The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) is taking the lead on development projects designed to get the country’s economy moving after COVID-19. Projects include operating a meat production facility and rehabilitating a railway and port.
Although these are not traditional military tasks, civilian and military leaders say the country needs the KDF’s manpower and expertise.
“Security and development are intrinsically related. They are two sides of the same coin,” Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces Gen. Robert Kibochi told the Kenyan Broadcasting Corp.
In September 2020, President Uhuru Kenyatta gave the KDF the authority to begin running the Kenya Meat Commission. The national slaughtering and meat processing company had been out of operation due to equipment failures, corruption and other problems, but under KDF leadership it reopened in May 2021.
“The sector is the source of livelihood for millions of Kenyans and the market forces have not lived up to our expectations, especially in times of drought and, therefore, it was necessary to get the government involved,” Kenyatta said.
Kibochi said the KDF brought in experts such as engineers, veterinarians and others to help run the plant. The new management has ensured that farmers are paid promptly for their livestock in contrast to the past, when they sometimes waited years to receive payment.
The KDF also is working with Kenya Railways, National Youth Service and local administrators to rehabilitate a stretch of railway between Longonot and Butere. The work includes building bridges and culverts, restoring drainage structures, replacing train cars, constructing fencing, and aligning rails. The KDF also is working on construction and dredging at the Kisumu Port, which is along the railway line.
Kibochi said the goal is not to militarize civilian tasks but rather to make use of the military’s knowledge and efficiency to get results and save taxpayers’ money.
“We have huge expertise in almost all areas — engineering, medicine — to name but a few,” Kibochi said. “Why not use the knowledge to help our country?”