KDF troops in DR Congo to cost taxpayer Sh4.5bn in six months

KDF soldiers attend a flag presentation ceremony before their deployment to the DRC

Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers attend a flag presentation ceremony by President William Ruto before their deployment to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as part of the East Africa Community Regional Force (EARDC) at the Embakasi Garrison in Nairobi on November 2, 2022.

Photo credit: Tony Karumba | AFP

Kenya will spend Sh4.45 billion to keep its troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the next six months, Parliament heard Wednesday.

The National Assembly yesterday approved the request by the Executive to send the soldiers to the East African Community Regional Force- Democratic Republic of Congo (EACRF-DRC) even as MPs raised questions on account of economic and security challenges the country is facing.

The amount is Sh601.87 million above the Sh3.849 billion contained in the memorandum to the National Security Council (NSC) on the matter.

However, if the Kenyan troops stay for one year, the cost implication will be approximately Sh7.2 billion.

Ruto prays for KDF troops heading to DRC

In case the troops stay on, the annual cost implication will be approximately Sh5.5 billion to Sh6 billion.

It is, however, envisaged that international financing may be secured for the operation and if this materializes, the Cabinet Secretary will apprise the Committee accordingly.

The Sh4.5 billion is over and above the Sh131.68 billion allocated to the Ministry of Defence in the 2022/23 financial year with Sh128.22 billion for recurrent expenditure and Sh3.47 billion for development expenditure.

The expenditures for KDF in DRC will mainly go towards equipment, operations and payment of sustenance allowances.

Yesterday, Belgut MP Nelson Koech, who chairs the Defence, Intelligence and Foreign Relations of the National Assembly that considered and approved the executive request said Defense Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale had explained discrepancy.

Mr Koech told the House as he moved for the adoption of the committee’s report that CS Duale had explained that the discrepancy emanated from changes effected on the budget after a reconnaissance visit to the area in question that necessitated a change of strategy. 

“Our troops are there to enforce peace, not peace keeping. We want peace and stability in the East African region. We want to ensure that our people doing business in DRC are safe,” said Mr Koech as he rallied the House to approve the report.

It was a decision of the EA member states to send their troops to enforce peace in the DRC that has never known peace since 1996 when the fighting started.

Kenya joins two other EAC member states- Burundi and South Sudan that have already deployed their military forces to DRC.

The other EAC countries, Uganda will send its troops later this month with Tanzania to join the force later. Rwanda has its forces within its territory.

The House made the decision in line with the East Africa Community (EAC) Legal framework on Peace and Security, Article 240 of the Constitution of Kenya and the Kenya Defense Forces Act.

However, Nyando MP Jared Okello was the lone voice in the House that opposed the deployment saying that Kenya already has enough problems to deal with. 

“Currently the country has challenges to do with the prolonged drought situation affecting the country as well as the local security issues. This money was better spent to deal with these challenges and many others,” said Mr Okello.

But Mr Koech told the House that the deployment of the KDF to the Regional Force “is aligned strategically to Kenya’s national interests.”

“It will enhance the country’s ability to not only respond to threats emanating from the Great Lakes Conflict System but also help to mitigate threats to Kenya’s stability and thereby enhance the security of its citizens,” the committee chairman said.

He also noted that Kenya will also be in a position to secure its vital interests including Kenyan businesses like Banks operating in the DRC, numerous Kenyan business people in the DRC, bilateral trade with the DRC and utilization of the Mombasa port by the DRC among others.

The EACRF-DRC has a peace enforcement mandate unlike the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) which had only a peacekeeping mandate.

Peacekeeping forces are lightly armed and use minimum force and only in exceptional cases while peace enforcement deploys military assets to enforce peace against the will of the parties to a conflict. 

The approval of the report came even as members complained that the budget was too high for a country that had in the recent past embraced austerity measures due to limited fiscal space as well as the biting prolonged drought.

The MPs also noted that there was no clear exit strategy, which they likened to the incursion of KDF in Somalia in 2010 to date.

The NSC ratified the memorandum on the establishment of the EACRF-DRC on July 7, 2022 and made a request to the National Assembly for the approval of the deployment.

The mandate of the EACRF is to jointly plan and conduct operations with the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) in the Joint Area of Operation (JOA), to defeat the local and foreign armed groups in Eastern DRC and to support FARDC in “concretizing” maintenance of law and order.

The mandate will enable the RF to support the DRC in collaborating with humanitarian agencies to continue humanitarian relief to populations affected by activities of armed groups including IDPs, and support the Programme for Disarmament, Community Re-Integration, and Stabilization (P-DDRCS).

It is a concern that the numerous proxy wars being wedged in Eastern DRC likely to jeopardize the safety and effectiveness of the KDF officers.

This is compounded by the fact that KDF will be deployed alongside forces from Rwanda and Uganda, countries with known vested interests in Eastern DRC.

The Koech-led committee was, however, told that the EAC had engaged in diplomatic efforts to forestall any possibility of proxy wars.

“The Kenyan Contingent (KENCON) had a lot of goodwill from residents of Eastern DRC due to the fact that Kenya doesn’t share a border with the DRC and therefore had no direct vested interests in the Great Lakes Conflict Ecosystem,” the adopted report of the committee says.

If left on its own, the situation in the DRC threatens regional peace, security, and stability of the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa, and the larger Eastern African region.

The committee was told that the incessant instability in Eastern DRC is likely to spill over to the Horn of Africa conflict system, including having the effect of emboldening terror groups such as Al Shabaab and thereby undermining the counterterrorism agenda.

By deploying KDF, Kenya is expected to provide leadership and “tangibly” contribute to the maintenance of regional and international peace and security being a current non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

Already Burundi has two battalions and one naval squadron deployed in DRC, Rwanda has two battalions with combat support within Rwanda borders, South Sudan has one battalion with support elements already deployed one battalion.

Uganda has two battalions with combat support to be deployed on November 15, 2022 in addition to the brigade already deployed. Tanzania has promised to join the operation later.