22 March 2011

Kenya: U.S. Accused of Sabotage in Fighter Jet Purchase

Nairobi — Details of how the US allegedly sabotaged the purchase of fighter jets by the Kenyan military have been given in confidential cables leaked by the WikiLeaks website.

In the cables, the US government raised concern over the impending purchase of 14 used F-5 jets from Saudi Arabia, particularly the "inappropriateness" of the planes in countering terrorism and the possible corruption in the sale.

It further expressed concern over the apparent drain the purchases would have on the military budget and the opportunity costs likely to be incurred by the US in helping to maintain them.

The Defence budget, it was alleged, was already experiencing negative growth, and the cost for the aircraft could reach as much as $31 million (Sh2.6 billion).

The then ambassador, Mr William Bellamy, however said that despite their misgivings over the deal, they recognised that the issue was "a sovereign decision", one which the Kenyans appeared to have weighed with some care.

"Despite the concerns surrounding this purchase, it is not our place to stop it. This purchase is not the best use of scarce military monies, but the Kenyans have made it clear they plan to go forward with the deal," said Mr Bellamy.

The US believed that Kenya would be better off investing the cash in either reconnaissance or helicopter lift assets.

In addition, there were concerns that the original deal, which was signed during the tenure of former Defence permanent secretary Sammy Kyungu, could be marred by corruption.

"The PS who provided the original set of assurances was sacked in an anti-corruption shake-up and was implicated in corrupt security-related procurement," Mr Bellamy told Washington.

"Lastly, the opportunity costs are too high. We are concerned that Kenya will be forced to seek to use significant amounts to maintain this expanded fleet of F-5s."

These concerns prompted a meeting between embassy officials and the then PS in charge of Foreign Affairs, Mr Boaz Mbaya, to discuss the intended purchases.

It is in this meeting that Mr Bellamy officially raised his concern.

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