Hiring private jet to US was cheaper than travelling on KQ, says President Ruto

By Wycliffe Nyamasege
On 26 May 2024 at 03:32

Kenya’s President William Ruto has defended his decision to charter a private jet during his recent state visit to the United States. This follows growing concerns from members of the public regarding the cost of hiring the luxury private jet instead of using his usual presidential plane given his stand on the government’s austerity measures.

Some Kenyans had also suggested that President Ruto should have chartered a Kenya Airways (KQ) flight to the US during the historic four-day state visit as part of the marketing strategy for the national carrier.

However, responding to the growing criticism on Sunday, the Head of State explained that he opted for the private jet because it was cheaper than Kenya Airways.

He explained that the decision aligned with his administration’s austerity measures to cut government spending.

"Fellow Kenyans, I have noted concerns on my mode of transport to USA. As a responsible steward of public resources and in keeping with my determination for us to live within our means and that I should lead from the front in so doing, the cost was less than travelling on KQ," President Ruto said in a post on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Local media reports indicated that State House Kenya charted the luxurious aircraft from Dubai-owned RoyalJet company for the president and his delegation’s trip to the US. According to KTN News, the cost of hiring the jet is about $1.5 million.

The US government had earlier in the week denied reports that it had paid for the aircraft the Kenyan delegation used for the US trip.

“Just to be clear: The United States of America did not pay for President Ruto’s jet to the US,” a spokesperson for the US embassy in Nairobi told the press.

Reacting to the growing criticism, Government Spokesperson Isaac Mwaura said, "The benefits from this visit far outweigh such criticism a million times." However, he did not confirm the cost of hiring the jet.

Since assuming office in September 2022, President Ruto has imposed several austerity measures including banning non-essential travel by state officials over financial constraints.

The president has also introduced new taxes on various goods and services, even as he and his deputy, Rigathi Gachagua, insist that they inherited a "dilapidated" economy from former President Uhuru Kenyatta.

President Ruto was accompanied by various government officials, members of the opposition, and representatives from the creative economy to the US on May 20. He was the first African leader to make a state visit to the White House in 16 years since Ghana’s John Kufuor visited in 2008.

During the four-day state visit, US President Joe Biden announced multi-billion investments in green energy, education and health manufacturing in Kenya and a plan to reduce the country’s debt burden.