Raila, Ruto splurge billions on costly campaigns - Beaking Kenya News

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Thursday, 23 June 2022

Raila, Ruto splurge billions on costly campaigns


This is the battle of the war chests.

Deputy President William Ruto and his main opponent Raila Odinga are splurging billions to lease helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and buying campaign merchandise, 46 days to the polls.

The two presidential candidates are also spending a fortune on grassroots mobilisation for rallies, hiring advisers and financing internal polls.

There are no campaign spending limits as Parliament has rejected the electoral agency's proposals. It has not approved any enforcement mechanisms.

Besides, billboards are at the centre of presidential campaigns as the political supremos intensify their visibility.

Outdoor advertising firms are making a killing with a billboard measuring 10 by 12 metres costing as much as Sh200,000 per month.

The two front runners have had the billboards for the last month scattered across the country. They will keep them up until the August 9 general election.

With the campaigns already in the homestretch, the big boys are flying in top-of-the-range helicopters, including Eurocopter 350s and the powerful Bell 407s for gruelling, long-distance campaigns.

The Kenya Association of Air Operators said it costs Sh150,000 to 170,000 per hour to hire a helicopter that can carry three passengers.

Onesmus Mwirigi of the association said prices go up dramatically to Sh250,000 when hiring high-capacity choppers for just an hour.

“The costs are based on the duration and capacity, the less the capacity, the cheaper the chopper,” Mwirigi said.

On Wednesday, Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok, the chairman of Ruto's presidential campaign, said they will traverse the country in "campaigns Kenya has never before seen".

“We shall fly, drive and walk  the width and breadth of this country in search of votes because we believe the common mwananchi at the grassroots holds the key to a better Kenya under the leadership of William Ruto,” Nanok said.

The teams are also leasing high-end utility vehicles, which cost about Sh15,000 per unit per day.

The cost for simple campaign posters ranges from Sh60 to Sh90 per piece, while a banner costs at least Sh500 per meter.

More money is also spent on mobilising crowds for rallies as politicians defy hard economic times and inflation to mount the country's most expensive presidential campaign.

This week Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria admitted Kenya Kwanza politicians are transporting crowds to rallies, especially in Kiambu county, where he is running for governor.

"A problem is happening in Kenya Kwanza that I found unfortunate and vowed never to engage in, whereby we transport…

"We are having nine meetings in three or four constituencies. And then somebody brings along their supporters, their fans,” he said.

Kuria, who is the leader of Chama Cha Kazi, is in Ruto's Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

Kisii Senate aspirant for Jubilee Omingo Magara said it costs an average of Sh200 per person to mobilise for rallies in rural areas.

“Those who like bribing crowds spend a fortune in a single rally. It is very expensive to host rallies both at county and nation levels. It is easier when you are popular and liked by the people,” he said.

Magara said for a single presidential campaign rally, it would cost not less than Sh2 million to mobilise crowds alone. And a single branded T-shirt gift costs as much as Sh300.

Branded the most expensive and competitive presidential campaign in Kenya's history, helicopters decorated with Raila and Ruto's faces and logos are criss-crossing the skies.

More helicopters are in the air than ever before.

In the lead up to the 2017 polls Ruto is said to have had three Aerospatiale 350B3 Ecureuil Eurocopters to comb the nooks and crannies for votes.

In 2018, the DP is said to have acquired an Airbus Helicopter H145, which became the most expensive chopper in Kenya , capable of even flying at night.

Raila is said to own at least two Eurocopters while Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi and Wiper boss Kalonzo Musyoka have a chopper each.

Former presidential candidate Peter Kenneth, who is backing Raila, is said to own two Bell 407 choppers, 5Y PK1 and 5Y PKZ.

Besides these, some have been donated by their discreet financiers and friends, while their presidential campaign secretariats are spending an arm and a leg to keep them on the move.

Sometimes, bigwigs within the Raila and Ruto teams who own choppers back them up in the skies for free, giving them a shot in the arm.

The Star has established Raila's campaign team has at its disposal 11 choppers ferrying both local and national teams while the Ruto secretariat has nine helicopters.

On Tuesday, for instance, Raila's team deployed five choppers and one fixed-wing aircraft to Isiolo where he was leading the campaign.

Separately, Raila's running mate Martha Karua and Wiper boss Kalonzo Musyoka scoured Machakos county and Kirinyaga, respectively, with another two helicopters.

This shows Raila used at least eight choppers and one fixed-wing aircraft in a single day.

On Wednesday, Raila landed in Marsabit with two fixed-wing planes while four choppers were on standby to fly him and the campaign teams across the vast county.

An official within Raila's presidential campaign said an advance team always leaves Nairobi ahead of Raila in at least two choppers. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to comment to the press.

Those advance choppers ferry the media, campaign merchandise, security personnel and sound equipment.

Local leaders in Raila's campaigns each have a dedicated chopper.

“Every morning the backroom staff handling logistics assess the day's needs and avail resources based on regions to be toured and the number of leaders accompanying the boss," the source said.

During the Azimio rally in Kisii last Monday, Raila's top Azimio campaign teams landed in a record 11 helicopters.

They traversed at least four constituencies in one day —Kitutu Chache South, South Mugirango, Kitutu Chache North and Bomachoge Chache.

On average, an aircraft costs as much as Sh1 million to hire for a day, meaning Raila's presidential campaign used not less than Sh11 million if they hired all the choppers that day.

When Ruto toured Western Kenya last week, his team deployed six choppers to ferry his campaign teams as well as local politicians.

The DP held 12 stops in Vihiga, Kakamega and Bungoma counties in a single day in his fightback against Raila who had visited the region days earlier.

Another team led by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi headed to the Coast for a series of Kenya Kwanza campaigns with two choppers,

Ruto's running mate Rigathi Gachagua traversed Nairobi.

The Star understands teams led by Ruto, Gachagua, Musalia and Muturi have dedicated choppers whenever they're away from the city as there are remote places to canvas.

The same is true for Raila's running mate Martha Karua and Kalonzo Musyoka.

Kanu chairman Gideon Moi, who is supporting Raila, often joins the teams in his own chopper.

To purchase a standard helicopter, it costs from Sh200 million to Sh1 billion, excluding local registration fees.

Recent data by the South African Revenue Service show Kenyans imported 325 helicopters from South Africa in 2020, valued at Sh 3.6 billion.

This was an increase of 67 compared to a year earlier.    BY THE STAR  

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