Cold reception for American troops.

Author:Kamau, John
Position:Kenya - Brief Article

When the US troops arrived in Kenya in early February - as part of their "war against terrorism", the official statement from the American embassy in Nairobi said the troops had come for "joint military exercise" with the Kenyan army.

But the "joint" exercise turned out to involve only a paltry 250 Kenyan troops compared with the 3,300 American marines who arrived on the Kenyan coast.

Although America had conducted previous exercises in Kenya (involving less than 1,000 US soldiers), this was the first time that a huge number of US troops had come to stage such an exercise in the country.

As a side-show, they drilled a bore-hole for the local Kongoni maternity hospital, renovated a school at Faza Island in Lamu and repaired a foot-bridge.

But for Kenyans, there was more than met the eye - and Somalia quickly appeared on the radar.

Although America has had a permanent presence on the Kenyan coast since 1980 when Nairobi and Washington signed a memorandum of understanding allowing the US military facilities in Kenya, analysts now suspect that the huge US presence has something to do with preparations towards an attack on Somalia (see NA, Jan 2002, p10).

Alarmed by the sheer number of soldiers, the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) has criticised the government for not consulting the people before agreeing to their arrival.

"For such a larger military presence in our country, there was need for the government to consult widely and get to hear our views before giving the US the go ahead," said Sheikh Juma Ngao, the SUPKEM chairman. "The continued presence and use of Kenyan soil by US forces in the name of war against terrorism, does not augur well with us."

Germany too is planning to station spy planes in Mombasa to "check terrorism activities" along the Indian Ocean.

Power game

Meanwhile, as the days of President Moi's retirement edge closer, the power game in Kenya is intensifying. Moi's ruling Kanu party has agreed to merge with Raila Odinga's National Development Parry (NDP), but the strength and durability of the merger may only be tested in the coming months.

Many people do nor even believe it is a merger. I would call it an acquisition," says Mutahi...

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