Kenya to Employ Drones to Fight Terrorists and Criminals

Kenya is preparing to employ drones as part of increased security operations along its borders with Somalia and Ethiopia to monitor and halt the movements of al-Shabaab and gunrunners, security officials told Sabahi.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, are needed to help Kenyan security forces on the ground patrol the country’s frontiers, said Patrick Ochieng, director of the Kenya National Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

“We face an unprecedented security challenge,” he told Sabahi. “Not only do we have threats from within the country, but also from al-Shabaab insurgents.”

Gunrunning and infiltration by al-Shabaab into Kenya’s north-eastern region have brought insecurity with deadly effects, he said, adding that the past two years have seen an increase in violence from illegal guns, with criminals and gunrunners devising new ways to smuggle in firearms.

The unarmed drones will be equipped with state-of the-art technology including night-vision cameras to help Kenya stay ahead of criminals and evolving security threats, Ochieng said.

Security officers are receiving training on working with the drones, which will be operational by the end of the year, Ochieng said. He declined to reveal more details about the programme, saying that doing so could aid gunrunners.

Policing Kenya’s porous, more than 800-kilometre border with Somalia is a difficult challenge, said north-eastern regional Police Chief Charlton Mureithi, and deploying drones will aid officers on the ground.

“We hope this technology will go a long way in addressing security threats in the region because the drones will keep an eye on the most remote routes the smugglers use,” he told Sabahi.

Investing in security

Retired army Major Bishar Hajji Abdullahi said the government should invest in such technologies even if they are expensive because the goal of safeguarding the country should supersede the costs.

“Despite the drones being a controversial subject all over the country, in some cases, the government has the responsibility of protecting its citizens by whatever means,” he told Sabahi.

Nonetheless, better technology will not yield desired results without proper training for security officers, he said. “The government has to be careful not to sink money into ineffective technology,” Abdullahi said.

As security equipment becomes less expensive to acquire, Kenya should invest heavily in it to counter criminal threats, particularly from al-Shabaab, he said.

“For instance in the north-eastern region, where there are frequent al-Shabaab attacks, the government should provide security officers with armoured vehicles and bulletproof vests,” Abdullahi said.

The government unveiled its national budget for 2013-2014 on June 13th, setting aside 67 billion shillings ($784 million) for security.

National Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich said 4 billion shillings ($46.9 million) of the allocated money will go towards security equipment, 4.5 billion shillings ($52.7 million) for enhanced operations, and 1.5 billion shillings ($17.6 million) for research into improving crime-prevention methods.

As reported by Bosire Boniface for Sabahi (Washington, DC)