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Kenya buys 12 US helicopters amid rising concern, hue and cry over public debt

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Kenya is set to acquire six new US-made light attack helicopter gunships in a multi-billion shilling deal that is being closed in the middle of severe austerity, an international arms magazine has said.

The planes are part of the $253 million (Sh25 billion) arms deal that Nairobi signed with Washington and got the United States Congress approval in May last year.

UK-based defence magazine IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly says in its latest edition that the six MD Helicopters Inc (MDHI) MD530F Cayuse Warrior scout and light-attack platforms will be delivered between April and August next year.

WAR AGAINST TERROR

The contract, which Arizona-based manufacturer MD Helicopters announced last Thursday, covers half the 12 helicopters that were approved by the US State Department in May 2017.

The Kenya Army said it plans to use the choppers against Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militants and in support of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).

The deal includes 12 MD530F Cayuse Warrior light attack helicopters, machine gun pod systems, rocket launcher systems and assorted ammunition.

The new arms acquisitions signal President Uhuru Kenyatta’s resolve to continue upgrading Kenya’s military capabilities despite his recent push for austerity that last month shaved off Sh34.33 billion from the development budget.

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Kenya, East Africa’s largest economy, has in recent years suffered deadly gun and bomb attacks from the Al-Shabaab militants who are demanding withdrawal of Kenyan troops from the Horn of Africa nation.

Kenya does not make public its military purchases and only Parliament is mandated to scrutinise expenditure by key security organs.

The US manufacturer’s contract notification for Kenya says the helicopters will be fitted with enhanced firepower, including the FN Herstal Weapons Management System, the DillonAero Mission Configurable Armament System (MCAS) and the DillonAero fixed-forward sighting system.

Besides, the planes have a 62mm ballistic armour protection, FN Herstal 12.7mm HMP 400 machine gun pods and M260 seven-shot pods for 70mm rockets.

Kenya is procuring the MD 530Fs to replace existing MD 500 platforms that are flown by the 50th Air Cavalry Battalion and constitutes the core of the reconnaissance equipment supporting ground forces.

Afghan Air Force has used helicopters that are similar to the six Kenya is about to acquire under the proposed deal. The efficacy of the gunships was, however, questioned last year, according to an interview in the New York Times.

Afghanistan’s most decorated pilot, Colonel Qalandar Shah Qalandari, was quoted as saying, among other things, that the helicopters “cannot reach areas where Taliban insurgents operate from because they cannot cross the mountain ranges that surround Kabul.”

READ ALSO:   VIDEO: New Chinese ambassador to Kenya presents her credentials to Uhuru

“If we go down after the enemy we’re going to have enemy return fire, which we can’t survive. If we go up higher, we can’t visually target the enemy. Even the guns are no good,” he said of the planes.

US Defence Security Co-operation Agency (DSCA) had, however, said earlier in a May 2, 2017 statement that the helicopters will go towards helping Kenya “modernise its rotorcraft fleet in order to improve border security, undertake operations against Somalia-based jihadist group Al-Shabaab and contribute to the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).”

Kenya has consistently upgraded its military hardware in recent years, raising its spending on the armed forces to Sh96 billion in 2016 to stand above neighbouring Ethiopia and Uganda combined, a global report said.

Nairobi’s arms orders, which have stoked fears of an arms race in the region, last year included a second-hand naval gun, AK-630 30mm, from Montenegro “for modernisation of Jasiri OPV (offshore patrol vessel)”.

Besides, the Kenya Defence Forces last July received the last two of the eight Bell Huey II helicopters it ordered from the US to reinforce its air assault capability against terrorists.

Jordan, a long-time seller of arms to Nairobi, last year also donated two second-hand AH-1F Cobra attack helicopters to Kenya.

READ ALSO:   VIDEO: Uhuru to meet Trump, other leaders at G7 Summit in Italy

Under the earlier US deal with Nairobi, the 12 MD530F weaponised helicopters were to be supplied together with 24 heavy machine gun pods, 24 HMP400 machine gun pod systems, 24 M260 rocket pods and 4,032 M151 high-explosive rockets.

