Kenya’s bid to buy Sh41 billion attack aircraft from an American firm was on Wednesday facing an uncertain future after five US legislators asked Congress to stop the deal because it was “inflated”, saying the cost was doubled.
Congressman Tedd Budd is leading four of his colleagues in a bid to block the sale of 12 attack aircraft and two trainer planes to the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), which plans to use them in the war on the Al-Shabaab terrorist group in Somalia.
In a letter to Kenyan Ambassador to the US Robinson Githae, the lawmakers said they had a “reason to question the acquisition” as the $418 million (Sh41.8 billion) cost should have been much less, by more than $200 (Sh20 billion).
They added that L3 Technologies, the company contracted to deliver the aircraft, “has no experience converting agricultural aircraft into intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft with precision-strike capability”.
The kind of aircraft Kenya is interested in are Air Tractor AT-802L, originally built for agricultural use but remodelled into armed planes for military purposes.
Mr Budd is fighting to block the purchase as armouring the aircrafts would be undertaken by another company, Iomax USA, which supplied United Arab Emirates military with the same aircraft.
DONATED AIR TRACTORS
The UAE has since donated the Air Tractors to Jordan and replaced them with Archangels, also from Iomax. The UAE operated the Tractors until November 2015, when they were replaced by the first three of 24 Archangels.
The deal in contention, it is worth noting, includes armouring the planes, an arms package and a training programme for Kenyan military personnel.
But Mr Budd, in the letter to Mr Githae, insisted that he believed “Kenya would benefit by exploring its options in regard to this acquisition”.
The letter was also signed by Congressman Sanford Bishop, an African-American Democrat, and Republicans Walter Jones, Jeff Duncan and Mark Meadows.
They are urging their colleagues to block the proposed transaction and also calling on Congress to investigate the circumstances surrounding Kenya’s pending agreement with L3 Technologies.
“One aspect of this process that concerns us,” the US House members added, “is whether any misrepresentations about capabilities have been made.”
A different company with proven experience could provide Kenya with field-tested aircraft and related elements at a far lower price, said the congressmen.
“Spending $418 million of Kenyan national funds on aircraft that could be acquired for over $200 million less from a company that has years of past performance and an existing production line is not an optimal allocation of scarce defence dollars,” Mr Githae was told.
The alternate company is based in the state of North Carolina, represented in the US House by Congressman Budd.
“We ask that the government of Kenya take these facts, in particular the prospect of an ongoing congressional investigation of this sale, under consideration as it decides whether or not to proceed with this arms purchase,” further said the letter.
DROP 2000 BOMBS
Mr James Braid, a senior aide to Congressman Budd, said in an interview on Tuesday that the type of converted agricultural aircraft manufactured by Iomax has been used to drop at least 2,000 bombs on Islamic State targets in Yemen, Syria and Libya.
Those attacks were carried out by the UAE, which purchased 48 of the planes, he said.
Kenya’s proposed deal with L3 has been approved by the State Department, which declined to comment on the allegations by the five Congress members.
The process for finalising a deal under the US Foreign Military Sales programme also involves a 30-day review by Congress. That period came to an end on Sunday without any formal expression of opposition to the proposed Kenya-L3 agreement.
But Mr Braid said the deal can still be blocked if Congress supports Mr Budd’s call for an investigation. The US government’s executive branch, headed by President Donald Trump, could also intervene to halt the sale, Mr Braid noted.
US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec has defended the propriety of the process.
“The process under way is transparent, open and proper,” the US envoy declared in a statement issued on Saturday. “This potential military sale would be carried out wholly in keeping with appropriate laws and regulations.”
No deal would be concluded, Mr Godec added, until the Ministry of Defence receives “a detailed US government document that will clearly describe each item to be purchased and service to be provided along with an estimated cost”.
Kenya can then negotiate a purchase price, he added.
The Kenyan Government will thus have “the opportunity to review the offer line by line and make a final determination on the Air Tractor aircraft package,” Mr Godec stated.
Wildlife have started dying due to the land invasions in conservancies in Laikipia county, which has also been affected by drought.
