President William Ruto often made the headlines throughout 2023 due to his insatiable appetite for foreign trips, hopping from country to country on his presidential jet Harambee One and occasionally visiting Kenya as some would say.
From state visits to international summits, the President’s diary in in 2023 was tightly packed with the Kenya Kwanza administration keen on redefining Kenya’s foreign policy.
All this time, one particular jet christened the ‘Harambee One’ was conspicuous as the jet that facilitated most of the President’s trips abroad.
With a tail number ‘KAF 308’, the Harambee One has been the go-to jet for the Kenya Airforce in transporting VVIPs including the President.
History of the Fokker 70
Notably, the presidential jet is a Fokker 70 Extended Range made in the Netherlands.
Its history dates back to the 1990s when the then government led by former President Daniel Arap Moi sought to revamp VVIP transport.
After decades of using military aircraft such as the famous Buffalo and later the Canadian Dash 8, the state moved to acquire a more versatile and modern aircraft for the President’s use.
However, for long distance travels, the state had to hire more capable aircraft from airlines including the Kenya Airways.
Consequently, the cost of presidential travels was high, and the state saw it fit to find a lasting solution.
The year was 1994 when the government made a move to acquire a Fokker 70 ER aircraft from the Netherlands.
At the time Fokker was in its last years of existence after having been in the business of manufacturing aircraft since the early 1900s.
Fokker had witnessed burgeoning growth between the period between 1920s and 1930s before bowing out in 1996 due to bankruptcy.
In 1995, Kenya sent a delegation to oversee the planned acquisition and construction of the aircraft in the Netherlands.
Additionally, the delegation comprising Lt Col Stephen Githinji and other Kenya Airforce officers also undertook a training program for the would-be crew of the aircraft.
On the 20th day of December in 1995 the plane finally departed Netherlands and was eventually received at the Moi Airbase to usher in a new era in Kenya’s air travel.
Moi Makes Maiden Trip on Harambee One
The President Daniel Moi would later make the maiden trip aboard the aircraft in January 1996 for a trip to Uganda. At the time, the aircraft cost Kenya Ksh2.7 billion.
Since then, former Presidents Mwai Kibaki (2002 to 2013), Uhuru Kenyatta (2013 to 2022), and now President William Ruto have been using the aircraft.
However, the presidents have occasionally shifted to other aircraft including Kenya Airways’ Boeing aircraft depending on the needs at hand.
Features of the President’s Jet
Its exterior is white in color with stripes of the national flag. In addition, the jet bears the official coat of arms to communicate the presence of the commander-in-chief.
Despite having an original capacity of 70 passengers, the aircraft was modified to only accommodate 26 passengers.
Furthermore, the aircraft was fitted with more fuel tanks to increase its range.
To power it, the aircraft has two Rolls Royce Tay engines from the Rolls Royce Spey.