The planes were also to be fitted with 1,536 M274 smoke rockets, 400,000 rounds of .50 calibre ammunition and communications/ navigation equipment.

Kenya was also to get logistics support, training and technical assistance, spare parts and field service support and special assigned airlift mission (SAAM) flight delivery under the deal.

-nation.co.ke

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Africa

Uganda deports Rwandan, French nationals

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Ugandan authorities have deported a Rwandan and a French national accusing them of undermining state security.

The two, identified as Annie Bilenge Tabura and Olivier Prentout, are employees of leading telecom provider MTN Uganda.

Ms Tabura is the general manager sales and distribution, while Mr Prentout is the chief marketing officer.

In a statement Tuesday, deputy police spokeswoman Polly Namaye said that security agencies in collaboration with immigration officers had been investigating the two foreigners “over their engagements in acts which compromise national security.”

“We strongly believe that the deportation of the two foreigners, who were using their employment as tools to achieve their ill motives, has enabled us to disrupt their intended plans of compromising our national security,” she added.

Rwanda has termed the deportation of Ms Tabura a “witch-hunt and harassment” of Rwandans in Uganda as tensions between the two countries continue to escalate.

“You should ask them [Ugandan authorities] why they keep doing this, not us,” Mr Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda’s State Minister in charge of East African Community Affairs said, responding to the The EastAfrican.

“It is not the first time they have done this. This is a case of harassment of our nationals in Uganda.”

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Rwanda accuses Kampala of  “arbitrary arrest and torture of Rwandans in Uganda” and for hosting rebels seeking to destabilise it. Uganda claims that Kigali is deploying spies in the country.

Mr Nduhungirehe said Kigali will “seek explanations” from Kampala, adding that there are also some Rwandans who were arrested in Uganda and “we don’t know where they were taken.”

“The Rwandan High Commission in Uganda always writes to seek clarification whenever such arrests are made but we never get responses. They never share evidence or give reasons why individuals are arrested. They kidnap, torture and then throw them out without a word,” Mr Nduhungirehe said.

MTN said in a statement Tuesday that Ms Tabura was arrested by unidentified security officers at their office in Kampala on Monday morning, while Mr Prentout had been arrested by police at Entebbe airport on Sunday, soon after he returned from a business trip.

The telco said the two “have been deported from Uganda to their home countries.”

“MTN Uganda, together with all its employees, remains fully committed to operating within and respecting the laws of the country,” the firm added.

The unit of MTN South Africa has had a run in with the authorities previously. In July last year, its data centre was raided by agents said to be from Uganda’s domestic intelligence unit.

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The firm said attempts to log into their servers were unsuccessful and that it reported to the police a case of illegal intrusion into the data centre and disconnection of four servers, but denied reports that it was being investigated over breach of national security and tax evasion.

MTN’s 20-year licence expired on October 20, 2018 but it was granted an interim licences, the second one which expired on January 20. The Cabinet had demanded a review of the telco’s operations after it was accused of underdeclaring its call volume and therefore not paying its fair share to the taxman, a charge it denied.

Uganda maintains that arrests target individuals suspected of espionage.

While diplomatic ties between the two countries have remained strained, there are fears that the frostiness could affect cross-border trade.

Rwanda has since warned its citizens to “exercise caution while travelling to Uganda”.

“This is a delicate situation that we need to deal with. We are in a Common Market and for now we are trying to talk to Uganda about these incidents,” Mr Nduhungirehe said.

Mayors of Rwandan border districts — Burera, Nyagatare and Gicumbi — told The EastAfrican that while the residents are aware of the tension, they are undeterred in their cross-border trade.

READ ALSO:   VIDEO: Uhuru to meet Trump, other leaders at G7 Summit in Italy

“Trade is normal, if not even better. We have not received reports of any harassment of Rwandan traders across the border,” Felix Ndayambaje, the Mayor of Gicumbi District told The EastAfrican.

