Washington and Nairobi have signed a defence agreement that will see Kenya receive resources and support for security deployments as it is poised to lead a multi-national peacekeeping mission to Haiti to combat gang violence.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Kenya's Defence Minister Aden Duale signed the accord at a meeting in the Kenyan capital on Monday, which is set to guide the countries' defence relations over the next five years as the war in East Africa against the al-Shabaab extremist group intensifies.
This comes as Austin thanked Kenya for volunteering to take the leadership of the Haiti multi-national force and reiterated that the US government would work with Congress to secure the $100 million in funding that it pledged on the side-lines of the UN General Assembly that wrapped-up in New York last week.
Austin said the rest of the world ought to follow Kenya's commitment to global security and “step up and provide more personnel, equipment, support, training and funding.”
Human rights concerns, language barriers
Kenya has pledged to send 1,000 security officers to Haiti to combat gang violence in a mission that is pending the UN Security Council's formal approval but has received support from the United Nations and United States.
Duale said his country is ready to deploy to Haiti and cited Kenya's “very long history of global peacekeeping” in Kosovo, neighbouring Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, human rights activists have expressed concerns over the deployment, citing a history of human rights abuses during security operations in the country.
Some security analysts have expressed concerns that there will be a language barrier between the deployment from Kenya, an English- and Swahili-speaking country, and the people of Haiti, where the official languages are French and Creole.
Security in Somalia
On the regional fight against the al-Shabaab islamist group, Austin said he had met with Somalia's president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and that both agreed that the country had made “significant progress in the last year against al-Shabab."
But Austin also warned that “progress is not always a straight line so we may see things improve significantly on one day ... and maybe we'll see challenges on the next day.”
Last week, Somalia asked the United Nations to pause the withdrawal of 3,000 troops by three months – in what is the second phase of military drawdown – to allow the country's forces to regroup.
Somalia is expected to take up its full security responsibilities by the end of 2024.