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Kenya picked by USA and EU to Combat Houthi Rebels and pirates in Yemen

by Chief Okuzo

Has Kenya become the new errand boy for the West? Just two days after President Ruto returned from a state visit to the USA, where one of the key topics was Kenya’s participation in combating gangs in Haiti, new reports suggest Kenya has been drawn into another international conflict. The EU and the USA have selected Kenya to help combat the Houthi rebels in Yemen. These rebels have been terrorizing people along the Indian Ocean, along with Somali-based pirates. According to the EU Naval forces, Kenya’s involvement is crucial in combating these maritime threats that jeopardize trade ties between many countries.

But does Kenya have the military strength to engage in this fight? During President Ruto’s recent visit to the USA, significant investments were made in Kenya’s security:

– 16 US helicopters (8 Hueys, 8 MD 500s) to be delivered between 2024 and mid-2025
– Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) to study at the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the U.S. Air Force Academy
– Expansion of the Manila Bay airfield with a 10,000 ft runway
– Procurement of 150 armored security vehicles, arriving in Kenya in September 2024
– Designation of Kenya as a Major Non-NATO Ally

Additionally, Kenya received substantial funding for security reforms:

– Ksh 900M to modernize and professionalize the Kenya National Police Service
– Ksh 290M to improve conditions within Kenya’s prison service
– Ksh 198M to support Kenya’s electoral legal framework reform process

These significant investments have led many to speculate that Kenya’s recent commitments to international conflicts might be part of the deal. Just days after President Ruto’s return, Kenya was chosen by the EU and USA to help combat the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The Houthi rebels are Iran-backed and have been active since the 1990s. They started as an Islamic military organization opposing Yemen’s then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whom they accused of corruption and receiving support from Saudi Arabia and the USA. Influenced by Hezbollah, the Houthis adopted an anti-U.S., anti-Israel, and anti-Jewish stance in 2003. Their insurgency began after the Yemeni military killed their leader in 2004, with his brother Abdul-Malik al-Houthi taking over. The Houthis have launched attacks on Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel, significantly impacting regional stability and trade.

Since December last year, the Houthis have become more sophisticated and dangerous, seizing control of northern Yemen and launching over 30 attacks on ships in the Red Sea, leading to increased prices of agricultural products and basic commodities. They claim these attacks are retaliation for Israel’s actions in Gaza. Following these incidents, the West has categorized the Houthis as terrorists.

The Red Sea shipping route is vital for Eastern African countries, shortening importation times from Europe. However, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Tanzania have remained neutral, with only Kenya showing interest in addressing the Houthi threat, viewing it as insurance against local piracy.

The US sees Kenya as a key ally in East Africa, with President Joe Biden recently designating Kenya as a major non-NATO Ally. Nairobi has hosted senior US intelligence and defense officials, including CIA Director William Burns and Africa Command (Africom) General Michael Langley, resulting in pledges of security and intelligence cooperation. Kenya also had its largest military pass-out parade this year, indicating the country’s preparation for potential conflicts.

The situation raises questions about Kenya’s readiness and the implications of its increasing involvement in international conflicts.

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