Politicians will no longer use military helicopters, Duale says

Defence CS Aden Duale (right) says KDF helicopters will no longer be available for use by politicians. [File, Standard]

The Department of Defence has moved to stop the misuse of military helicopters by politicians.

The Standard has established that unregulated use of military aircraft by non-security teams has left key security operations to depend on few helicopters putting to question their maintenance after some crashed in the recent past.  

Defence Cabinet Secretary  Aden Duale has announced that military helicopters will no longer be available for use by politicians.

The directive is part of the Kenya Defence Forces' (KDF) ongoing efforts to safeguard its resources from non-military utilisation.

During an interview on Citizen TV on Wednesday Duale said the decision seeks to reinforce the importance of reserving military assets for security purposes as intended.

"We have a policy, we are not going to carry politicians anymore. Helicopters are meant for specific functions within KDF, they are part of our assets in safeguarding the country," he said.

The CS further declared that military resources, including helicopters, will now be strictly reserved for essential military duties; transporting troops and conducting critical operations.

"They are part and parcel of the assets we have in safeguarding the country. They carry our troops, go to operations so not only helicopters but all our assets, going forward,” Duale said.

However, he said that only him and Interior CS Kithure Kindiki, will be exempt from the new policy when conducting operations in the North Rift region or other areas that are not secure.

"When I'm going for an operation, I'll use military assets, even my colleague CS for Interior, if he's going to the North Rift or a place that is not secure, he will also use our assets,” he said.

Duale’s statement comes after the former Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) Francis Ogolla was killed in a military helicopter crash in April in Sindar, Elgeyo Marakwet county.

“As the president has promised the country, we will avail a very detailed report. Our teams are now in the US and have gone with all the parts and once all that information is collected and recommendations are given to us, we will tell the country if was it mechanical or anything else," he said, adding, “the Defence Council will receive the report, the Commander in Chief, Kenyan taxpayers who fund the military, family and friends of Ogolla will have answers."

The CS dismissed reports that most of the military equipment is worn out, arguing that he previously used the same chopper that crashed and killed Gen Ogolla.

“I used the aircraft that killed Ogolla a number of times... more than 15 times. Prof Kindiki, IG Koome all used it. We used it when we were going to operational areas. It is a very unique machine that can fly at night…our troops use it in very difficult terrain,” he said.

Investigations by The Standard revealed that KDF aircraft fleet consists of 19 aircraft but only 7 are dedicated to security operations, while 12 have been repurposed to cater to the whims of Very Very Important Persons (VVIPs).

Among these, KDF operates three Mi-17 helicopters, originally intended for police use but now under KDF control at Wilson Airport in Nairobi. 

National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah last month called for a substantial budget allocation for the modernization of military equipment, including aircraft. 

Speaking in the National Assembly on April 23, he highlighted the need for updated and reliable equipment, including a modern presidential jet.

Kenya's military aircraft fleet faces challenges due to outdated technology and maintenance issues.

For instance, the Fokker 70 Extended Range (ER) plane, known as Harambee One when the President is aboard, was manufactured in the 1980s, limiting its operational range and requiring frequent refueling stops.

The KDF has also acquired various aircraft from different sources, leading to complex maintenance and inventory processes. Former US marine and security expert Andrew Franklin, now based in Kenya, told BBC that maintaining diverse aircraft models is costly and cumbersome due to the need for different spare parts.

Despite these challenges, the KDF continues to operate several aircraft for VIP transport, including three Dash 8 Q-103 aircraft and three Polish-made M28 Mielec aircraft.