The president of Kenya defends the use of a private jet on his trip to the United States

Kenyan President William Ruto has come under widespread criticism after saying the private jet he used to fly to the United States last week was cheaper than using the national airline.

However, he did not say how much the plane had cost or how much it would have cost on Kenya Airways.

“The facts that are coming to light do not seem to confirm this,” political analyst Professor Herman Manyora told the BBC.

Eugene Wamalwa, a senior opposition figure, told local media that the president’s comments were “unpatriotic.”

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

Ruto traveled to the United States on a four-day official state visit, the first such trip by an African leader in more than 15 years.

While there, Kenya secured a series of investment deals worth billions of dollars.

The country was also designated by the United States as a major non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally, cementing its position as one of the United States’ closest security partners in Africa.

But the use of a luxury plane for the trip to the United States has continued to draw criticism, prompting the president to respond.

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

“In line with my determination to live within our means and that I should lead from the front to do so, the cost was less than traveling on (Kenya Airways),” he said on X (formerly Twitter).

Kenya Airways has not commented on the cost.

But he has dismissed as false a widely reported statement purporting to show that using the airline would have been cheaper for the president.

Despite his explanation, many Kenyans have criticized the president.

Manyora says the president should have explained himself better to convince 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 charter plane, including flexibility, class and safety.

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

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

“It is a shame as a country that the president cannot use our national airline, Kenya Airways, because it is expensive,” he said. Alinur Mohamed.

Calculating the total cost of business class tickets for the president and his delegation, local media report that it would have been much cheaper than chartering a plane.

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

It is reported that such an aircraft costs $1.5 million (£1.2 million) to rent, compared to the estimated $300,000 for Kenya Airways business class tickets for the entire delegation.

But Ruto told US broadcaster Voice Of America (VOA) at 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 reported are “ridiculous.”

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

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

The dispute comes amid concerns from critics that taxpayers’ money has been used to fund extravagances in government, while taxes have been raised on the basis that the state needs additional funding.

Ruto has made more than 50 foreign visits since taking office 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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