South Sudan has nearly doubled its military spending since 2010, and now ranks as the region’s biggest spender — a skewed spending policy that will hurt key sectors such as health, education and infrastructure.
Africa’s youngest nation relies on oil revenue to fund about 80 per cent of its budget. However, output has reduced significantly due to the ongoing conflict in the country and the rapid decline in oil prices.
Last year, total income from oil stood at $3.38 billion. However, after deducting $884 million in payments due to its neighbour Sudan and $781 million as loan repayments to donors as well as international financiers, South Sudan remained with just $1.715 billion from oil revenue.
A report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released last week shows a rise in South Sudan’s military spending to $1.08 billion last year, up from $982 million in 2013. This means that Juba spent more than 60 per cent of its net oil revenue on the military.
Since December 2013, South Sudan has been fighting dissident soldiers and armed civilians led by former vice president Dr Riek Machar.
Early last year, the Cabinet approved an emergency fund of $2.6 million mainly to finance its military forces as it engaged the rebels.
In July, during the budget presentation, the country’s former finance minister Aggrey Tisa Sabuni, said that the government would spend 41 per cent of its budget on security, including the military.
“I have allocated $737.8 million to the national army and $262.9 million to the police, prison and fire services. We expect that oil revenue will contribute about 80 per cent of this year’s budget,” said Mr Sabuni.
In 2012, South Sudan ordered close to 100 Ukrainian T-72 tanks; part of this military hardware was delivered last year.
In contrast, Kenya cut its military spending last year to $819 million, from $861 million in 2013, despite the fact that the country continues to face an increasing threat from transnational terrorists.
Homegrown terrorists sympathetic to the Al Shabaab militants, whom the Kenyan forces have been fighting in Somalia since 2011, have proved to be a challenge for the country, yet in its 2014/15 financial year, Kenya did not allocate any funds for crime research and investigations.
In the 2014/15 financial year, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich said that the bulk of the security vote of $800 million would go to the military, which is involved in operations in Somalia.
So far, the Kenyan military has spent $447 million in Somalia, with the government providing $215 million for the mission, and the United Nations expected to shoulder the rest.
The country’s defence budget was to go into acquiring 10 new military helicopters, refurbishment of three grounded Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters and installation of closed circuit (CCTV) surveillance cameras in 10 cities.
Tanzania, for its part, increased its military spending marginally in 2014 to $460 million from $408 million in 2013, according to SIPRI’s estimates.
Tanzania has been sprucing up its navy over the past two years as it seeks to defend its newly discovered offshore petroleum resources. Last year, the country acquired 14 new J-7Gs fighter jets, Type 63A amphibious tanks, A100 multiple rocket launchers and Type 07PA self-propelled mortars from China.
Meanwhile, Uganda increased its military budget to $322 million last year, up from $302 million the previous year.
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, the conflict in South Sudan has increased Uganda’s military spending. The Ministry of Defence allocation in the 2014/15 budget was 12 per cent higher than the previous year, and the Defence Ministry requested two supplementary budgets amounting to $64 million.
In its 2014/15 financial year, Uganda allocated $400 million to its army that was expected to finance its interventions in Somalia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where its forces are hunting down the notorious warlord Joseph Kony and his Lords Resistance Army (LRA) rebels.
“Over the 2013/14 financial year, the government has continued to strengthen the capabilities of our armed forces and other security agencies through the acquisition of modern security, defence equipment and other logistical facilities, as well as the improvement of staff welfare and training,” Uganda’s former finance minister Maria Kiwanuka said in her budget speech.
Uganda has bought MiG and Sukhoi fighter jets in the past few years, which are still being delivered, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on Sukhoi SU-30 combat aircraft.
Rwanda, on its part, makes for interesting statistics. Despite being the only country that has been actively involved in military campaigns in the DRC over the past five years, the country’s military spending remains the lowest in the region. Last year, Kigali’s military spending grew by 4.1 per cent to $85.9 million, up from $82.3 million in 2013.
Rwanda has acquired the reputation as a reliable peacekeeper, all the while benefiting from training as well as from reimbursements for purchases of weapons. The country has peacekeepers in South Sudan and Sierra Leone. Last year, it bought new Mil Mi-17 helicopters and a medium-range surface-to-air defence missile system from China.
Burundi also increased its spending last year to reach $62.2 million, up from $60.9 million in 2013.