Unsurprisingly, increased US military and financial support of the Kenyan government is correlated with increases in human rights abuses, according to Jonathan Horowitz at Foreign Policy, who says that the US “may rightly be criticized for aiding and abetting human rights violations,” like “detainee abuse, denial of fair trial guarantees, extrajudicial killings, or unlawful extraditions.”
Kenya has been one of the largest recipients of U.S. State Department Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) in the world (including $10 million going to the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit in 2003), and has received Special Operations trainings worth several million dollars and FBI assistance to terrorism investigations.
…Washington has funded in large part the development of Kenya’s anti-terrorism capabilities through partnered operations, intelligence sharing, counterterrorism training, military equipment, and surveillance technology. This “light footprint” approach, which dodges the politically unsavory decision of bringing in Western ground forces to the region, nonetheless means that the United States must double its efforts to ensure its security assistance is not contributing to, or legitimizing, human rights abuses.
Washington is essentially boosting the military and “anti-terrorism” capacities of the Kenyan government to keep Kenyan forces in the African Union fighting America’s proxy war in Somalia.
We’re seeing a similar story in neighboring Uganda. Just over a year ago, President Obama sent more than 100 combat troops to Uganda to help Ugandan security forces with domestic security, essentially as a bribe to keep Ugandan military forces the proxy war in Somalia. Since the troop deployment and the increases in aid and military assistance, the Ugandan regime has been “increasingly placing illegitimate restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly to silence critical voices,” Amnesty International reported late last year. A Congressional Research Service report later revealed the US State Department characterized “the Ugandan government’s domestic record on democracy, good governance, and human rights,” as “deteriorating.”
Funny how that works. Horowitz says the record shows that harsh tactics like the kind we’re supporting all over East Africa are not historically associated with successful attempts at eliminating militant threats, but they instead exacerbate the problems. So not only is US policy encouraging brutal state repression, but it is laying the groundwork for more militancy.