“We, however, advise them to always avoid using porous borders, because if they use them and are arrested on the other side, we face limitations on helping them. We know of the tensions and that is why we warn the cross-border traders to be vigilant.”

The Rwanda Private Sector Federation (PSF) warns that if the two governments fail to deescalate the tension, it would change the business environment.

“I would want to see a better conducive environment between the two countries,” Robert Bapfakurera, the chairman of PSF said.

“Trade is still strong but anything which does not create a good environment affects business,” he said, adding that business can only thrive if “the environment is without fear or any insecurity.”

The EastAfrican

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Pastor sneaks out as SACCO members demand their cash

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A Thika-based bishop on Sunday sneaked away from his church after members of his controversial sacco camped in the compound to demand their savings.

David Ngari commonly known as Gakuyo is the owner of Ekeza Savings and Credit Cooperative Society.

Members said they applied for withdrawal of funds in 2017 after word went round the sacco was collapsing due to fraud.

The irate group camped at Calvary Chosen Center hoping to get Ngari to tell them when their money will be released.

But Ngari declined to address the group and instead drove off in an unmarked vehicle after the church service was over. Members claimed the bishop used their money finance his campaigns during the 2017 elections when Ngari expressed interest in Kiambu governorship.

Ngari later dropped his bid, opting to formed the United for Kiambu Movement that supported Governor Ferdinand Waititu.

“We saved our money on promises of many benefits including getting a piece of land at a relatively cheaper price,” Bernard Irungu said.

Irungu said he has a total of Sh285,000 in savings held by the sacco. He said he was considering taking Ngari to court. He said he requested for a Sh30,000 loan which was declined before he decided to withdraw all his savings.

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“I made the withdrawal request in January 2017 and was told to wait for 60 working days. But up to now they haven’t released the money,” Irungu said.

George Njuguna with Sh282,000 in savings said he cannot pay school fees because the funds are held up.

“I joined the Sacco because Ngari is a man of God and I felt that my money would be safe,” Njuguna said.

Boda boda rider Robert Mathenge has saved Sh95,000 and was promised land by the Gakuyo Real Estate, a firm owned by Ngari. “I didn’t get the land and now they’ve withheld my savings. This is a big injustice,” Mathenge said.

Ngari promised to release a statement on the matter yesterday but had not done so by press time.

-The star

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Atheists boss Harrison Mumia fired by Central Bank of Kenya

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The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has summarily dismissed and cut ties with Harrison Mumia, the president of Atheist in Kenya (AIK), for failing to exercise political impartiality.

In a show cause letter dated February 28, 2018, the bank regulator accused Mumia of engaging in political activities by making statements on social media which may compromise neutrality of his employer.

While sacking him, the CBK pointed out three tweets where Mumia publicly showed his political bias against law enforcers.

A case in point is a statement he made upon arrest of Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter in which he appeared to suggest the apprehension was not based on law.

“I thought Alfred Keter was in government. I thought yuko ndani ndani. Mbona anashikwa na his government tena? (I thought he was in government, why is he being arrested by own government?). Useless, being in government is a myth. To those who voted for Jubileee, in what sense are you in government?” he posted.

Ironically, Keter was detained for three days for allegedly faking Treasury Bills and demanding for pay from CBK, Mumia’s employer.

“Thereby suggesting arrest of the MP was not based on any fair investigation but was a betrayal by his political party. You nonetheless knew the arrest was as a result of investigations by investigating agencies including your employer,”read a notice to show cause.

Even though the CBK had cautioned him against any further misconduct and despite having been suspended, Mumia continued nonetheless thus disregarding his employer and the disciplinary committee.

“Consequently, we find justification to vary the decision to terminate your services and therefore the earlier decision still stands, under the circumstances, you are hereby expected to immediately commence the clearance process with the bank,” said Dennis Makuu, Acting Human Resource Director.

https://twitter.com/harrisonmumia/status/1087451622857424902

READ ALSO:   I'm embarrassed, says Kenyatta as he refuses to read his speech
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