Trends in Military Diplomacy Between Kenya and Britain, 1963–2017

Ichani Xavier, Osman Hamud


Military diplomacy incorporates measures adopted by a country to enhance its defence and security capabilities. States engage in military diplomacy to share intelligence, equipment, and resources necessary to safeguard their interests. This study examined trends of Kenya-Britain military diplomacy under four regimes. The focus was on the critical areas of military diplomacy, cooperation and assistance between Kenya and Britain, trends of trade in military equipment and the factors that have influenced military diplomacy and trade in military hardware and software between Kenya and Britain from 1963 to 2017. The study was based on two theories – interdependence liberalism and realism. The study used the historical research design to trace the nature of cooperation and momentous events influencing military diplomacy. Purposive sampling was used to arrive at a sample size of 70 derived from the target population comprising the military, ministry of foreign affairs, and experts in international relations. Field data were collected through oral interviews and Focused Group Discussions. Secondary data was sourced from conference papers, books and journals. Collected data were grouped, corroborated, and presented using content analysis.

The study concludes that Kenya and Britain have engaged in military diplomacy for a long time. After Kenya attained independence from Britain, the latter immediately became instrumental in forming a military and laying necessary security and defence structures in her former colony. Britain, therefore, became Kenya's long-standing defence and security partner. Britain and Kenya signed several agreements to cement these relations that enabled the British Army to train in Kenya and conduct joint military exercises to offer military assistance to their Kenyan counterparts. Moreover, Britain supplied Kenya with military equipment and arms. But military cooperation between Kenya and Britain has shifted over the four regimes. Geopolitics and globalization have made Kenya open the doors of her militaries to more countries, especially in acquiring its military equipment.

Consequently, volumes of trade imports in military equipment from Britain to Kenya have declined. This trend has been influenced by economic and political sanctions levelled on Kenya in the advent of multiparty democracy in the early 1990s and the look-east policy adopted by Kenya to cushion her from the stringent measures on funding from the West. As a result, China, Oman and Jordan are emerging as Kenya's new trade partners in military equipment. This notwithstanding, Kenya still enjoys close business ties with Britain in military circles. The recommendations point that Kenya should strengthen its military diplomacy with Britain to enhance its national security and access to military capacity. Further research needs to be done on emerging military capacity, especially in intelligence gathering and sharing.


Britain; Kenya; look east policy; military diplomacy; military equipment

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