President Uhuru Kenyatta and his DRC counterpart Felix Tshisekedi have signed a deal on defence cooperation to promote peace, security and stability.
The bilateral agreement provides a framework to enhance policing, counter terrorism, maritime and aviation security, immigration, and customs matters.
The focus would be on counter-terrorism, small arms and light weapons, immigration, custom and border control and police cooperation.
Although Kenyan officials said President Kenyatta’s visit was in line with granting various trading privileges to DRC, to boost trade at the port of Mombasa, some quarters believe this was aimed at seeking a market for locally made weapons after Kenya recently launched a Sh4 billion small arms factory.
This comes amid reports that Kenya has added more peacekeeping troops in the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in DR Congo (Monusco).
Kenya sent 200 troops for peacekeeping last week, with representation from all departments of the army. Kenya is a well-known troops contributor since 1979 with more than 55,000 troops having served in various peace-keeping missions.
Nairobi helped strike a peace deal between the M23 rebel groups and the DRC government in 2013. However, some remnants of the group have since splintered to continue fighting.
This has seen security in the eastern DRC deteriorate with the recent case being the killing of Italy Ambassador Luca Attanasio, his bodyguard and a World Food Programme driver.
For years, trade between Kenya and DRC has been insignificant because of insecurity in the central African country.
During the launch of the small arms factory, President Kenyatta said it is part of a broad multi-agency national security industries strategy. He noted that the factory has a single-shift annual production capacity of 12,000 assault rifles.
The President explained that Kenya seeks to enhance self-reliance in security through local production of equipment and technologies.
Through the factory, he said Kenya plans to create a weapons manufacturing surplus that will transform the country into an exporter of security equipment.
“This will not only boost our balance of trade position, but it will also create employment for thousands of Kenyans,” he said.
Security consultant and former KDF officer Byron Adera told The Standard what DRC is facing can befall any country and thus the need to seek cooperation.
“Kenya has always lent a leaning shoulder to DRC and the current President has good relations with our President so such deals should be expected,” he said.
Adera said despite the cooperation, there has been a clear line of engagement that has yielded fruit in terms of military support.
“Kenya is among highly ranked African countries in terms of military power and capacity to fight. If the two leaders think they would play a key role in restoring peace in the troubled area then be it,” he said.
He said Kenya having a running arms factory means that there will be a surplus that needs to find a market.
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