Kenya Defends Cost of President Ruto’s US Trip Amid Controversy

Kenya Defends Cost of President Ruto’s US Trip Amid Controversy

Kenya Defends Cost of President Ruto’s US Trip Amid Controversy

By Boniface Ihiasota, USA

Kenya’s government has defended the estimated $1.5 million (£1.2 million) cost of President William Ruto’s trip to the United States, where he is attending a four-day visit at the invitation of President Joe Biden.

Government spokesman, Isaac Mwaura emphasized the value of the trip, stating, “The benefits from this visit far outweigh such a million times,” though he did not confirm the cost reported by Kenya’s KTN TV station.

Excel Magazine International learnt that President Ruto, accompanied by more than 30 individuals, including a well-known comedian, landed in Atlanta, Georgia, on Monday. The visit marks the first state visit by a Kenyan president to the US in two decades and the first by an African leader in 16 years.

On Thursday, President Ruto is scheduled to hold talks with President Biden, focusing on trade and security partnerships. Key topics include Kenya’s commitment to lead a multinational mission to restore order in Haiti.

The use of a luxury private jet, chartered from the Dubai-owned RoyalJet company, has sparked outrage in Kenya.

Critics argue that this choice contradicts the government’s austerity measures and comes amid a severe cost-of-living crisis.

Despite the criticism, it remains unclear why the private jet was chosen over the presidential plane, Harambee One, which is nearly 30 years old and has faced safety concerns.

The US government clarified that it did not fund the aircraft for President Ruto’s delegation.

“Just to be clear: The United States of America did not pay for President Ruto’s jet to the US,” a spokesperson for the US embassy in Nairobi stated.

The controversy over the trip’s cost coincides with rising domestic tensions over planned tax increases.

The Kenyan government aims to raise an additional $2.4 billion in taxes in the financial year starting in July, affecting the cost of bread, mobile money transfers, airtime, and data.

Critics argue these taxes are financing government extravagance rather than improving public services.

Since taking office in 2022, President Ruto has made over 50 foreign trips, averaging more than three per month. This travel frequency has attracted criticism, with some advisers acknowledging the administration’s “itchy feet problem.”

In response to public criticism, the government has taken steps to curb public spending.

Last October, it suspended “non-essential foreign travel” and directed all ministries and state departments to reduce their operational budgets by 10%.

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