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Kenya - Military Spending

Kenya spent $694,000,000 on their military in 2012 which amounted to 1.9% of the country's GDP that year. Kenya's budget is increasing with the growing economy, and given the economic importance of an expanded de facto coastline. Kenyas military expenditures for 2005 totaled US$280.5 million, which represented 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by one estimate, an increase from 1999, when expenditures constituted 1.9 percent of GDP.

While Kenya spent US$166 million on military hardware in 2000, Uganda spent $141 million, Tanzania $135 million and Ethiopia $618 million. In 2012, the arms race in the region seems to have gathered momentum. Kenya's military expenditure was pegged at $840 million, compared to Uganda's $492 million, Tanzania's $331 million and Ethiopia's $367 million. SIPRI shows that, in 2013, Kenya's military expenditure dwarfed that of the other regional countries, at $861 million. Uganda spent $465 million, Tanzania $380 million and Ethiopia $375 million.

It is very rare in Africa for the legislative branch or civil society to question military leaders or become involved in opaque procurement processes. Typically, parliaments do not oversee military spending because, in most African countries, there is a belief that such inquiry would harm national security. For example, while Kenya ranks seventh among African countries in terms of defense budget expenditures,44 only in 2012 did it enact a law requiring the military to submit its financial reports to the parliament and president and to subject its accounts to audit.

The government's Development Plan 1979-83, like earlier plans, emphasized the economic contribution of the military through "projects ranging from the construction of roads and bridges to disaster relief operations, desert locust control, crop harvesting, and transportation in inaccessible areas." First adopted after the conclusion of the shifta campaign in the 1960s, military construction and civic projects came to play a major role in the armed forces' mission, particularly for the two engineer battalions.

Most military construction projects, rather than directly contributing to the civilian economy, were designed to improve military facilities, i.e., through the building of roads and barracks on bases, and so cut the economic costs of the military establishment. Hydrographic surveys by the navy and aerial photography by the air force were of assistance in national development schemes, fisheries, and agriculture. The armed forces by the late 1970s were also thought of as a training ground for the development of skilled manpower that could be used in other sectors.

The Kenyan government always maintained tight control over military spending. After the 1978 reorganization of the high command, all budget decisions were jointly made by the government auditor and Permanent Secretary Githinji; the regular military was only marginally involved in an advisory capacity. Budgetary expenditures for defense were well under 1 percent of total recurrent and development expenditures in the early 1960s. In 1963-64 the amount increased to 1.7 percent, and expenditures under the first independent government budget (1964-65) rose to 4.3 percent.

However, British grant aid in weapons, equipment, and training had permitted the Kenyan government to establish its armed forces without a major impact on its financial resources, and through the rest of the decade defense costs remained relatively constant at under 5 percent of total expenditures. In the early 1970s outlays rose gradually, reaching 6.4 percent in 1973-74. In 1973, however, spending on education and health continued at over four times the level of defense expenditures. In the late 1960s and at the beginning of the 1970s expenditures for the paramilitary and conventional police the "law and order" component of the budget were roughly double those for the armed forces.

Defense costs mushroomed in the late 1970s when Kenya decided to expand and reequip its armed forces in view of the growing political tensions in East Africa. From a level of KSh429 million in fiscal year (FY) 1975/76, defense spending increased to KSh794 million the following year and to KSh817 million by FY 1979/80. Part of the increase was attributable to inflation, but during this period defense as a percentage of total central government outlays increased from 6.7 percent to 16.4 percent. Likewise, its share of the gross national product (GNP) was estimated by the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency to have grown from 1.5 percent in 1976 to 4.8 percent by 1979.

Part of the reason the budget grew so quickly during the late 1970s was that the military equipment purchases and payments were made over a relatively short time. Thus, after payments for equipment were made, the defense budget in the early 1980s receded somewhat. There were indications after the 1982 coup attempt that the budget would increase in future years in order to cover increased personnel wages and salaries, training, and a new barrracks building program.

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