Four months ago, Laikipia North was invaded by 10,000 Samburu herdsmen and at least 135,000 cattle.
The invaded conservancies have all been stripped of grass leaving no fodder for wild animals or local ranchers who are now forced to buy hay.
The video below shows a buffalo dying of starvation in Laikipia Nature Conservancy.
More wildlife are expected to die in the coming months before the rainy season.
Local livestock on ranches and conservancies are also starving..
“Invaders’ cattle are the only fat animals in the county because they steal whatever they want by force,” said a small rancher in Laikipia.
“I now have to spend Sh600,000 per month on hay and feed for my farm, just to keep my cattle alive because the invaders left us with no grass. The cows are so stressed that they are aborting. Our beef business will be non-existent in 2017.”
Pokot invaders have also turned to killing buffalo and cutting off parts for witchcraft spells to protect themselves from police.
The attackers, who are usually heavily armed, claim the buffalo are killed and only strips of skin, horn, testicles and noses removed for use in casting witchcraft spells.
On Laikipia Nature Conservancy five buffalo have been poached in this way just over the last week.
STATEMENT BY THE NATIONAL SUPER ALLIANCE AT THE UNVEILING OF THE COALITION AGREEMENT; FEBRUARY 22, 2017:
Ladies and gentlemen,
On January 11th 2017, we gathered at the Bomas of Kenya and committed ourselves to uniting all progressive forces under one political movement, the National Super Alliance, NASA, to liberate our beloved nation from the misrule of Jubilee administration.
Three weeks ago, we established a National Coordinating Committee and tasked it to spearhead the process.
Today, we have invited you here to witness the next milestone in this endeavor, namely the signing of a coalition agreement. Upon the signing of this coalition agreement, and its lodging it with the Registrar of Political Parties today, the NASA Coalition will be both a political and legal reality.
The Coalition Agreement that we are signing today is first and foremost, our agenda for the nation. This is not a formula for sharing power and dishing out positions. This is a formula for solving the many problems our country is facing. This is our formula for putting honesty at the centre of the management of public affairs. This is our roadmap for returning hope and happiness to our land.
It is our plan for a firm, fair, committed and caring leadership.
The document we unveil today outlines how different we are from Jubilee.
Our promise to the people of Kenya is as follows:
We will promote national unity;
We will uphold, guard and respect the dignity of all individuals and communities. We will return the country to the path of constitutional and democratic development.
We will end the culture of impunity;
We will restore sanity in the management of our economy and public affairs.
To achieve this, we have agreed on a seven pillar policy platform as follows:
1. National reconciliation and healing: Fifty years after independence, our nationhood remains fragile. As a nation, we have never been more divided than we are today. We need to come out of denial and accept that tribalism is tearing our nation apart. We as the NASA Coalition believe that this is one of the most critical threats to our nation. We need to confront this scourge honestly and boldly. We will institute a national dialogue so that we can talk to each other and agree on how to deal with the issues that divide us.
2. Resolving historical injustices: Atrocities and injustices against communities have stalked this land since the British arrived on these shores a century ago. Historical injustices are one of the issues that stand in the way of national unity. The Jubilee administration’s refusal to implement the TJRC report reflects the difficulties that we continue to have a society acknowledging, confronting and resolving historical injustices. We as the NASA coalition believe that the truth will set us free. We commit to put in place a mechanism that addresses all the grievances that Kenyans feel have been inflicted on them. It is not for the State to set the boundaries and limits of people’s grievances as we have done in the past, including in the TJRC report.
3. Realizing equality of women, youth, persons with disabilities, and the disadvantaged communities and groups as mandated by the Constitution (Article 27): From the NYS scandal, the plundered Youth and Women funds, affirmative action for the wealthiest women in the country, there is no arena that the Jubilee administration has been as cynical and abusive as in the women and youth agenda. The NASA Coalition is bound by this constitutional mandate because it is the will of the Kenyan people. As part of this commitment, we have adopted in our Coalition agreement the requirement that all our coalition structures and organs fulfill this constitutional requirement.
