Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

United States Aid to Kenya: A Study on Regional Security and Counterterrorism Assistance before and after 9/11

Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

United States Aid to Kenya: A Study on Regional Security and Counterterrorism Assistance before and after 9/11

Article excerpt


Following 9/11 and the beginning of the global War on Terror, it became obvious that the United States needed an ally in East Africa. Kenya, a country that has remained relatively stable while surrounded by regional insecurities, was chosen by the U.S. as an African ally to which large sums of aid and resources would be sent. United States assistance to Kenya is largely given for developmental and humanitarian purposes but millions of dollars each year are directed specifically towards regional security and anti-terrorism. This observational paper highlights the differences in U.S. aid to Kenya before and after 2001. Using analyses of secondary resources, this article offers details of the economic measures, training initiatives, and legislative steps taken by the United States government, as well as subsequent Kenyan criticisms, to form the present-day relationship that ensures America's hegemonic presence in East Africa. Kenya itself has been the victim of two large-scale terrorist incidents: the first in 1998 and the second in 2002. It is important to note that the 2002 Kikambala hotel attack, while severe in nature, targeted Israel and is not directly relevant to this article. In addition, the effects of the attack on U.S. counterterrorism policy are largely unknown and therefore, excluded from consideration in this article.


The end of colonialism in Kenya began a period of fast-paced development and expansive foreign relations. The country's relationship with the United States was strong and bilateral, mainly because Kenya needed assistance developing and the U.S. needed access to ports for military and economic purposes. All throughout this time, Kenya was a proponent for democracy, meeting the desires of America during the Cold War. The government of Kenya received millions of dollars in financial assistance by the U.S. government but remained a low priority, as was the case for much of Africa at the time. It was not until the 1990s that Kenya first became relevant to American interests. Even then, the true extent of its importance was not fully known. Surrounding Kenya in the 1990s were several countries in the midst of humanitarian and political crises.

Although this article focuses specifically on relations between Kenya and the U.S., it is important to note the geopolitical instability in Eastern Africa at the time. Somalia, directly to the north, lost its president during a coup in 1991 and became a failed state with no centralized government. The United States was met with resistance by the Somali people during an attempted humanitarian mission and thus, began to question its role in East African politics. Ethiopia, a Soviet ally during the Cold War, was facing internal political conflict and threats of secession by a region in the east [present-day Eritrea]. Sudan, as of 1993, became one of only four countries worldwide to be labeled a State Sponsor of Terrorism by the United States (U.S. State Department 2010). Rwanda experienced a genocide that left roughly 800,000 people dead and much of the world angry at America's weak response. Finally, throughout this time, Uganda was at war with the Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel group fighting for political control. Even with the authoritative government in Kenya during the 1990s, the country was, by far, one of the most politically and socially stable in the region.

Assistance Before 2001

On August 7, 1998, the United States embassies in Nairobi [Kenya] and Dar es Salaam [Tanzania] were bombed simultaneously, leaving the world in a sense of shock. The attack in Kenya was more severe, killing over 200 people and injuring thousands. Of the deceased were 12 Americans who worked at the embassy (Center for Defense Information 2009). This was not the first time a U.S. embassy was attacked overseas; however, it was a significant event that angered law enforcement and intelligence personnel enough to direct more resources to Kenya. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.