WikiLeaks Releases: Nairobi Cable No. 50: US Concerns About Kenya’s Purchase of F5’s From S. Arabia
Viewing cable 05NAIROBI4559, KENYA PURSUING PURCHASE OF F5’S FROM SAUDI ARABIA
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NAIROBI 004559
PM/RSAT FOR BERNETA LEE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/18/2025
TAGS: MARR PTER MASS PREL KE
SUBJECT: KENYA PURSUING PURCHASE OF F5’S FROM SAUDI ARABIA
REF: A. A) 04 SECSTATE 206331
¶B. B) NAIROBI 4428 C) NAIROBI 4462
Classified By: POL/C Michael J. Fitzpatrick, reasons 1.4 (b,d)
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Post has received Kenyan End-Use Monitoring (EUM) Assurances for a pending purchase of 14 used F-5 aircraft from Saudi Arabia. In separate meetings with the Permanent Secretaries of Foreign Affairs and Defense, Ambassador and DCM addressed concerns surrounding the impending purchase, particularly inappropriateness of fighters in countering the primary threat (terrorism) that Kenya faces; possible corruption in the sale; the drain on Kenyan military budgets; and the opportunity costs likely to be incurred by the U.S. in helping maintain them — assuming, that is, that FMF and IMET are re-established if/when Kenya signs an Article 98 agreement.
¶2. (C) Despite our misgivings, we recognize that this is a sovereign decision, one which the Kenyans appear to have weighed with some care. We do not believe it is in our interest to oppose this purchase. END SUMMARY.
A Long Time In The Making
¶2. (C) The GOK first proposed this purchase in 2004. In November of 2004, Poloff gave the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) a list of assurances required before the sale could be consummated (ref. A). In March 2005, Post received and forwarded to the Department a diplomatic note accompanied by a signed agreement for end-use, retransfer, and security assurances for 10 F-5E aircraft and four F-5F aircraft from Saudi Arabia to Kenya. This agreement (which was dated 28 December 2004), was signed by a former P.S. of KDOD, Sammy P.M. Kyungu. Mr. Kyungu was not the P.S. of KDOD at the time Post actually received the agreement, and thus Post requested another copy of the agreement signed by the current P.S. Almost seven months later, Post received another diplomatic note (dated October 18, 2005) and signed agreement for end-use, retransfer, and security assurances for the 10 F-5E aircraft and four F-5F aircraft (refs A and B). This agreement was signed by the current Permanent Secretary (P.S.) of the Kenyan Department of Defence (KDOD), Zachary N. Mwaura (he signed the agreement on 7 October, 2005). (Note: This final agreement incorporated the exact text Poloff originally left with the MFA on November 1, 2004. End note.) The MFA and KDOD called Post several times the week of October 24 asking the USG to provide the End User Certificates to Saudi Arabia so they can conclude this purchase.
Voicing Our Concerns
¶3. (C) Several contentious issues surround this purchase. First, post does not believe these aircraft respond to the threat. F5s are not the most appropriate aircraft to serve as an air defense/deterrent capability, and Kenya would be better off investing the money in either reconnaissance or helicopter lift assets. Second, there is concern that the original deal may be marred by corruption. The KDOD P.S. who provided the original set of assurances was sacked in an anti-corruption shake-up and was implicated in corrupt security-related procurement. Additionally, KDOD,s budget is already experiencing negative growth, and the cost for this aircraft could reach as much as $31 million, according to local press reports. Lastly, the opportunity costs are too high. Post is concerned that KDOD will be forced to seek to use significant amounts of future U.S. FMF authorizations to maintain this expanded fleet of F5s — assuming, that is, that Kenya signs an Article 98 agreement and FMF assistance once again becomes available (ref C) — which could be used more wisely.
¶4. (C) Ambassador and Poloff (note-taker) called on the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Boaz Mbaya, October 31 to discuss Kenya,s plans to purchase the 14 F5 aircraft from Saudi Arabia. Ambassador voiced his concerns about this purchase, asking the following questions: 1) How do these aircraft meet the border security challenges facing Kenya? 2) Is the GOK aware that without an Article 98 agreement, future FMF will not be available to assist in maintaining and equipping these aircraft? and 3) Can Kenya ensure this is a transparent and uncorrupt deal?
¶5. (C) In response to the first question, Mbaya explained that Kenya lives in a volatile environment, with Ethiopia and Eritrea to the north, and Sudan and Somalia on either side. While Kenya is not preparing for war, he said it is in their national interest to be prepared for any threat to their national security from these bordering countries. He assured the Ambassador that corruption is not an issue and that nobody in the Kenyan Government wants another Anglo Leasing-type scandal on their hands. He said the current F5 fleet is old and must be replaced. He understood the implications of not signing an Article 98 agreement, and that FMF (and IMET) cuts will impact this purchase, should Kenya seek assistance in maintaining and equipping the aircraft as well as training for pilots. He added he hoped the Ambassador could convince the USG to grant Saudi Arabia the end user certificates and allow Kenya to pursue their national interests.
¶6. (C) Simultaneously, DCM, accompanied by Deputy Chief of KUSLO and Poloff (note-taker), called on KDOD P.S. Zachary Mwaura to discuss the same issue. KDOD Vice Chief of the General Staff, LtGen J. W. Karangi, was also in attendance. DCM inquired how the F5s fit into Kenya,s defense strategy and why they are looking at buying these particular aircraft. She also asked about the long-term plan to keep the aircraft equipped and maintained, explaining that FMF funding will not be available to assist due to the Article 98 situation. Deputy Chief KUSLO suggested the money could be better used for other aircraft, such as lift asset aircraft. Karangi responded rather defensively that both aircraft are part of the GOK’s military plan but that the F5 purchase is a higher priority.
¶7. (C) Mwaura, who just returned from Saudi Arabia, explained that the current fleet of F5s is deteriorating, and KDOD wants to replace the fleet with the same aircraft the country has been operating for a number of years. Karangi said the F5s would maintain the status quo; they are not seeking to change their capacity. The issue of financing for spare parts and maintenance raised some concern, with both Mwaura and Karangi saying they did not see the connection between Article 98 and this purchase. The DCM explained the issue further, noting that spare parts and maintenance are costly, and the U.S. will not be able to assist until an Article 98 agreement is signed. Mwaura stated that even without assistance, Kenya will still have to defend its borders, and therefore will find a way to purchase the parts. Karangi added “There is a price to pay for national security.8 DCM asked Mwaura if there was any update on the possible signing of an Article 98 agreement. Mwaura responded negatively, saying it was now “a political matter.” Both officials took the opportunity to say that they did not see why an Article 98 agreement was necessary since there is already a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) protecting U.S. military personnel stationed in Kenya. DCM responded that an Article 98 agreement is broader and provides protection to civilian as well as military personnel.
¶8. (C) The DCM wrapped up the meeting by explaining that the Saudi government will need to resubmit their request for end-use certificates to the USG because the case had already been closed due to a lack of response from Kenya. (NOTE: The MFA did not send their end user agreements to Post until after March 1, at which point the DPM/RSAT already responded to Saudi Arabia with &Returned without Action.8 END NOTE.)
¶9. (C) COMMENT: Despite the concerns surrounding this purchase, it is not our place to stop it. This purchase is not the best use of scarce military monies, but the Kenyans have made it clear they plan to go forward with the deal. Withholding end user certificates would not benefit our bilateral relationship with Kenya. We practiced due diligence by insisting the deal be transparent and explaining we will not be able to assist in future costs associated with the purchase until an Article 98 agreement is signed. END COMMENT.