Germany's Unseen Hand in Kenya Crisis
by Roman Deckert
Hundreds of people have been killed during the recent post-election unrest in Kenya,
many of them from bullet wounds. The UN-news-agency IRIN reported that in Kisumu alone, 44
people were shot dead, some of them apparently in the back on escaping. Many pictures from
the fighting scenes carry the G3 assault-rifle of Heckler & Koch (H&K), the
standard weapon of the Kenyan army and police for more than thirty years. According to the
well-informed Janes Intelligence, those security forces also use
considerable quantities of the MP5 submachine gun and the HK21 machine gun, both based on
Military cooperation between Kenya and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) started in
1965, one year after Kenya achieved her independence from the United Kingdom. Initially,
the FRG financed English arms transfers for DM 10 Mio through the off-set agreement that
compensated the British army units based in West Germany for its expenses in Deutschmark.
This discreet way was used for military aid to Kenyas neighbour Sudan as well.
In 1967, H&K exported the first 500 G3s to the Kenyan police. No subsequent direct
arms sales from the FRG to Kenya were recorded. The official aid programme only featured
soft equipment like Mercedes-trucks. However, according to the small arms
expert, Edward Ezell, Kenya allegedly purchased 200 000 G3s from English licence
production instead. The cooperation agreement of 1970 between H&K and the Royal
Ordnance Factories (ROF) in Enfield ( a copy exists at the British National Archive)
provides evidence that H&K entered the partnership in order to get access to markets
that were barred under German law. The Federal Ministry of Defence in Bonn, which had
financed the development costs of the G3 and held the intellectual property on its design,
sold the necessary licence to ROF.
In the same fashion, H&K had already set up a cooperation with the French
Manufacture Nationale dīArmes de St. Etienne. Documents from the archives of the West
German Foreign Office give proof that H&K used this roundabout way to sell arms to
Uganda. When the Federal government in Bonn denied the licence for sale of G3s to Idi Amin
in 1971, the French state company jumped in. Some of the original G3s can be seen in the
Academy-Award winning movie "The Last King of Scotland." The documentary film General
Idi Amin Dada by Barbet Schroeder (available on DVD) shows the dictator firing a G3
himself. At the same time, the Federal government gave H&K green light for exports to
Tanzania, wherefore Aminīs enemies could rely on G3 for their fight too. The Kenyan
governments under Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Arap Moi, on the other side, felt threatened by
the arms race and increased their own purchases of the same weapons.
In Kenya, the G3 has fuelled socio-political tensions. Since the beginning of the
Nineties reports about the devastating effects of the German assault rifle have increased
especially in the North of the country where rivalling ethnic groups trust in the power of
the G3. The National Council of Churches of Kenya reports that young herdsmen openly
display their G3s. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Kenyan authorities have been
arming village community militias with G3, while corrupt officials sell G3 to criminals.
In addition, there has been a constant inflow of G3s from rebels in Somalia and Sudan
where the G3 is No. 2 as well. The violence does not spare clerics who try to mediate in
the conflicts. In 2005 for example, the Catholic bishop Luigi Locati was apparently shot
with a G3 in Isiolo, a region awash with small arms. Even wildlife is suffering from the
proliferation of these weapons of mass destruction since poachers use the G3
(as do game park rangers).
HRW has found that a G3 costs about US$ 200 on the Kenyan black market. Although the
G3s price is considerably higher than that of a Kalashnikov, its ammunition is
said to be much cheaper and easily available. In the first half of the Nineties, the
Belgian company Fabrique National de Herstal (FN) set up an ammunition plant in the city
of Eldoret which has now suffered the highest number of casualties. According to Janes
Intelligence, the factory has got a capacity for an annual production of 20 Million
rounds which by far exceeds the normal demand of the Kenyan armed forces. It produces
ammunition for G3, MP5 and other types, but not for Kalashnikovs.
Former German Federal governments have replied to parliamentary inquests that no
more documents about the licence production of G3 exist. The agreement of cooperation
between H&K and ROF at the British National Archive however provides evidence that the
Federal Ministry of Defence charged DM 5 per rifle manufactured under those provisions.
Any German government that claims to keep up to its moral standards should use this
blood-money with its compound interest to finance large-scale disarmament programmes.
is a researcher in the Berlin
Information-center for Transatlantic Security (BITS). He writes his PhD-thesis on the
history of German-Sudanese Relations.