4. Strengthening devolution: The NASA Coalition is unequivocal that devolution is the foundation of our constitutional democracy. We are committed to strengthening it to the fullest extent possible. The NASA Coalition will immediately surrender to the County Governments all the functions that the Jubilee Coalition has either withheld or usurped. The NASA Coalition will also work to share other functions where it makes sense to do so, notably development of school infrastructure and some aspects of security.
5. Transforming government: Government is a servant of the people. We inherited from colonialists a government that was a master of the people. In our constitutional dispensation, we have endeavored as a sovereign people to establish a Government that is a servant of the people. But the legacy of the domineering Government persists. Senior Government officials continue to view citizens as servants. The NASA Coalition government will institute a transformation initiative that will cure this colonial hangover so that every public officer, from the President down is at all times alive to the fact that they are employed by the people to serve, not to rule over them.
6. Realizing social and economic rights as enshrined in Article 43 of the Constitution:
In Article 43 of our Constitution, Kenyans have willed that every citizen has a minimum standard of living that includes adequate food, healthcare, decent shelter, education and social security. Six years later, this important pillar of the Constitution remains ink on paper, as thousands of Kenyans continue to live in deplorable conditions. As with the obligations under Article 27 above, this mandate is not optional. Realizing these rights is the foundation of the NASA Coalition’s economic and social policy platform.
7: Eradicating poverty and unemployment: Fifty years after our founding fathers committed to eradicate poverty, half of our people are still poor. The economy is unable to create opportunities for millions of our young people. In four short years, the Jubilee administration has succeeded in disconnecting the economy from the welfare of the people. We are told that the economy is growing spectacularly as life gets harder, a record number of companies are issuing profit warnings and laying off people. The NASA Coalition economic policies, programs and projects will be guided by two objectives only: to put food on our people’s tables, and to create jobs and economic opportunities for our young people.
Ladies and gentlemen;
We now turn to a very critical aspect of this Coalition Agreement that speaks to a question that is on every Kenyan’s mind: How will we deal with corruption?
In this Coalition agreement we have committed ourselves to a Code of Conduct that sets the bar higher than has ever been set in this country. This Code binds all of us, and all the people who will be elected on the NASA platform and those appointed by the NASA government to the following:
We shall not do business with the government either directly or indirectly.
We shall not tolerate conflict of interest between public and private affairs.
Every one of us will disclose their financial interests on appointment so that we ensure that there is no potential for personal benefit from the policy decisions that they may make.
We shall demand of our members and appointees to take moral and political responsibility for misconduct, failing which they shall stand dismissed.
What we are saying here is that a NASA government will have ZERO tolerance to corruptions—no IFs, no BUTS. There will be no sacred cows.
This Code of Conduct will become binding on us as soon as this Coalition of Agreement comes into force, and each person with a position of responsibility in this Coalition will sign a copy of it immediately.
What does this mean? We are saying that you will never hear “Mnataka nifanye nini?” from the NASA Coalition.
The NASA Coalition President will never say that corruption begins with you.
The NASA President will never get away with passing the buck to the EACC or Judiciary. Our goal is to attack the culture of corruption. This is our pledge to ourselves and to the people of Kenya. We are telling the world that Kenya is turning a new leaf that investors can come here without fear of being obstructed to extract bribes, and our development partners can trust that the assistance they provide us will be in safe hands.
Last but not least, this Coalition agreement is not simply a political vehicle, “a mbus” which we politicians will disembark on as soon as we assume office. Kenyans can bear us witness that we have kept the CORD coalition in good working order, holding the Jubilee administration’s feet to the fire relentlessly and incessantly.
This is the spirit that we are taking with us to NASA. We have created a coalition structure at national and county levels that will remain outside Government, and mandated them to ensure that the NASA coalition government stays the course. To this end, this Coalition agreement obliges us to convene a General Assembly once a year, where we will give account to Kenyans what we have done and Kenyans will tell us where we are going right and where we can do better. This is how we shall govern— as servants of the people, not masters.
God bless Kenya.