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Kenya Army

The Kenya Army is the senior service of the Kenya Defence Forces. It is the most prevalent in the country and has the most number of personnel and equipment. Kenya Army Headquarters is located in the Ministry of State for Defence complex in Nairobis Hurlingham area. It shares the same complex as the general headquarters of the military itself. Headquarters Kenya Army (HQ KA) comprises of the Commander, Deputy Commander and three principal branches: Operations, Plans, Training and Doctrine Branch; Personnel Branch; and Directorate of Logistics.

The key function of HQ KA is to exercise overall command, control, direction and general superintendence of the Kenya Army. The Headquarters is also charged with the responsibility of Army Policy formulation and coordination.

The Kenyan Army has seen considerable growth in capacity and capability in the first ten years of the 21st Century. The United States has had successful military-to-military relationships with the Kenyan Army through training and equipping, which led to the defeat of the Somalia-based Al Shabaab terrorist group during Operation Linda Nchi.

The Kenyan Army is viewed by most African nations, as well as the United States, to be politically neutral; and unlike some neighboring African countries, at least in recent years the Kenyan Army has not attempted a coup of the Kenyan Government. That being said, the Kenyan Armys capabilities are still relatively limited.

The Kenya Army, largest of the three services, accounted for about 85 percent of military personnel before the air force was dissolved in 1982. Between the mid-1970s and 1982, the army doubled in size from 6,500 to 13,000 and was completely refitted with modern equipment.

After the coup attempt the army acquired from the KAF 10 Aerospatiale Puma helicopters, much larger craft than the Defenders, with accommodations for 15 to 17 passengers. It was not known whether these would serve with the air cavalry battalion or whether they would be used for other purposes. The air force's battalion-size Ground Air Defence Unit (GADU), most of whose personnel were involved in the attempted coup, was also placed under army command and renamed the 75th Battalion.

Concurrent with its arms acquisitions the army embarked on a large effort to train technicians to operate and maintain its equipment. The operational readiness rate was not known, but even before the coup attempt army equipment was rarely near a complete state of readiness. According to one report, the new tanks, tank transport vehicles, and army radar equipment were especially poorly maintained. The coup exacerbated problems because large numbers of army technicians and mechanics were transferred to the air force in order to make up for manpower shortages in that service. Despite these difficulties and the fact that it had not been tested in combat since the relatively minor shifta actions nearly two decades previously, the Kenya Army was regarded by outside observers as a well-trained force capable of defending the country against low-intensity external threats.

From 1976 to 1992, the United States had provided Kenya almost $281 million in military aid, including $47.3 million from 1987 through 1992. More than $17 million of military assistance was frozen as of 1993 due to concern over the Kenyan governments lack of commitment to democracy and human rights.

The military has two roles: the primary role is to defend Kenyas borders and the secondary role is assisting with internal security. For example, the army helicopter battalion MD-500 helicopters have been used to deter cattle rustlers, chase poachers, help in search and rescue missions, and monitor armed bandits that cross the Kenyan border. However, the helicopters are used for training 90 percent of the time and have never been used against civilians.

The MD-500 helicopters perform joint exercises with the Kenyan General Services Unit but do not practice with the Kenyan army. The helicopters had no integrated role with the Kenyan army. The General Services Unit, the paramilitary arm of the Kenyan police department, has traditionally focused on control of civil unrest, border disputes, and cattle rustling. However, as the General Services Unit became increasingly engaged in riot control activities, its reputation for even-handedness suffered.

Civilians in Kenyas western Mt. Elgon district near the border with Uganda have been twice-victimized in a little known conflict between Kenyan security forces and a militia group known as the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF), forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes. The governments security response, initially lacklustre, was massively stepped up in early 2008 after Kenyas disputed elections by the introduction of the Kenyan armed forces. In a joint army-police Operation Okoa Maisha (Save Lives in Swahili), the security forces conducted mass round-ups of thousands of men and boys, tortured hundreds if not thousands in detention, and unlawfully killed dozens of others.

Allegations that the Kenyan Defence Forces engaged in massive looting of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi following the shocking terrorist attack by al Shabaab that left more than 60 dead in 2013 provide further cause for reflection about the state of military professionalism in Africa.

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