In recent weeks, we have learnt that the Kenyan government is in the process of buying military hardware worth US$418 million (Sh43.3 billion). The pièce de résistance is a consignment of 12 souped up crop dusters.

We first heard of the deal when it was reported as cleared. Next came a motion by a congressman from North Carolina asking the US Congress to stop the sale. His gripe is that the company that Kenya was buying the planes from does not manufacture them, while there was a firm in his state that manufactures the planes and can sell them to Kenya for something like half the price.

America's President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC on January 31, 2017. PHOTO | NICHOLAS KAMM | AFP

America's President Donald Trump. Washington has warned of possible chaos related to Kenya's repeat poll. PHOTO | NICHOLAS KAMM | AFP

He has also written to our ambassador in Washington advising him that the planes were overpriced to the tune of US$200 million (Sh20.7 billion). His latest salvo is a request for an investigation into the deal on the grounds that he has received “credible allegations of faulty contraction practices, fraud and unfair treatment surrounding the sale”.

Military procurement is known to be one of the most corrupt businesses on earth. This gives us a sense of the order of magnitude. The congressman alleges that each the plane is overpriced to the tune of US$16.7 million (Sh1.7 billion). An article in The Economist magazine puts the price tag of the plane at US$5 million (Sh517.6 million), meaning they are inflated fourfold.

How much of US funding is stolen? In this particular deal, it’s in the order of 75 per cent. But the most important insight is not how much is stolen but by who and from who. Let’s start with the latter question. This is not a grant. It’s a loan. The money is to be stolen from us, not from Americans. The reason why the congressman from North Carolina is fighting the deal is because he wants the jobs to go to his state. Who are the thieves? Well, we do not know how the loot is to be shared, but 50-50 seems to be a good working assumption.


@realDonaldTrump, you are damn right on this one. Please keep your money – you need it more than we do.

We have been fighting al-Shabaab for a decade, why haven’t we won?

Although the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is disputed, experts seem to converge on US$4 - 6 trillion (Sh414.4 - Sh621 trillion). The Congressional Budget Office puts the direct operational costs at US$1.6 trillion (Sh165.6 trillion). These are crazy figures.

At the start of the wars, Afghanistan and Iraq had a combined population of 45 million (65 million today). Working with the lower figure, the costs work out to US$90,000 (Sh9.3 million) per citizen. Even the direct cost still works out to US$36,000 (Sh3.7 million) per person. The higher figure is in the order of the per capita income of Qatar, the highest in the world, and 1.6 times that of the US. It is 150 times Afghanistan’s current per capita income and 18 times that of Iraq. The lower figure is in the order of the per capita income of Italy, 60 times that of Afghanistan, and seven times that of Iraq.


A 2014 US government report put the cost of rebuilding Afghanistan at US$100 billion (Sh10.4 trillion), a cost said to have been heavily inflated by corruption. It’s a crazy figure, corruption notwithstanding. For the equivalent of the cost of the Marshal Plan in real terms, has only managed to raise Afghani’s average incomes to US$600 (Sh62,110). How much would it have cost to “buy” every Afghan and Iraqi man, woman and child, including al-Qaeda and the Taliban instead, ten thousand dollars, twenty thousand?

Figures on the cost of war in Somalia are harder to come by.

The European Union is reportedly financing salaries of members of the the African Union Mission in Somalia only to the tune of US$200 million (Sh20.7 billion) a year. Al-Shabaab are said to have 10,000 fighters. Amisom’s wage bill alone works out to US$20,000 (Sh2.1 million) per al-Shabaab fighter, US$1,600 (Sh165,627) a month. I’ve read that most of local al-Shabaab fighters are from marginalised communities. They are victims of state failure not hard core terrorists. It is doubtful that they live on more than US$100 (Sh10,351) a month. I would hazard a guess that the annual budget of fighting al-Shabaab is sufficient to put every potential al-Shabaab recruit in the Somali security services at a decent wage and career prospects. I bet they would take it.


I’m no historian, but I cannot find a war where an invading military has defeated an insurgency. Vietnam. The mighty Soviet army left Afghanistan tail between legs after a 10-year bloody campaign that devastated Afghanistan and bankrupted the USSR. Two years later, the Soviet empire disintegrated. The Taliban remains undefeated, while in Iraq, the US won the war and lost the peace. It remains to be seen whether thr US empire will survive the forays.

And we are about to throw Sh42 billion we can ill afford into an un-winnable war. What if we were to wage peace instead. How much do schools and health facilities cost to build in Somalia? Let us say Sh5 million. How many schools, health facilities, boreholes, markets and micro-finance dukas and such would it take to win the peace, five hundred? A thousand? Well at Sh5 million, Sh42 billion would buy you 8,400 projects. I’ll wager you a herd of camels that’s enough ammunition to carpet bomb Somalia into total submission.

Aid and wars are massive entitlements programmed for the rich.

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