Ichung'wah Lobbies to Have Ruto's Presidential Plane Upgraded

Ruto jets out
President Wiliam Ruto alights from his jet after landing at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, Kenya.

Days after the burial of the late Chief of Defence Forces, General Francis Ogolla, National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah has made a fervent call for the modernisation of military and police aircraft, including the presidential jet.

Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly on Tuesday, April 23, the outspoken legislator criticised Members of Parliament who often question allocations to the military.

“At times the military does come before the house looking for resources to modernise equipment, and I have many members during the budget-making process criticise without knowledge,” lamented Ichung’wah.

Having previously chaired the Budget and Appropriations Committee, Ichung’wah pleaded with fellow legislators to prioritise the modernisation of all military equipment, particularly aircraft utilised by both the armed forces and law enforcement agencies, including the presidential aircraft.

The presidential plane, affectionately known as Harambee One, is a Fokker 70 Extended Range (ER) aircraft, which made its inaugural landing in Kenya at the Moi Air Base on December 20, 1995, under the presidency of Daniel Moi.

Ruto jets back
President William Ruto inspects a guard of honour at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport after jetting back from Europe on Thursday, March 30, 2023.

According to the Kenya Air Force's commemorative book, the aircraft, with a tail number KAF 308, was originally manufactured in the Netherlands and subsequently modified to enhance its capabilities, reducing its capacity to accommodate 26 passengers while extending its range.

The decision to procure a dedicated presidential jet was driven by considerations of cost-effectiveness and operational convenience, particularly for official travel across the African continent and beyond, eliminating the need for frequent chartering of aircraft.

With undisclosed security features tailored for the transport of Heads of State, the interior details and security arrangements of the aircraft have remained confidential for reasons of national security.

Moreover, Kenya Air Force maintains and operates the aircraft, denoted by the distinctive KAF 308 markings on its tail, amidst estimates valuing the aircraft at approximately Ksh2 billion.

Ichung’wah’s call for modernisation resonates against the backdrop of Kenya’s modest fleet of around 80 aircraft, comprising 18 distinct platforms, prompting a renewed emphasis on upgrading military and police equipment to avert the recurrence of recent tragedies.

While closing the debate, National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula did not mince his words directing legislators and leaders from the North Rift region to get together and find ways to foster peace.

“If we did not have peace issues in this region, the general would not have gone there to help construct special schools under special circumstance,” he asserted.

“The leadership must start from this House. If you want to amend the law to give you an opportunity to spend part of the CDF on security issues, so be it,” stated Wetangula.

The comments came as MPs were eulogising General Ogolla and nine other military officers who lost their lives in a plane crash on Thursday last week.

President William Ruto alighting from a plane
President William Ruto alighting from a plane.
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