19 January 2004

Kenya: If We Were to Fight

analysis

Nairobi — Talks on the River Nile Treaty between the Kenyan and Egyptian governments in the last 40 years have in most cases been interspersed with threats of war. Other than a similar threat during the reckless era of Idi Amin in Uganda, the tough talk on the River Nile treaty leaves Egypt as the only African state ever to have issued war threats to Kenya, even though some keen observers have been quick to dismiss such declarations of war as mere threats.

But what if Egypt was serious and decided to go to war with Kenya? What would be the scenario? Preliminary indications are that Egypt would have an upper hand. Consider that, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in 2002, Kenya spent US$202 million (Sh 16 billion) compared to Egypt's US$2.7 billion (Sh 203 billion) on the military.

Besides, in the same year, Egypt received US$1.3 billion military aid from the US while Kenya's was negligible, a scenario that has been consistent over the years. Perhaps because of Egypt's role in the Middle East conflict where the US has more than just a passing interest, the global balance of power could easily be tilted against Kenya.

The consequence of this is that there has also been a big difference between military sizes of the two countries. Of course, in a war situation, each country would go for massive recruitments. But even with that, Egypt still would have an upper hand. According to the CIA fact book, there are only 5 million Kenyans fit for military duty as at 2003 compared to Egypt's 13 million.

Further, when the experts go into details of the military structures of the two countries, it again emerges that Kenya would be thoroughly disadvantaged. Egypt, for instance, has four military branches-the army, the navy, air force and air defense command-while Kenya has three excluding an air defense command. Others are speculating that Egypt's strategy would be first to take over Kenya's communication installations, including the four international satellite stations. This would automatically bring to a grind all telephone communications and broadcasting.

In the event that such a scenario occurs, Egypt would introduce a governor through the Cairo-controlled TV stations and this governor would appoint a local administrator answerable only to him. The immediate strategy would be to take over the key port installations of Mombasa, Lamu and Kisumu.

The next point of attack would be Kenya's 230 airports before throwing spikes in parts of the 64,000 Kilometre highway network. In defence, Kenya would suspend the Constitution, declare a state of emergency and ban all political activities. This would also lead to closure of key institutions like schools and universities and government offices. Power and water would be rationed and a total blackout imposed on cities. If Kenya were able to repel the Egyptian attack, the next strategic military move would be for Kenya to move to occupy Egypt.

Kenya's military forces would occupy Egypt's ports and harbours of Alexandria, Al Ghardaqah, Aswan, Asyut, Bur Safajah, Damietta, Marsa Matruh, Port Said, Suez. Key installations to take over, apart from communication, would be waterways of the Nile, Lake Nasser, Alexandria-Cairo Waterway, and the Suez Canal controlling all shipping activities in this area.

Security Minister Chris Murungaru would have his job cut out sending Kenyan administrators to occupy Egypt and appoint a pliable local administrative council. This analysis is based on the assumption that the two countries will not have allies joining them or trying to broker peace during the water war. However, this kind of a war situation would be extremely difficult and remains romantic because of complex dynamics facing both countries.

Kenya and Egypt share close ties with war powers like the US and Britain even though the scale is tilted to Egypt's favour in diplomatic terms. The US and Britain have military bases in Kenya which Egypt would be compelled to exclude from its war map. It is assumed, vainly, that these interests are so important to the two countries that they would not allow conflict to degenerate into full scale military combat.

Kenya

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