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US to back Kenya's security agencies in fighting terror

Monday May 13 2019

Monica Juma

Foreign Affairs CS Monica Juma. She has said that the US has promised to support for Kenya's security agencies to fight terror, crime and sea piracy. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

AGGREY MUTAMBO
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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The Trump Administration has committed US support for Kenya's security agencies to fight terror, crime and sea piracy.

The pledge is part of the framework for the Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, signed last week between Kenya and American officials.

SUPPORT

And though it continues support for the traditional areas the previous US administrations have targeted in the past, the Framework is also placing investments at the centre of future relations with Kenya.

And after a series of meetings between US officials and the Kenyan delegation led by Foreign Affairs CS Monica Juma, the two sides said security will continue to be central pillar.

"Both sides committed to counterterrorism, defence, and maritime surveillance security cooperation through intelligence sharing and capacity building,” a joint statement said.

“The two governments reaffirmed their commitment to degrade al-Shabaab and agreed to work with UN Security Council partners to sanction al-Shabaab and other terror groups operating in the Horn of Africa.”

SECURITY

The idea of security and defence cooperation was first enhanced by the Obama administration under the Security Governance Initiative in 2015.

Under this arrangement, the US government trains and equips security agencies to respond well to threats.

These include border patrols, intelligence gathering and other aspects.

The Trump Administration signed an updated Security Governance Country Action Plan which will focus on civilian security and anti-corruption efforts in the security agencies.

But Washington is also cementing investment relations, as opposed to aid and wants to use security cooperation as a pillar.

PARTNERSHIP

After a meeting with Foreign Affairs CS Dr Juma, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said they had talked ways of further deepening the “already strong” partnership in trade, counterterrorism and regional stability.”

After a series of meetings over four days, Kenyan officials say the US agreed to strengthen traditional areas of cooperation, and focus on new areas.

The two sides will continue discussions on a possible agreement on investments and are finalising a deal on how Kenya can export more cargo under the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (Agoa).

“They committed to continue discussions on proposed US private sector infrastructure development in Kenya, including modernising the Kenyan government’s telecommunications network," a joint statement said.

Dr Juma, accompanied by Interior counterpart Fred Matiang'i, said the cooperation will form an implementation of the framework on the Bilateral Strati Dialogue.

COLLABORATION

"Both sides lauded the excellent MoD (defence cooperation) relations between our two countries and reaffirmed commitment to continue strengthening this relationship," Dr Juma said after meeting Defence Undersecretary for Policy, David Trachtenberg.

Discussions in these sessions focused on closer collaboration in counterterrorism in the Horn of Africa and expanding economic ties, a dispatch from the Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

Dr Juma argued any effort to improve trade between the two sides must first address the “threat of international jihadism” from Somali militants al-Shabaab and other groups.

“This threat is the greatest risk to our strategic aspirations because even if we think big, even if we create the right environment for investments and trade, unless we are able to tether the threat that comes with extremism, then we are at a risk,” she said.

FOUR PILLARS

The BSD Framework is a document that details how the US will support Kenya through four pillars.

The pillars include trade and investment ties, enhance security and defence cooperation, promote good governance and multilateral cooperation between Kenya and the US through international bodies such as the UN.

The pillars will be implemented through the US agencies such as USAID, and the US Trade Development Agency, while the defence cooperation will be undertaken through the US Africa Command.

AGOA ACT

Kenya already enjoys significant trade volumes, standing at an average of Sh100 billion, with more than Sh40 billion worth of exports to the US under the Agoa Act in 2017.

But the Act will expire in 2025, meaning African countries including Kenya have to negotiate an alternative deal before then.

The Kenyan officials also met Mr John Sullivan, Deputy Secretary of State, Mr David Trachtenberg, Deputy Undersecretary for Policy, Department of Defence, Tibor Nagy, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Department of Commerce team.