US to Fund Kenyans' Military Training Despite Ban

By Kevin J. Kelley, The East African (Nairobi), 12 October 2005

Washington, DC—Kenya has been chosen to participate in a United States-co-sponsored paramilitary training programme despite Washington's announced intention to withhold most forms of military assistance to Nairobi.

The US-backed training initiative raises new questions about the Bush administration's plans to punish Kenya for not agreeing to shield Americans from prosecution by the International Criminal Court. Under US laws, military aid and economic support funds are to be withheld from governments that refuse to sign these bilateral immunity deals, also known as Article 98 agreements.

US embassy officials in Nairobi said a few months ago that Kenya would be subject to the laws' penalties, which reflect US opposition to the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal. In September, however, the top State Department official for African affairs said in response to a reporter's question, that Kenya does not stand to lose economic support funds.

“I can tell you as a matter of fact that there's been no development assistance to Kenya cut because of Article 98,” said Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer. She did however acknowledge that Kenya faces cuts in US aid for weapons procurement and military training.

Bush administration budget documents show that $7.8 million in such assistance to Kenya could be eliminated in accordance with the law designed to penalise countries that do not sign Article 98 agreements.

A separate US law known as the Nethercutt Amendment expands the penalties by threatening these same countries with the additional loss of economic support funds. In Kenya's case, this could amount to some $8 million's-worth of aid for anti-corruption, anti-terrorism and regional peacemaking efforts in 2006. The State Department has not responded to requests for clarification of the apparent discrepancies between Frazer's statements and the provisions of the Nethercutt Amendment.

As part of the training programme announced last week, seven Kenyans have been invited to enrol next month in “commander-level courses” to be taught at the Centre of Excellence for Stability Police Units, located in Vicenza, Italy. Other participating countries are Senegal, Cameroon, India, Jordan, Kazakhstan and Morocco.

The US has pledged to contribute to this centre, which is part of a multilateral programme intended to bolster peace support operations, especially in Africa. Stability Police Units are trained in both military and policing skills, but are less heavily armed than soldiers. Their mission is to “stop civil violence, such as vigilante lynchings or other violent public crimes” and to “stop and deter widespread or organised looting, vandalism, riots or other mob-type action,” according to a report prepared by the Clinton administration in 2000.

The Kenyans to be trained in Italy will be expected to carry out similar training back home to prepare a sizeable force that will intervene in conflicts in Africa.