Kenya and the United States have formalized a defense agreement aimed at providing resources and support for security deployments. This partnership comes as Kenya prepares to lead a multinational peacekeeping mission to combat gang violence in Haiti.
The signing of the accord took place during a meeting between Kenya’s Defense Minister Aden Duale and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Nairobi.
This agreement outlines the defense relations between the two countries for the next five years, coinciding with increased efforts to combat the al-Qaeda linked al-Shabab extremist group in East Africa.
Secretary Austin expressed gratitude to Kenya for taking the lead in the multinational force destined for Haiti. He reiterated the U.S. government’s commitment to securing the $100 million in funding, which was pledged during the U.N. General Assembly.
Austin also urged other nations to follow Kenya’s example in contributing to global security by providing personnel, equipment, support, training, and funding.
Kenya had previously pledged in August to send 1,000 security officers to Haiti for the mission to combat gang violence, pending formal approval by the U.N. Security Council. The mission has garnered support from both the U.N. and the U.S.
Defense Minister Duale highlighted Kenya’s extensive history of global peacekeeping, including missions in Kosovo, neighboring Somalia, and Congo, emphasizing their readiness to deploy to Haiti.
While this mission has received support, human rights activists have expressed concerns about potential human rights abuses during security operations.
Additionally, security analysts have raised concerns about a potential language barrier, as Kenya primarily speaks English and Swahili, while Haiti’s official languages are French and Creole.
Regarding the fight against al-Shabab in the region, Secretary Austin noted his discussions with Somalia’s president and acknowledged the country’s progress in the past year. However, he also recognized that progress can be uneven, with improvements on some days and challenges on others.
Somalia recently requested a three-month pause in the U.N.’s withdrawal of 3,000 troops during the second phase of drawdown, allowing the country’s forces time to regroup. Somalia aims to assume full security responsibilities by the end of 2024.