TPLF war made Ethiopia region’s biggest military spender in 2022
by JULIUS BARIGABA
Ethiopia’s military budget rose biggest last year as the country battled the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), indicating an added cost of the two-year war with the rebels it has since signed a peace deal with.
And the revelations mean Addis Ababa is eastern Africa’s king of military spending, after the country’s expenditure on soft and hardware rose by 88 per cent during 2022, to reach one billion dollars.
The figures are contained in the latest bulletin by global security think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), based in Sweden.
It says Ethiopia recorded the largest annual percentage increase in military spending of any country in Africa, even though what the continent spent on military and arms purchases overall, decreased during the year under review.
Offensive against TPLF
The report, released in April 2023, explains that Ethiopia’s massive spend coincided with the country’s renewed government offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Besides the costly war against the TPLF that began on November 2020, Ethiopia also deploys part of its troops to Somalia as part of the African Union peacekeeping force known as the African Union Transition Mission (ATMIS).
ATMIS spending is often on troop contributing country’s defence budget, after which the UN reimburses the countries on equipment used in the war, while donors support the administrative and welfare expenditure on troops.
Despite also deploying in conflicts beyond their borders, Uganda and Kenya, the region’s big spenders on firepower and conflict materials, are not mentioned in the SIPRI report, indicating that the two last year reduced their appetite for top spot in the arms race.
Uganda military expenditure
In 2021, Uganda crossed the billion-dollar mark in military expenditure, reaching $1.066 billion, which was an 8.3 percent increase from $984.7 million the country spent the previous year.
Kenya on the other hand, spent $1.113 billion in 2021, a 0.1 percent drop from the $1.115 billion in 2020.
Both Uganda and Kenya are troop contributing countries to the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (AtmiS) where they deploy troops and their armies’ contingent owned equipment in the battle against al Shabaab.
The two countries also have military presence in eastern DR Congo where Uganda first deployed in 2021 in a bilateral arrangement with the Kinshasa government to fight the terrorist group, the Allied Democratic Forces.
The SIPRI report says Africa’s military spend totalled $39.4 billion in 2022, although aggregated spending in the continent fell for the first time since 2018 and was 5.3 per cent lower than in 2021 and 6.4 per cent lower than in 2013.
“Average military burden was unchanged for states in Africa,” the report reads.
The combined military expenditure of countries in sub-Saharan Africa was $20.3 billion in 2022, a decrease of 7.3 per cent from 2021, primarily due to decreases in spending by the two largest spenders in the sub-region, Nigeria and South Africa.
Nigeria’s military spending fell by 38 per cent to $3.1 billion in 2022 even as the West Africa giant continued to face a wide range of security challenges including farmer–herder conflict and violent extremism.
Nigeria also suffered devastating seasonal floods that hit the country last year, leading to a substantial shift in the government’s budgetary priorities.
South Africa’s military spending fell for the second consecutive year to reach $3.0 billion in 2022 – 8.4 per cent lower than in 2021, due to the country’s ailing economy which has put severe pressure on government finances, leading to cuts to the military budget in 2022, SIPRI explains.
In March, Uganda sent another contingent of troops to eastern Congo to occupy positions vacated by the M23 rebels, as part of the East African Community Regional Force, following Kenya which deployed in November 2022.