell Huey II helicopters it ordered from the United States to reinforce its air assault capability against terrorists.
The helicopters, six of which were delivered in December 2016, are mostly used for deployment of troops to battlefields and were donated by the US.
“The second-hand UH-1H were rebuilt to UH-1H-2 before delivery,” said Sipri.
Jordan, a long-time seller of arms to Nairobi, last year also donated two second hand AH-1F Cobra attack helicopters to Kenya.
Tanzania’s non-action comes amid an austerity push by President John Pombe Magufuli who has cut back on expenditure deemed non-essential.
Kenya, East Africa’s largest economy, has in recent years suffered deadly gun and bomb attacks from Somalia-based al-Shabaab militants demanding withdrawal of KDF troops from the Horn of Africa nation.
The country does not make public its military purchases, and only Parliament is mandated to scrutinise expenditure by security organs.
“In the 2013–17 period, Kenya acquired 13 transport helicopters, two second-hand combat helicopters, 65 light armoured vehicles and a small number of self-propelled howitzers,” the report said.