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Gachagua to get repurposed police chopper for official duties

Politics
 An Augusta Westland police helicopter has been reconfigured for DP Rigathi Gachagua's use. [File, Standard]

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua will have a Sh2 billion repurposed police helicopter for official and unofficial operations across the country in the next two weeks once the reconfiguration and rebranding is complete.

Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale told The Standard that the Augusta Westland police helicopter has been reconfigured, rebranded, and will be handed over to the Office of the Deputy President before the end of the month.

“We grounded an expensive police helicopter so that it can be reconfigured for the Deputy President after authorisation by President William Ruto. Once handed over, the plane will be the DP's, for official and private use,” said Duale.

The CS revealed that the helicopter had to undergo rigorous tests for safety and comfort to ensure it is up to standard to carry VVIP.

He said the aircraft will be fully in the hands of the DP and will be flown by the the Kenya Air Force pilots.

“In the meantime, the Deputy President has the freedom to request the Kenya Defence Force (KDF) for a plane for very important occasions, a request which will be subject to availability of the air assets,” said Duale.

The CS explained that KDF assets for air, land, naval and special formations as per the KDF Act and the Constitution are available 24 hours, for the defence of the country and the people from external threats including terrorism.

Investigations by The Standard revealed that the DP had requested for Kenya Air Force plane last year for official use but the military said none was available.

In response to Gachagua’s request, the Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service Felix Koskei wrote to the Inspector General of Police Japheth Koome the Police Airwing to relinquish one of the three grounded Italian-made Augusta Westland (AW139) choppers for use by the DP.

Acquired in 2017, the AW139 formerly was registered as 5Y-DIG and donned with the police colours was used for surveillance.

The helicopter had been fitted with a powerful camera with the capacity of night vision and could zoom persons in a crowd within a range of five kilometres and also capture car number plates.

It initially had national police colours, and registration number 5Y-DIG. But it is now white, with the Kenyan flag emblazoned around it.

It also had two vehicle-mounted stations, which could be taken to any conflict-hit part of the country to give commanders a real feel of the situation on the ground.

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichungw’ah said that the DP’s office had not paid the Kenya Air Force for fuel and the use of its aircraft despite being allocated a budget for such flights.

“The Kenya Air Force is owed billions of shillings by some offices including that of the DP for the use of its planes thus denying the KDF cash to maintain and fuel their planes. This is why it has become difficult to get such planes for use,” said Ichungw’ah.

He reiterated that the Kenya Air Force planes were strictly for us by the Commander-in-Chief President William Ruto and the First Lady.

“Since we do not have a deputy commander in chief, no other person including the DP was entitled to be flown by the Kenya Air Force unless upon request for specifically very important duties,” said Ichung’wah.

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