Military expenditure in the region continued to drop last year, with South Sudan cutting back its spending by more than 50 per cent, as its economy struggled from the effects of the prolonged political crisis.
The region used $2.73 billion on military-related expenses, down from $2.78 billion in 2016, and a high of $3.6 billion in 2015, according to data released on Tuesday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).
South Sudan spent just $72 million on its military, down from its all-time high of $1.1 billion in 2014 at the height of hostilities between the government and rebels led by former vice-president Riek Machar.
Kenya remained the region’s top military spender, at $963.5 million last year, up from $933.1 million the previous year.
Tanzania spent $593.1 million, up from $544.2 million, while Uganda saw a drop from its 2016 high of $523.4 million to $444.6 million.
Rwanda’s 2017 spending marginally rose to $111 million from $107.3 million the previous year, while Burundi continued to be the region least military spender at $63.9 million in 2017, down from $66.5 million.
Kenya’s National Treasury gave $90 million to the military for weapons acquisition ($74 million) and personnel emoluments ($16 million) to the end of June this year.
Last month, Sipri reported that Kenya had slashed its spending on military hardware by half to $13 million from $28 million in 2016.
Last year, Nairobi purchased a second-hand naval gun, AK-630 30mm, from Montenegro for modernisation of Jasiri OPV (offshore patrol vessel), Sipri records shows. And this year, the navy received the last six Metal Shark patrol boats.
The other four were handed over last year, with their total cost being $4.9 million.
As part of its military partnership with Jordan, Kenya also received an unknown number of AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters.
The country also received its last two deliveries of the Huey II helicopter in July 2017, which is powered by a new Honeywell T53-L-703 engine, enabling it to have an improved hover performance in hot conditions, mirroring its needs in Somalia.
Kenya’s 2018 spending is expected to rise as it is expecting the delivery of 12 MD 530F armed light helicopters at a cost of $253 million. The orders placed in May 2017 included the provision of MD 530F ‘cayuse warrior’ light attack helicopters, 24 HMP 400 machine gun pod systems, 24 M260 rocket launcher systems, and assorted ammunition.
Uganda is due to receive five Huey IIs from the US this year, as part of the Bell Helicopters $87.6 million contract signed in September 2016, to supply both Nairobi and Kampala with 13 helicopters and spares, to boost their operations in Somalia.