Interior and Coordination of National Government

Kenya Defence Forces prepared to combat emerging and re-emerging health threats To national security

By Bogita Ongeri
The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) will continue to improve on its capabilities and partner with other stakeholders to meet the challenges of the current and future national security threats.

Defence Cabinet Secretary Ambassador Raychelle Omamo said through stakeholder engagement and research, KDF will deepen its understanding of the fast-evolving global threat environment with a view to enhancing defence policy formulation processes and effecting consequential changes to Kenya’s national defence posture.

The Cabinet Secretary was speaking during a two-day conference themed, “Health Dimensions of National Security” that was held at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies. She said, weaponization of disease-causing pathogens demand a fundamental refashioning of defence capabilities coupled with a profound re-conceptualization of understandings about national security.
She appreciated the KDF for integrating the public health system in their mandate with previous responses to internal emergencies such as Solai Dam tragedy, deployment of KDF doctors during strikes and establishment of military medical camps in disaster affected areas such as Tana River County.

Health Cabinet Secretary, Sicily Kariuki, who presided over the official opening said that traditionally, military were known to combat conventional threats but it is high time the soldier of the future re-conceptualized security matters to meet the current and future threats.
She said, pandemics, health emergencies and weak health systems not only cost lives but also pose some of the greatest risks to the global economy and security. The official promised that the Ministry of Health shall continue to work with other line ministries and partner organizations to ensure that Kenya achieves International Health Regulation (IHR) compliance and enhances health security.

The Cabinet Secretary further pointed out that her ministry was working with the Ministries of Defence, Trade, and Interior to harmonize the Strategic Trade Management and the Strategic Trade Control Bills aimed at establishing controls in trade and use of Chemical, Biological and Nuclear materials in the Country.

Mentioning various disease outbreaks in the world such as Ebola, Influenza, Zika and Bird Flu, the Health Cabinet Secretary said that preparedness is anchored on addressing the root causes of vulnerabilities that allow outbreaks to take communities by surprise.

The Conference attracted participants from various Government ministries, security agencies and research institutions who exchanged ideas on how to enhance health security with the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) showcasing its capabilities to deal with chemical, biological and radiological threats.
In his speech, the Chief of the Defence Forces (CDF) General Samson Mwathethe said that terrorism continues to mutate into new and enduring threats to national security and hence new solutions on counter terrorism needed to be exploited to include science, medical and health related aspects.

The General said, national security traditionally focused on physical threats and security operations aimed at protecting Kenya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity but in the current era of unconventional warfare, biological warfare has brought into light the need to re-think additional strategies in the delivery of national security.

General Mwathethe’s speech was read by his Vice Chief of the Defence Forces Lieutenant General Robert Kibochi who further indicated that the KDF Disaster Response Capability had been developed under the Ministry of Defence to assist in mitigation efforts against biological threats.

These capabilities, he said, further enhanced disease surveillance programs through collaboration with strategic partners including the United States Army Military Research Department in Kenya, Centre for Disease Control (USAMRD-K-CDC), the Ministry of Health and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI).

The conference was organised under the banner of the Ministry’s ‘Defence Dialogue Series,’ a thought leadership initiative through which the Ministry invites the attention of stakeholders to emerging security threats. It attracted about 150 participants drawn from the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kenya Wildlife Services among others.