Police on receiving end as choppers grounded, converted for use by DP Gachagua – Eagle News Feed
- Police are decrying the shortage of airplanes for air surveillance
- The DP Gachaugua asked for a chopper to use for his official and non-official errands.
- Agusta AW139 chopper was converted for Gachagua’s own use
- Up to Sh70 million was spent on the new changes
- It cost the government Sh2 billion to have the chopper in the country
Lack of air support has been blamed for the continued attacks by bandits in parts of north rift, which has left more than 100 people dead in the past six months.
At least 16 police officers were killed in the same period, interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki said.
All police choppers that were operational are grounded hence making operations difficult.
This has forced the government to deploy the military, which has more power and equipment to the region in efforts to contain the menace.
The latest attack on police and other motorists using Lodwar-Kitale Road was a testimony for the menace and the need for the police to have choppers for their operations.
Many officers are suffering in other operational areas including North Eastern and Lamu as they lack choppers to help them in delivering food and other supplies.
On February 10 and 11, bandits laid a siege on the Lodwar-Kitale highway killing ten including four police officers.
They then stripped naked three of the officers, took their uniforms and guns after burning their three land cruisers that were near there.
They stayed put waiting for the police to come for the bodies and engaged them in a shootout that left three more officers with injuries.
The team of General Service Unit managed to retrieve the bodies.
Officials said had the police had a working surveillance chopper it could have helped in detecting the gang and acted in time.
The chopper could have also in a way scared the attackers who laid a siege in the area and keep on attacking.
“The chopper could have helped in even bringing in more troops because we were facing a gang of almost 300 ready for a war,” said a senior officer who asked not to be named.
Unfortunately, according to the officers, one of the serviceable choppers for the police has been repainted to a different colour in readiness for handover to the Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua for own use.
The chopper is an expensive custom-made operational one for the National Police Service.
The DP had asked for a chopper to use for his official and non-official errands.
The affected chopper has a surveillance camera with a screen monitor in the cabin and it is linked to two ground stations based in Nairobi and Mombasa, which can receive live transmissions when the helicopter is airborne.
The advanced mission helicopter which is now in contention and in use by Gachagua was equipped with a camera capable of scanning car number plates and zooming into individuals in a crowd within a range of at least five kilometres.
The chopper also had two vehicle-mounted stations which can be taken to any part of the country where there is conflict to enable commanders to see the real situation on the ground.
This means the mounted equipment on the chopper now being used by the DP have been dismantled.
Photos obtained show the Agusta AW139 has been repainted and renamed differently.
Insiders say up to Sh70 million was spent on the new changes. An earlier estimation was that authorities will spend Sh35 million for the changes.
For instance, on the nose of the chopper, there are NASD words and it now has white color with the Kenyan flag colors around it.
The National Air Support Department (NASD) was formed to repair and return the serviceable equipment for operational use by the department.
The police marks on the chopper were removed and surveillance cameras in the front removed.
Also missing from the new look chopper and without the approval of the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority is the registration mark of the chopper- 5Y-DG-, which officials say is illegal.
Police say they have been ordered to surrender a second grounded similar chopper to the NASD.
Gachagua’s office refused to comment over the controversy surrounding the chopper.
He used it to Nakuru and Naivasha at the weekend.
This has left police without both surveillance and operational chopper, officials said.
The military brought in experts from Egypt who dismantled expensive surveillance gadgets installed in a police Agusta AW139 to make it for passenger use and in particular for use by Gachagua.
The chopper now has no pilot to handle it and the military who are managing it are begging two police officers who are versed with it to cross over and run it.
The move has angered police commanders who feel it is aimed at grounding them in their internal functions.
Among others, the airwing uses the chopper to carry out surveillance patrols weekly in known bandit-prone areas and this was helping in reducing the bandit attacks.
Resupply and changeover of troops in the Boni forest has not been going on since the MI helicopter the military took for repair has not been paid for and is still waiting for shipment out of the country.
It cost the government Sh2 billion to have the chopper in the country.
“We spent Sh1.3 billion acquiring it and further Sh700 million installing the equipment for better use.”
The DP had apparently asked the Kenya Airforce for a chopper to use for his official and private duties, officials aware said.
Since the military had no chopper to give Gachagua, they reportedly advised him to ask for one from the police.
In October last year, State House Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service Felix Koskei wrote to the Inspector General of police and ordered the handover of one of the two Agusta AW139 choppers to the Kenya Airforce for use by the DP.
The military demanded that the police hand them a chopper that was factory-made for surveillance purposes amid protests in vain.
This is despite the fact that there was another one, which is in the VIP factory configuration, officials said.
They have now demanded to take over the second one.
Police have protested the move by the military to demand the surveillance chopper instead of the VIP one saying it is aimed at crippling their own internal operations.
Police headquarters and the Department of Defence refused to comment on the saga.
The airwing is a key support unit of the National Police Service.
In December 2020, former President Uhuru Kenyatta presided over the official handover to the military the management of government civilian-owned planes in the country.
He later launched NASD at Wilson Airport in Nairobi.
Uhuru then emphasised the NASD mandate to provide centralised management of national aviation assets for optimal utilisation, management and serviceability.
Other roles of NASD are to enhance safety, swift response and quality of aviation services in line with the various stakeholders’ core mandates.
He regretted that in the past, the lack of proper maintenance of aviation equipment within the national civilian air fleet brought tragedies to the nation.