Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo early this month directed ministry officials to get her a private jet for trips to African countries.
In an internal memo seen by the Star, Omamo asked three directors to charter a plane for the trips.
The May 7 memo was addressed to directors in charge of bilateral and political affairs; Africa and Africa Union; and peace and security.
“I would prefer if we conducted these visits in the same manner in which my colleagues are proceeding and try to do day trips only using a charter flight and consider visiting two capitals in a day if possible,” the memo read in part.
The tour was expected to take place in the week of May 17. The Star could not establish whether Omamo visited the capitals in that period.
On Friday, she declined to comment on the visits or the justification for chartering a plane.
Omamo demanded to know how the Star learnt about the trip and how we obtained the memo from the ministry.
“Who told you that? Are you in the ministry? So, how do you get an internal memo from my ministry? Who did you get it from? You cannot start collecting internal memos from my ministry,” the CS said.
“That is an outrage and I will not have that,” she added.
The memo shows Omamo planned to call on the heads of state of the three countries to deliver “any message” that President Uhuru Kenyatta “may have” and hold talks with other foreign ministers.
In one trip, Omamo was expected to meet a Major General and deliver Uhuru’s message.
“We should call on the Head of State, if there is any message to be delivered by H.E President Kenyatta,” she said.
She was to try to solve the impasse regarding the stalled highway project in Turkana and receive a brief on the Sudan process which Juba is mediating.
The visit also sought to persuade Juba to hold a joint investor conference to shore up business relations between the countries and also deal with e-visa and other issues of concern.
In another trip, the CS would visit African Union Commission chairperson Musa Faki to discuss the ongoing crisis in Chad and other conflict hot spots.
She would also meet the AU peace and security commissioner to discuss Amisom and other peace and security issues.
Omamo was to meet the AU commissioner in charge of health for an update on the regional CDC agreement and the next steps.
In another trip, the CS would witness the installation of Kenya’s ambassador.
The agenda also involved a meeting with key officials of the Sudanese government, including the minister for Foreign Affairs and other members of the transitional government
The CS would also call on the prime minister and head of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and deliver the President’s message.
She would hold talks to explore new areas of co-operation between Kenya and Khartoum, including in agriculture and migration.
The revelations have shone the spotlight on the ministry’s expenditure on diplomatic trips whose success rates are questionable.
A mid-size jet that can carry between eight and 10 people can cost between Sh460,000 to Sh642,000 per hour.
In 2013, the office of Deputy President William Ruto paid Sh25 million to VistaJet for the DP and his entourage of 15 officials to use a plane on a campaign against the International Criminal Court.
The team toured Congo, Gabon, Nigeria and Ghana to marshal support against the ICC cases the DP faced alongside President Kenyatta.
The government managed to rally many Africa countries to condemn what they termed excesses by the Netherlands-based court.
In 2015, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee cleared Ruto of any wrongdoing, saying he was not culpable in the charter of the aircraft.
Wilfred Muliro, an international relations lecturer at Technical University of Kenya, said Kenya employed the expensive, “high level” diplomacy involving top government echelons instead of using ambassadors.
“Kenya’s diplomatic relations was highest during President Daniel Moi’s era because he avoided this shuttle diplomacy. But if you play the politics of hiring planes and selling only your interest without promising the other groups their interest, then it doesn’t help,” he said.
In the run-up to last year’s election for the United National Security Council, Kenya heightened her campaign for a seat.
Top ranking Foreign Affairs officials visited African states to secure support for Kenya’s candidacy as a non-permanent member of the UNSC.
Kenya won the seat after beating Djibouti in the tightly contested election.
Last year, Kenya campaigned for Sports CS Amina Mohamed to become World Trade Organization director general.
Amina lost the seat to Nigerian economist and former Finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala despite spirited campaigns.
In 2017, Amina lost the battle for the African Union Commission chairperson post to Chad’s Moussa Faki. The state had mounted an aggressive campaign across the continent for Amina.
(edited by o. owino)