US agency approves aircraft purchase


One of the two Bell Huey II helicopters delivered in July to the Kenya Air Forces. PHOTO | COURTESY

A controversial Sh43 billion ($418 million) combat aircraft order by the Kenyan military is clean, a US State agency has declared.

The purchase, among the single-biggest weapons deal in the country’s history, was found to be in compliance with US laws governing the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme after a five-month review by the Government Accountability Office.

“The events related to this FMS transaction are consistent with the standard FMS process,” concluded the US Congress’ investigative arm after studying the deal.

The agency’s 11-page report also notes that the US Air Force, which is overseeing the proposed deal, “determined that Kenya made a reasonable choice when it selected the AT-802L aircraft.”

US officials determined that “they did not have any reason to believe that Kenya improperly selected the AT-802L,” the report adds.

Those findings drew a sharply negative response Wednesday from US Congressman Ted Budd, a leading critic of the deal who had requested the investigation by the Government Accountability Office.

“A report on a Kenyan arms sale that did not involve speaking to Kenyan officials is virtually useless,” Congressman Budd declared. The agency says it reviewed all key documents related to the deal and interviewed officials in four US agencies. But it does not cite any direct communications with the Kenyan government.

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Mr Budd pledged to continue monitoring the deal, which is also being reviewed by a US Congress committee that has yet to report its findings. Congress approved the weapons purchase earlier this year following an affirmative State Department assessment of the deal.

But the sale has proved controversial due to Mr Budd’s suggestion that the Kenyan government may not have acted in its own best interests in specifying that it wanted to buy up a dozen of the AT-802L planes.

These weaponised crop duster aircraft, intended for use in Somalia against al-Shabaab, are manufactured by Texas-based Air Tractor and would be sold to Kenya via a contract with New York-based L3 Technologies.

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Republican Congressman Budd claims that the AT-802L would not meet Kenya’s stated objectives.

And he argues that Iomax, a company based in his own district in North Carolina, produces a type of aircraft that would better suit Kenya’s needs and would cost $130 million less than the Air Tractor planes being offered through L3.