Why there is a hidden hand in report on the military

By: PETER KAGWANJA

The hidden hand of the market that the British economic thinker, Adam Smith, spoke of has never worked without the hard fist of military interests.

In the light of this, policy wonks see a hidden hand lurking in the shadows of a new report highly critical of the Kenyan military in Somalia and potentially dampening already frosty relations between Britain and Kenya.

The report, Black and White: Kenya’s Criminal Racket in Somalia (2015), accuses Kenya’s senior military officials of profiteering from trade in charcoal and sugar in Somalia. Even more cynical, it alleges that “the Kenyan security service is essentially in business with Al-Shabab.”

THE BRITISH CONNECTION

In the corridors of Jubilee power, allegations of a British connection in the report abound.

Here, the report is routinely referred to as the “Rawlence Report” after its author, Ben Rawlence, a British citizen trading as “human rights activist” and journalist.

To be sure, the idea of a “hidden hand” in the controversial report and related media spins is vivid from the official communications by the Kenyan military.

While asserting the professionalism of the Kenya Defence Forces and its impeccable record of participation in more than 44 peacekeeping operations since 1979, a recent statement dismisses the report as a malicious misrepresentation of facts with a hidden motive.

“The purpose of the allegations has been to create hostility for KDF troops in Somalia,” said Defence Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo.

“We believe that the stated reports are written in bad faith and intended to disparage the Kenya Defence Forces and Kenyans at large,” she adds.

WHITEHALL BLITZ

The hidden answer to the question why Whitehall might be waging a blitz against Kenya first appeared in Barbara Jone’s article, “We’ll Bar Your Troops if they don’t Pay For their Crimes in Our Jails’: Kenya’s Warning to Britain,” published in the Mail on Sunday on March 29, 2015.

Kenya has not been keen on renewing a military co-operation agreement with UK that harkens back to early 1960s.

The deal allows up to 10,000 British soldiers a year to train in harsh terrain in Northern Kenya.

Kenya wants Britain to allow its soldiers who assault, rape and murder Kenyan citizens to be tried by our courts.

It is concerned that such criminals are escaping justice because no British soldier has been prosecuted, despite allegations of serious crimes.

In March, Kenya gave ultimatum to Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond amid tense diplomatic relations.

“REGIME CHANGE”

Pundits state that the deal is unlikely to be signed perhaps until after the departure of the current British High Commissioner, Dr Christian Turner, accused of having championed a “regime change” ahead of the 2013 election.

Even worse is the continued funding of a robust media and NGO-based campaign against the government.

“The election is over, what change are you pushing for?” a senior government official asked Dr Turner last year.

In the light of this smouldering diplomatic row, Kenya views the launch of the report on November 15, 2015 as a fight back.

“EVIL SOCIETY”

Besides the visible role of British citizens in producing the report, critics point to the ubiquitous role of a circle of activists and NGOs largely funded by British agencies such as DFID — widely lampooned by pundits as “evil society”.

The report was commissioned by Journalist for Justice (JFJ), a project of the Kenya Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) that is largely funded by John Githongo, known to be close to the British establishment in Kenya.

Githongo was unsavoury in his media review of the report, sensationally claiming that “Kenya, which is facing the nastiest political threat we’ve ever faced, is in business with them (Al-Shabaab)”.

Another card-carrying member of the “evil society”, George Kegoro, the Executive Director of the ICJ-Kenya and a crusader for the KDF to withdraw from Somalia, was not only involved in producing but also spinning the report through hard-hitting media reviews (SN, 15/11/2015).

KENYA IRREDEEMABLY CORRUPT

A key plank of the media-driven campaign against the KDF is to win over the American policy-makers in Washington to the idea of Kenya and its military as irredeemably corrupt. This is at a time when America has warmed up to Kenya since the visit by President Barack Obama.

In this context, Conor Gaffey, another British citizen and UK-based reporter for the American weekly news magazine, Newsweek, published a frenzied review of the report targeting the Americans: “Kenyan Army Implicated in $400 Million Sugar Smuggling Ring in Somalia: Report” (November 12, 2015).

It will be recalled that last year, June 6, 2014 to be precise, witnessed another apparent attempt to sway opinion in Washington by a Briton on the Kenyan military.

In a brazen article, “Why Are Africa’s Militaries So Disappointingly Bad?,” published in the influential Foreign Policy Magazine, Michela Wrong, a British Journalist, aroused the ire of the military when she alleged corruption in the Kenyan forces in Somalia.

Allegations of KDF’s involvement in corruption are not new. What is astonishing is the utter disregard for truth and distortion of facts.

For instance, the report repeats factual errors and mistakes made last year by the UN Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group that “Al-Shabaab freely exports charcoal from KDF controlled Kismayu Port”.

Then as now, the UN had its facts wrong that KDF controls Kismayu. It doesn’t.

Even more worrying is the claim that KDF carried out airstrikes in Garbatulla inside Somalia! The fact is Garbatulla is near Isiolo in Kenya not a village in Somalia.

Despite these flaws, the report has provided fodder to the cannons in a fierce media war and reviews against the KDF in the local media (DN, 15/11/2015; East African, 14/11/15).

Researchers and policy wonks have a duty to investigate corruption. But truth and facts matter.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION