Video shows decommissioned plane ablaze, not William Ruto’s personal jet

Kenya’s government scrapped plans to impose multiple tax hikes after a controversial bill sparked protests in the country and led to hundreds of arrests. Mostly young protestors assembled over concerns that the East African country’s cost-of-living crisis would worsen under the levies laid out in the Finance Bill 2024, including taxes on bread purchases and car ownership.  Users shared a video claiming it showed President William Ruto’s private jet set on fire by protestors. But the claim is false: the plane in the footage is a permanent fixture in a public park in Nairobi, not the presidential jet.

“Angry Kenyan youth have burnt down a presidential private jet being used by their president. This is the shape of things unfolding in Africa,” reads a post published with a video on X on July 1, 2024.

A screenshot of the false post, taken on July 3, 2024

Nigerian-based users shared the three-minute footage showing a blue and white plane burning on the ground as a man narrates. “Private jet on fire. Kenyan youth just set their president’s private jet on fire,” he says.

The clip was first posted to TikTok and viewed more than 292,000 times, with similar claims circulating in French.

The video also includes other footage allegedly from the Kenyan protests, including the home of a member of parliament (MP) burning and individuals looting a market belonging to another MP, both of whom voted in favour of the controversial tax bill. 

The video surfaced after largely peaceful rallies in Kenya against a bill containing contentious tax hikes turned violent, with Kenya’s parliamentary complex ransacked. Human rights groups said at least 30 people died, while the government says the death toll was 19 (archived here and here).

But the burning plane in the footage is a fixed feature in a Nairobi park, not the president’s private jet.

Park decoration

Using a keyword search for “plane set on fire Kenya,” AFP Fact Check found that a Kenyan news outlet posted photos on X of a similar blue and white plane burning on the same brick-covered surface visible in the false post (archived here).

Comparison of false post (left) and Kenyan media post

“Uhuru Park plane set on fire,” reads the caption of the post published on June 25, 2024, the same day demonstrators stormed the country’s parliamentary complex (archived here).

Several other videos posted to social media on June 25 also showed the plane burning amid the anti-tax protests (archived here and here).

Using Google Maps, AFP Fact Check found images of the same aircraft in Uhuru Park in Nairobi, a public space located next to the city’s central business district, the hub of recent demonstrations (archived here and here).

Screenshots from Google Maps, taken on July 3, 2024

In the Google Maps image, the plane’s tail number, EY-534, is visible, matching that of the aircraft seen burning on social media.

A comparison of the false post (left) and Google Maps image with a highlighted box

According to an article about a 2021 aeroplane auction in Kenya, the plane was operated by a Somali airline before moving to Tajikistan in 2008.

In 2012, the EY-534 was stored at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport before going up for auction in 2021 (archived here).

An image of a plane operated by Tajikistan’s East Air has the same tail number and colouring as the one in Uhuru Park (archived here).

A screenshot showing the EY-534 aircraft, taken on June 3, 2024

The aircraft is also visible in satellite imagery. 

Satellite imagery from Google Maps showing the plane (circled) in the park

According to a local news article, the aeroplane arrived in the park on August 5, 2022, with plans to turn it into a restaurant (archived here). 

The other clips in the footage showing the burning of an MP’s home and the raid on a market owned by another MP over their votes in favour of the finance bill were covered by local media (archived here and here).

However, the plane is not Ruto's private jet, though he has been criticised recently for using one for international visits.

'Not a madman'

Ruto defended his use of a luxury private plane for his landmark trip to the United States in May 2024, saying it cost taxpayers less than $80,000 (archived here).

Controversy swirled as ordinary Kenyans struggled with the high cost of living and a raft of tax hikes and new levies imposed by Ruto's government last year.

Local media reports said he had chartered a Boeing 737-700 business jet for the visit, which saw him secure several lucrative deals with the United States (archived here).

But Ruto scoffed at reports he had spent as much as 200 million Kenyan shillings ($1.5 million) on the plane, saying: "I am not a madman."

He took office in 2022, promising to ease the lot of ordinary people.


Protestors and police clashed again on July 2, despite Ruto’s decision last week to withdraw the controversial bill (archived here).

AFP has debunked other false claims about the demonstrations, which you can read about here.

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