William Ruto says private jet cheaper than Kenya Airways for US trip


Kenya’s President William Ruto has come in for widespread criticism after saying the private jet he used to fly to the US last week was cheaper than using the national airline.

He did not, however, say how much the jet had cost, or how much it would have cost on Kenya Airways.

“The facts that are out in the public do not seem to bear him out,” political analyst Prof Herman Manyora told the BBC.

Senior opposition figure Eugene Wamalwa told local media that the president’s remarks were “unpatriotic”.

He said the president should instead have used the opportunity to market Kenya Airways.

Mr Ruto went to the US on a three-day official state visit – the first such trip by an African leader in more than 15 years.

While he was there, Kenya secured a number of investment deals worth billions of dollars.

The country was also designated by the US as a major non-North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) ally, cementing its position as one of the US’s closest security partners in Africa.

But the use of a luxury jet for the US trip has continued to spark criticism, prompting the president to respond.

On Sunday, a day after returning to the country, Mr Ruto defended himself as a “steward of public resources”.

“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 [Kenya Airways],” he said on X (formerly Twitter).

Kenya Airways has not commented regarding the cost.

But it has dismissed as fake a widely circulated statement that purports to show that using the airline would have been cheaper for the president.

Despite his explanation, many Kenyans have criticised the president.

Mr Manyora says the president should have explained himself better, to persuade people that it was right to use a private jet.

He said the president should have “considered people’s perceptions” and explained the benefits of using a chartered plane, including flexibility, class and security.

“I would have expected that kind of explanation, not one that leaves people wondering,” he said.

On social media some criticised the president for using an airline owned by another country.

“It is a shame as a country if the president can’t use our national airlines, Kenya Airways, because it is expensive,” said Alinur Mohamed.

Calculating the total cost of business class tickets for the president and his delegation, local media report this would have been far cheaper than hiring a jet.

The president used a Dubai-owned RoyalJet company to travel to the US, along with an entourage of about 30 people.

Hiring such a jet is reported to cost $1.5m (£1.2m) versus the $300,000 estimated cost for business-class tickets on Kenya Airways for the entire delegation.

But Mr Ruto told US broadcaster Voice Of America (VOA) over the weekend that the estimated cost of his trip was “completely exaggerated”.

He did not respond to a direct question about how much it cost, but said the amounts being “bandied around are ridiculous”.

“I’m careful about the resources that I spend,” he added.

Last week, government spokesman Isaac Mwaura told the BBC that the “benefits from this visit far outweigh” the costs, without confirming the sums involved.

The row comes amid concerns by critics that taxpayers’ money has been used to fund extravagance in government while taxes have been raised on the basis that the state needs extra funding.

Mr Ruto has made more than 50 visits abroad since he became president in 2022 – averaging more than three a month.

The government has defended the trips as necessary – while pointing to recent directives to cut spending.

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