Kenya stuck with Russian tanks

With Somali pirates releasing the MV Faina last Thursday, the Kenyan military is effectively stuck with 33 Russian made tanks widely believed to have been ordered by the government of Southern Sudan.

The U.S. Navy ocean tug, "Catawba," provides fuel and fresh water to "MV Faina" following its release by Somali pirates Feb. 5. Picture by the US Navy.

The U.S. Navy ocean tug, "Catawba" (left), provides fuel and fresh water to "MV Faina" following its release by Somali pirates Feb. 5. Picture by the US Navy.

With the international spotlight shining rather too brightly on Kenyan authorities, it is unlikely that the shipment of T-72 tanks will proceed to Sudan.

The Kenyan government would be highly embarrassed to be found supplying arms to South Sudan, analysts say. It was Kenya that helped broker an end to the civil war between South Sudan and the government in Khartoum in 2005.

The MV Faina is a Ukrainian ship hired to carry the 33 tanks to the Kenyan port of Mombasa. Until it was captured by Somali pirates last September, few knew that the Faina had actually made similar trips in previous months. Apparently, the government of Southern Sudan is secretly amassing weapons with the help of the Kenyan government.

MV Faina was released on February 5th after a ransom of $3.2 million was paid by its owners. The ship is currently sailing towards Mombasa under the escort of the US Navy, which does not want the weapons hijacked by other pirate gangs. The arrival of the MV Faina in Mombasa any time from today will be the moment of truth for the Kenyan government and its South Sudan allies.

Since Kenya insists that it owns the weapons, it will have to take possession of the tanks for the time being. Infact, there are likely to be press photo releases of Kenyan soldiers happily training with the tanks. However, this presents technical challenges for Kenya’s military.

Kenya’s military uses NATO standards in its training and weaponry. From independence in 1963 until the 1990s, Kenya bought military hardware from the United States, Britain, Germany, South Africa and Israel. Kenya’s army is one of the few in the region that does not use the Russian made AK-47 rifle, but uses a 1960s European model.

It will be very difficult for the Kenya Army to integrate T-72 tanks into their operations structure. They would have to ensure that the tanks work with NATO ammunition and other military systems developed over the years.

Alternatively, the military may have to adapt its existing systems to the capabilities of the T-72. This is likely to arouse great resentment from military rank and file, majority of whom were trained under western military tactics and who remain loyal to NATO standard equipment.

Indeed, a government decision to purchase military aircraft and trucks from China is still facing widespread resistance. Majority of the old Army hands believe that anything coming from outside the West and NATO is “inferior.” With the unexpected Russian tanks bonanza, this resentment is expected to grow.

Apart from tanks, the weapons aboard the MV Faina include rocket propelled grenades, artillery shells, tank shells and millions of rounds of ammunition. Kenya has its own bullet factory in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret and it remains to be seen what will happen to the ammunition delivered by the MV Faina.

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6 Responses

  1. Iam a proud career Kenyan Soldier at the Rank of Major, serving in the Kenya Armoured Corps now in my 13year. I have seen duty across the Greater East Africa region, and have substantial training and knowledge of Matters Military. My first commission was in the 20 Para Battalion and with it I did active covert duty in the Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, Southern Sudan and Rwanda. I know my stuff and very proud of my service.
    I want to state categorically and without equivocation that the article you have penned particularly the allegations that there lacks a capacity to integrate Soviet Weaponry into our training and Planning, that there was resistance to the Weaponry purchased from China and Korea, that there will be tension resultant from the infusion of the Soviet era tanks into our Armed forces, are utterly without any facts, and full of unsubstantiatable conjecture. It would have taken a simple call to any member of our Armed Forces, serving or retired, to furnish you with information that is credible and dependable. As such, I am outraged by your piece and would request that you print this letter with equal prominence as your article. Thank you,

    • I find what you have said quite interesting to read. I am also in the know that Kenya recruite training school in Gilgil trains soldier from Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania.
      Tanzania also has some of our cadet officers get some training from Monduli in Arusha. I also know that the Tanzania military training is more physical.
      Since the time of General Daudi Tonje Kenya military training did take some advanced stages and become more professional in all aspects of military science.
      I have seen our men in Congo in Bunyakiri-Kalehe, I have met them in Darfur and I have quite an impressive record of the Kenyan army in Kanema in Sierra Leone.
      I am sure with the right equipment, they will do a good job in Somalia. We need to get them moral support.
      I also think they should occupy Somalia, because we are not paying taxes to help the Somali. We protect ourselves and whatever stability we bring in the areas we liberate from Alshabab, that Income should feed into the Kenyan economy.

  2. If you will allow for some little education on this matter; Kenya Armoured Corps sourced through the expected legal process of identification/sampling/comparative analysis/tendering/etcc,, these 33 tanks and others already in services over 15months. The Command/Control structures were thoroughly trained in the usage of these ordnance in India and Ukraine over the past two years. Subsequently, a selected group of senior NCO who normally run the Corps also underwent the same rigourous training on these ordnance in India and Ukraine. Kenya has continued the training of the rest of the Corps here at home in our very adequately equipped tank schools which have a well-documented history of tank welfare training spanning over 35 years. It should be noted that the use of different ordnance is not a complicated matter, just as it is not space-rocket to drive a left-drive vehicle while trained and used to drive a right-hand vehicle. Kenya Armoured Corps has the capacity in skills to fully utilise these T-72, the purchase of which now gives our Armed Forces the capacity to ensure the exploitation of the vast Natural Resources in the Northern part of Kenya without fear of armed conflict with any covetous Neighbours.
    Thank you.

  3. Kenya military has finally acquired a military hardware worth of facing its neighbours using the new T-72.With it antimissile defense system,antiaircraft artillery,superior engine both speed and torque

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