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Egypt, Turkey compete for military foothold in Kenya

Egypt and Turkey are vying for presence in Kenya, with both countries seeking to consolidate their relations at all economic, technological and industrial levels with the African country.
Erogan kenya

CAIRO — On Dec. 9, Lt. Gen. Abdel Moneim Al-Terras, chairman of Egypt’s Arab Organization of Industrialization, received a Kenyan delegation, headed by Maj. Gen. Carlos Kahariri, the director of the Kenya National Defense College.

For the first time, both sides agreed to the localization of Egypt’s arms industry technology in Kenya, and to support the local Kenyan industry at the defense and civil levels. Terras said that the organization will place all its expertise, human and technological capabilities in cooperation and partnership with Kenya.

Egypt’s efforts for cooperation with Kenya are not limited to the military field. On Dec. 5, Alaa al-Wakeel, head of the Africa Committee and a member of the Board of Directors of the Export Council for Food Industries, said during a press conference the council is organizing a trade mission to Kenya in January. 

Maj. Gen. Mohamed al-Zallat, head of the Industrial Development Authority, said that Egypt seeks to enhance industrial cooperation with Kenya and develop economic ties between the two countries.

These Egyptian moves follow similar Turkish efforts to improve relations with Kenya.

On June 4, Turkey’s Qatamercilar for Defense Industries announced an agreement to export 118 four-wheel drive armored vehicles to Kenya, making Kenya the third African country to import Turkish armored vehicles.

Maj. Gen. Nasr Salem, former head of the Armed Forces reconnaissance apparatus and advisor at Nasser Military Academy, told Al-Monitor that Egypt has recently moved to support production and export of weapons abroad, and marketing its defense products through EDEX 2021This is a new trend for Egypt in the past few years, he said, with the aim of entering the African arms markets.

Salem added that Turkey’s success in selling drones and armored vehicles to African nations has prompted Egypt to follow suit. Ankara's goal of a military and economic foothold in the Horn of Africa threatens Egyptian national security, given the paramount importance of that area to the stability and navigation in the Suez Canal.

On Aug. 18, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed signed an agreement with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for cooperation in the military sector between the two countries, and on Oct. 17, an official Turkish source told Reuters that Morocco and Ethiopia had submitted official requests to Turkey to purchase Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones. On July 30, Sheikh Muhammad Akhtar, head of the Kenyan Islamic Endowment, expressed full support for Turkey, the Turkish people and Erdogan.

Salem believes that Egypt’s entry in the Kenyan arms market will help crowd out Turkish influence and gain Kenya’s support in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) crisis. On Nov. 27, the Ethiopian Minister of Water and Energy Habtamu Itefa said the construction works on GERD are ongoing, according to the plan established to generate electric power as soon as possible, despite the fact that negotiations have been suspended between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia for months.

Kenya is also seen as the United States’ traditional ally in the Horn of Africa, particularly since Ethiopia now needs reconstruction from the war. Therefore, winning Kenya over means further rapprochement with Washington for Egypt. On Oct. 12, US President Joe Biden received his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta at the White House.

Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Awadi, head of the Defense Committee in the Egyptian parliament, told Al-Monitor that the unprecedented Egyptian-Kenyan cooperation comes within Cairo’s strategy “to support its brothers in the African continent and the Nile Basin countries.”

Awadi said that Egypt’s efforts to build stronger ties with African countries in general and not just Kenya, is evident through the military agreement recently concluded with several African states.

On March 2, Egypt and Sudan signed a military cooperation agreement, following the visit of the Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Army, Lt. Gen. Mohamed Farid, to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

On April 8, Egypt and Uganda signed a military intelligence cooperation agreement to exchange information at the Ugandan intelligence headquarters in the capital, Kampala. And on April 10, Egypt also signed a military cooperation agreement with Burundi.