Russia’s Putin pledges to support KDF operations in Somalia

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SOCHI, Russia – Moscow has pledged to renew her collaboration with Nairobi through increased trade in military equipment, an agreement has been reached.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday regretted that trade with Kenya has diminished for ages, vowing to revive the ties henceforth.

Speaking at the sidelines of the Sochi conference, Putin pledged to empower Kenya Defense Forces through hardware supplies, a move that aims at strengthening the troops.

“We currently export to Africa $25 billion worth of food — which is more than we export in arms, at $15 billion. In the next four to five years, I think we should be able to double this trade, at least,” he said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta lauded Russia’s historical ties with Africa, adding that Kenya will seize existing bilateral agreements with Moscow to expand her business.

“Africa’s aspiration for freedom and liberty is enriched by the relationship with Russia. African heroes including Kenya’s founding father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta–drew from the vision of the Soviet Union,” Uhuru said.

Supplying military equipment to Kenya will be a huge boost given that the country is currently involved in active war with Somali-based Al-Shabaab terrorists.

Despite Kenya allocating Sh121 billion to the Ministry of Defense, most of it goes to recurrent expenditure this making it difficult for the military to acquire modern weapons that can rival those used by terrorists.

For decades, Kenya has depended on her traditional allies US and Britain for training and purchase of military equipment. Russian technology is one of the most sophisticated in security surveillance.

A soldier working at the North-Eastern part of Kenya said: “We have struggled with the modernisation of our weapons. The deal should be finalized. It’s sad that at times we fight enemies who have superior weapons.”

Since joining the war against Al-Shabaab in 2011, KDF has lost over 400 soldiers. The most deadly attack came in 2016 when 200 troops were killed at El Adde in the Gedo region.

Besides upgrading the weaponry, former State House spokesperson Manoah Esipisu told a gathering in London on Thursday that Kenya needs to block informal channels for Al-Shabaab funding.

He said: “Rather than focus so exclusively on countering terrorism financing measures in the formal banking and money transfer systems, we will need to fully deal with cash-based financing in areas that terrorists operate.”

Nairobi is currently pushing to have the militants blacklisted by UNSC, a move which has been vehemently opposed by the US and Somalia. Russian support could prove a game-changer given that KDF could stay longer in Somalia.

But even with the pledge to equip the troops, records at Kenya Treasury recently revealed that the operations in Somalia are in paralysis due to delayed funding by the European Union.

During the signing of bilateral agreements between President Uhuru and Putin, the two nations said that the trade deals will be implemented immediately.

Currently, Kenya has over 4,000 troops serving in the AMISOM. Each soldier takes home close to Sh80,000 after the dedication of Sh20,000 by the state for other operational maintenance.

XAYEYSIIN

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