"I spent Ksh10M, not Ksh200M, on private jet to US," Ruto tells Kenyans amid criticism

By Wycliffe Nyamasege
On 30 May 2024 at 11:59

Kenya’s President William Ruto says his chartered private jet for the recent state visit to the United States of America cost the taxpayers Ksh10 million (RWF 99.92 million) and not Ksh200 million (RWF 2 billion) as widely speculated.

Speaking during Kenya’s National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, May 30, President Ruto said that as a "responsible steward," there was no way he could spend the colossal amount on the trip, insisting, "I am not a madman".

According to the Kenyan Head of State, his friends offered the plane after he decided to travel on Kenya Airways (KQ) to the US upon learning that it would cost the taxpayers at least Ksh70 million on a chartered flight.

"I am a very responsible steward believe you me. There is no way I can spend Ksh200 million in fact it cost the republic of Kenya less than Ksh10 million because I am not a madman," President Ruto defended himself.

"When I was told the cheapest plan was Ksh70 million I told my office, go and book Kenya Airways so when some friends of mine heard that I was going to travel Kenya Airways, and I have built a big reputation as a country, some friends told me how much are you willing to pay? I said I’m not willing to spend more than Ksh20 million they said bring Ksh10 million we give you the plane."

He emphasized that as president, he was committed to leading from the front in implementing the government’s austerity measures to cut spending.

"Look at me Kenyans, look at me again. I must lead from the front as I tell others to tighten up their belt mine must be where to begin. So relax and the debate must end because I am that responsible and it is going to be that way," Ruto added.

"My plan is that in 3 years we must have a balanced budget."

President Ruto’s choice of a luxurious private jet for his trip to the US drew mixed reactions with a section of Kenyans questioning his commitment to cutting government spending by state officers.

Upon his return to the country after the four-day visit, he was forced to clear the air, explaining that travelling on the private jet was way cheaper than travelling on Kenya Airways, the country’s national carrier.

"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 last Sunday.

The local media had reported 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 (about Ksh200 million).

The US government had earlier denied reports that it 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.

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 the former administration of 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.