Friday, June 22, 2007

The Case AGAINST Military Draft in Kenya

This post was written for Kenya Imagine, the nation’s first interactive newspaper. It is a response to one writer’s call for a “national conscription program.”


Dave Nyambati’s call for a military draft in Kenya is both socially unacceptable and economically unsustainable. Such a policy will breed a generation that believes serikali ndiye baba na mama yao, i.e., they are entitled to state-provided food, clothing, jobs, college degrees, and even happy marriages. On the other hand, politicians and bureaucrats will start seeing the youth as nothing but government property, which has no say whatsoever. Any attempt to rise will be met with threats of employment and forced arrest. The vibrant youth will then respond with what they know best: violence. What began like a well intentioned move will become a monster that will haunt our society for generations to come. Is that what we want?

Financing the program will not be cheap. The taxpayer that Dave’s policy is seeking to help will start paying more taxes, which will finance the expanded military’s hardware, food, medical bills, pension, paid leaves, and all other goodies that come with a government career.

I have come to a conclusion that our security sector does not need more personnel or funds to perform its duty. What we need is total transparency on how taxpayers billions are being utilized. This follows a short study on military spending in East Africa. See the following piece that I published during the Anglo Leasing hearings (Daily Nation March 1, 2006):

Kenya's military budget baffling
. . . Kenya is the biggest military spender in East Africa? Our military allocations have consistently dwarfed those of our sister states, Uganda and Tanzania. Moreover, we have been spending more per military personnel than Ethiopia did during its war with Eritrea, Sudan with SPLA, and Uganda with the LRA.

Interestingly, Kenya's army of 24,000 personnel was, as of 1999, the smallest force in Eastern Africa. This is according to the World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers, a 2003 study by the United States Department of State. Ethiopia's army of 300,000 soldiers was the largest, followed by Sudan's 105,000. Uganda and Tanzania had 50,000 and 35,000 military personnel respectively.

One would expect our army to have the smallest budget. But NOPE!! In 1999 alone, Kenya spent $8,000 (KSh560, 000) for every soldier, excluding salaries. This was more than four times Ethiopian allocation (KSh120, 000), almost three times that of Uganda (KSh200, 000), two and a half times that of Tanzania (KSh244, 000), and double that of Sudan (KSh280, 000).

That comparison affirms that Kenya has surely been spending as if she was at war. But the peace she has experienced over the years makes one wonder how her Department of Defense (DoD) ended up spending Sh150 billion between 1989 and 1999 . . .

(Click here for the entire article)

Now calculate the cost of enlisting 300, 000 high school graduates into the military year after year. Is that affordable? Some of countries that Dave mentions are lucky because Uncle Sam finances their military budgets: it’s not a secret that Egypt receives US$ 1.3 billion (80% of its annual defense budget) from the US. Israel receives about US$ 3 billion from the US alone.

*Check out Kenya Imagine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The math may show we're spending more on the military, but how much of that money is REALLY going towards true military expenditures.

That's the question