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Kenya's 'new' fighter jets cannot take off

Updated Sunday, October 31st 2010 at 00:00 GMT +3

By Juma Kwayera

Parliament's pressure on the Executive is likely to increase as the Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee that brought a damning report on Moses Wetangula prepares to turn the spotlight on the Ministry of Defence over Air Force jets acquired from Jordan and whose airworthiness is in doubt.

The report by the committee chaired by Adan Keynan led to the stepping aside of Foreign Affairs Minister and his PS Thuita Mwangi last week. The Department of Defence would once again be called upon to respond to a stink following damning revelations the 15 fighter jets the Kenya Air-Force (KAF) acquired from Jordan this year were substandard.

Parliament this week flexed its muscles, following the passage of the new Constitution. On Thursday, the Committee on Legal and Justice Affairs gave the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) 72 hours to either shape up or ship out over its credibility crisis, prompting Chief Justice Evan Gicheru to appoint a tribunal to probe its chairman Bethuel Kiplagat.

Our inquiries on the jets revealed that the aircraft cannot fly but the issue has been hushed up in the military.

However, military spokesman, Bogita Ongeri, denies these allegations. “The weather made visibility impossible. The flypast had to be dropped from the programme,” says Ongeri. He maintains the aircraft imported this year are in serviceable condition.

Good shape

Senior officers in the force are concerned that the F-5 aircraft, for which the taxpayer shelled out Sh2 billion, are not in good shape.

According inter-office notes seen by The Standard On Sunday, the military top command was duped into buying the 15 aircraft in disregard of the advice of American manufacturers of the F-5 fighter jets. The officer says the Jordanian jets have “proved to be much older than the 1978 fleet”.

Parliament’s spotlight on Department of Defence would be just one of the additional probes the House would be conducting on the Executive. The House is also likely to seek to know if there were any financial fraud schemes at the Ministry of Water. On Friday Assistant Minister Mwangi Kiunjuri made sensational claims of graft in the ministry, which Charity Ngilu heads.

Our inquiry into the jets indicated that given the strategic importance of Kenya to the US’ war against international terrorism, Washington had offered to sell to the Air Force newer versions of the model in addition to regularly servicing them and training pilots and engineers.

Value for money

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