African Press International (API)

"Daily Online News Channel".

Kenya: Presidential aspirants and their close confidants will use helicopters in the campaign

Posted by African Press International on September 14, 2007

By Willis Oketch And Brian Adero

ODM is assembling an airborne campaign brigade to take on the Government in the battle for State House 2007 which The Standard can now confirm will be fought in the air and on the ground, literally.

The arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) of a consignment of parts out of which helicopters will be assembled locally, for ODM and President Kibakis aerial campaign teams, appeared to signal the magnitude of what is at stake for the combatants.

The parts for the first three helicopters have arrived in completely knocked down (CKD) form.

Sources told The Standard that ODM has acquired at least 10 for its fleet that will feature either the Bell 206 or the Eurocopter, or both.

On the lower side, a select used EC (Eurocopter) 130 helicopter costs $678,000 while the EC 120 goes for $1 million. A 2005 manufactured Bell 206 costs $1.7 million. It was not immediately clear whether the consignments contained used or new parts.

Each of the Pentagon members Mr Raila Odinga, Mr Musalia Mudavadi, Mr William Ruto, Mr Norman Nyagah and Mr Najib Balala will have at least two helicopters at their disposal, with one playing back-up, sources said.

With roads that resemble lunar landscapes and great distances that could take hours to cover before reaching far-flung and remote parts of the country, the helicopter is poised to join a wide range of other sophisticated technological alternatives which the Kibaki camp has already rolled out. This will make this General Election one of the most memorable.

Aviation insiders say about Sh300,000 is required to hire a helicopter for a day.

Already, Langata MP and ODM presidential candidate, Raila, has created a sensation locally with the Hummer, a rugged-terrain American Sports Utility Vehicle, which he imported early in the year. Apart from becoming almost synonymous with the car, he also triggered a tide of imports by other individuals. A motor dealer has also capitalised on the fad to officially launch the vehicle locally. To crown it all, the US Government followed it up by donating some Hummer military vehicles to the military at a colourful ceremony in Nairobi.

Opportunity for business

Speaking from the US where he is on a tour, Raila said friends of ODM have acquired one helicopter for the party and it would be leasing two others to facilitate Orange presidential campaigns.

Said he: “What is the big deal? We are using our own resources. This is a statement to the Government not to misuse State resources at the expense of the taxpayer. Our friends are assisting us to acquire the campaign machines.”

He added: “President Kibaki is using military helicopters to move around in this electioneering period. This amounts to abuse of State resources, because all the fora he addresses are quickly turned into his campaign rallies for a second term in office.”

In Nairobi, Mr Musalia Mudavadi, Railas running mate, would not make a direct reference to the helicopters, but confirmed that they would be using private resources from friends to mount a campaign for Railas victory.

On its part, the Government said individuals and organisations seeking to hire out the machines have approached it.

Narc-Kenya chairman Mr Raphael Tuju said that several people had approached them with contracts for lease of helicopters. He added: “We are examining many of them (read leases) We are well prepared for the campaign task,” he said, without elaborating. He added that several business firms were bringing in choppers to cash in on the campaigns.

Sources close to ODM intimated that the party would also be flying in pilots to navigate the helicopters.

The consignment of parts for the first three choppers was flown in as cargo from South Africa last week. The cargo has been cleared.

“It is true some of the helicopters have arrived. The others will come soon. We are grateful to our well-wishers. They are donations from South Africa, who are supporting the party presidential flag bearer,” said a source privy to the goings-on.

Sources in the aviation industry said at least 10 helicopters originating from France and the US were expected in the country by last month.

The helicopters, which are of the type commonly used locally, are turbine engine helicopters.

The Bell 206 helicopters are said to be long-range.

The manufacturer is expected to bring them through a third country, which is South Africa. The choppers are not allowed to cross wide expanses of water, which is why they are dismantled and packed as components.

Industry sources said assembling the parts might take just a day but are quite exorbitant at $1.9 million a piece.

“The proper assembly will involve putting together in accordance with the Type Certificate Data Sheets, which must be approved by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, the industry regulator, based on papers presented by the manufacturer,” said an expert.

Shipping in aircraft parts is tax-free after the Government scrapped the levy to promote aviation.

Importers only need to adhere to the air navigation regulation of 1987 as amended in cap 394 of Laws of Kenya.

The choppers might come with foreign operating licenses, which are three-month contracts to be returned on termination of lease.

Authorities also confirmed that among the chopper parts that have so far arrived is one belonging to Roads minister Mr Simeon Nyachae.

The Standard also learnt that fleets of different models of bad terrain 4x4s to be used in the campaigns and which include Land Rovers and Hummers are either already in the country or in the high seas.

Additional reporting by Ayub Savula

Lifted and published by Korir, API*APN africanpress@chello.no tel +47 932 99 739 or +47 6300 2525 source.standard.ke

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