U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Kenya’s Defense Minister Aden Duale signed the accord at a meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. The agreement guides the countries’ defense relations for the next five years as the war in East Africa against the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab extremist group intensifies.
Austin thanked Kenya for volunteering to take the leadership of the Haiti multinational force and reiterated that the U.S. government would work with Congress to secure the $100 million in funding that it pledged on the sidelines of the U.N General Assembly.
Kenya has pledged to send 1,000 security officers to Haiti to combat gang violence in a mission that is pending the U.N Security Council’s formal approval but has received support from the U.N. and U.S.
On the regional fight against al-Shabab, Austin said he had met with Somalia’s president and that both agreed that the country had made “significant progress in the last year against al-Shabab.” But Austin also said that “progress is not always a straight line so we may see things improve significantly on one day and maybe we will see challenges on the next day.”
Security Issues in Haiti
In America, TV newscasts feature stories of extreme poverty and violent street gangs. In Haiti, families deal with these difficulties every day. That’s not surprising. Haiti has such an impoverished and violent past that, in many ways, its future story is already written.
The island of Hispaniola, which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic, is like a tale of two cities. It is the best of times and the worst of times.
The DR is one of the strongest economies in the area, and arguably the most stable democracy in the area. Its former colonial masters, the Spanish, ruled the island harshly but did not overly-exploit its resources. Furthermore, amidst that harsh rule, the Spanish allowed the Dominicans some freedom of self-government. So, when independence came, a structure was in place.
France exploited Haiti. From high above, Haiti almost looks like a moonscape. When the French left, or rather when the Haitians forced them out, the island had no money and no history of self-governance.
Things have not changed much. Poverty is a serious problem in Haiti. Desperate people do separate things, like taking up arms and roaming the streets. Haiti’s government has been unable to make a dent in the violence.
Enter foreign troops, or for our purposes, foreign military contractors. Politicians in Washington would not dare send American servicemembers into a simmering cauldron like Haiti, especially since Haitians, like many other Caribbean islanders, do not especially like the Norteamericanos. Contractors blend in much better than servicemembers. Furthermore, contractors embrace guard and patrol detail. Many private military contractors are former law enforcement officers. They are used to constant patrols and little action.
Contractors also help with aid distribution. If Haitian families do not have to spend as much on food and other life essentials, they can raise their standard of living and be less likely to join roving gangs. The U.S. needs all the help it can get to quell this dangerous situation so close to its own shoreline.
Security Issues in Kenya
On the other side of the world, Kenya also has security issues. Haiti’s past makes conflicts inevitable, and Kenya’s location in the Horn of Africa has the same effect. This region straddles the line between the mostly Christian south and the mostly Muslim north. These two groups have never gotten along well.
Currently, Kenya is dealing with a long-running Muslim insurgency. Al-Shababb, an ISIS-affiliated and Somali-based terrorist organization, is the primary threat.
The group shifted its focus south from Somalia to Kenya around 2010, because of significant losses in Somalia. In October and November 2011, Kenya and Ethiopia, partnering with local militias, launched offensives against al-Shabaab strongholds. Kenya’s Operation Linda Nchi focused on the southern front, while Ethiopia approached from the west. The group lost territory to both armies, notably losing Baidoa to Ethiopia in February 2012 and losing the port city (and revenue hub) of Kismayo to Kenya in October 2012. The Kenyans and Ethiopians kept al-Shababb on its heels well into 2013.
The group is down, but not out. Al-Shabaab targeted American military personnel in an attack on a Kenyan base in January 2020. The group periodically launches such attacks to maintain its recruiting base. Many al-Shababb fighters are disillusioned Kenyans.
Contractors deal well with such thorn-in-the-side insurgencies. For the most part, people in remote villages need protection. They also need to know their government cares about them. This combination makes them more loyal to the government and more likely to provide intelligence.
Kenyans are understandably anxious to end this insurgency for good. Additional U.S. help may be just what the doctor ordered.
Injury Compensation Available
For regular servicemembers, the VA disability system provides injury compensation benefits. These benefits are only available for permanent disabilities. The Defense Base Act, which protects private military contractors, pays benefits for both temporary and permanent disabilities. DBA procedure is basically the same for both permanent and temporary disabilities.
Most injured victims must file written claims within 10 days. Some exceptions apply to repetitive stress disorder and other occupational diseases. These victims often are not fully aware of their injuries for months or even years. Most insurance policies require written notice, which means a text or email may not suffice. The best practice is to immediately send an electronic notice and follow up with a “snail mail” notice.
A few claims settle at early settlement conferences. A mediator examines the medical records and other paperwork in the case. If insurance company lawyers do not contest the amount of damages, they often issue a check on the spot.
However, there is usually some question about damages. Medical bills are a good example. Insurance companies eagerly approve the cheapest possible treatment. Convincing them to approve reasonably necessary medical bills usually takes some time.
If the initial settlement conference breaks down, a Defense Base Act lawyer usually schedules an appeal hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. ALJs are much like regular judges. ALJs allow lawyers to introduce evidence, challenge evidence, and make legal arguments.
Insurance companies know that a victim has the advantage at an ALJ hearing. Therefore, most DBA claims settle prior to this hearing, and on victim-friendly terms.
For more information about DBA eligibility, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.