Sh4.2bn UN refund in Kenya’s war on Shabaab eases cash crunch

Kenya Defence Forces during an operation against Al-Shabaab militants. PHOTO | FILE 

The UN has eased Kenya’s cash crunch after refunding Sh4.2 billion spent on fighting Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia.

Treasury documents show that the reimbursement of Sh2.3 million was made in quarter one ending September and Sh1.9 billion in the months to February, accounting for 65.6 per cent of this year’s total refunds of Sh6.4 billion.

This marks one of the few quarters that the UN has made a timely refund. In the past, delay in reimbursement of the money has been linked to the UN’s insistence on proper verification of Kenya’s claims.

The refund is expected to ease budgetary constraints for a government reeling from a shortfall in revenues, stalling payment of essential services. Some flagship projects have also had to be frozen.

In October 2011, the country formally sent 4,660 soldiers to Somalia after incessant attacks and kidnapping by Al-Shabaab militants within its territory.

A year later, the UN Security Council gave Kenya the green light to join the African Union Mission to Somalia (Amisom), a decision that meant the Treasury would not bear the full costs of the incursion.

Amisom is an eight-year-old operation with nearly 20,000 troops from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Sierra Leone and Kenya.

Amisom refunded Kenya the monies spent from the date of the UN resolution until June 2012 when it began catering for the soldiers directly.

Under the deal, Kenyan soldiers were to receive a monthly allowance of Sh88,408 ($1,028) each besides their salaries as well as comprehensive medical cover and access to advanced equipment.

Kenya has in the past used its ambassador to the UN, Macharia Kamau, to demand the reimbursements, saying that failure to refund the money was not only “unacceptable”, but also “unsustainable”.