Protests over fresh Raila airport drama

Wednesday June 5 2013

PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI | FILE A section of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI | FILE A section of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Cord leader Raila Odinga was unable to use VIP facilities at the airport on June 4 because they were locked, sparking fresh protests from his aides. NATION MEDIA GROUP

By ISAAC ONGIRI [email protected]

Cord leader Raila Odinga was again blocked from using VIP lounges at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Mr Odinga had arrived from Kisumu airport on Tuesday night and was to catch a connecting flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. He drove into a hotel on Mombasa road where he was briefly booked in to prepare for his night flight after Kenya Airports Authority officials vanished, so the former Prime Minister could not use VIP III Lounge.

“Yes, the PM was humiliated again when he arrived from Kisumu,” said Mr Eliud Owallo an aide to Mr Odinga. “We found the VIP III Lounge closed. Even all the other VIP areas were inaccessible as officials disappeared after they were notified that Mr Odinga was expected.”

Before the officials disappeared from the VIP area, they had tried without success to eject Mr Odinga’s security team and his aides who had been waiting at the parking lot.

Mr Odinga checked into Eka Hotel on Mombasa Road to change before being driven to the airport for his 8.30pm flight.

“After KAA clarified that Mr Odinga is free to use the VIP facilities at the airport we thought this matter was done with. But we were shocked when every VIP lounge was inaccessible for us,” said one of Mr Odinga’s aides. “In fact one of the officials attempted to search Mzee’s briefcase, which contained his personal effects. We thought that was an insult.”

Mr Odinga’s escort commander is also said to have sought clarification from the officer in charge of the airport, but was referred to another officer who was said to be behind the implementation of the order.

On Wednesday, Kenya Airports Authority corporate communications manager Dominic Ngigi said the airport regulators were not to blame.

He said protocol issues that have arisen over Mr Odinga’s airport drama fall within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ protocol section and the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Coordination of National Government.

“I don’t know whether Mr Odinga was blocked again or not. I have to check whether it was reported in our logs,” Mr Ngigi said. “Kenya Airports Authority does not control the VIP lounges... and there are clearly laid down rules on how to use them. We also have the Kiruki report, which said a lot on the usage of the VIP facilities here.”

However, government spokesman Muthui Kariuki said the airports authorities should take responsibility for everything that happens within the airport.
He said there was no order from the Secretary to the Cabinet to block Mr Odinga from accessing the VIP areas of the airport.

“Mr Kimemia has said that he has not given any orders to block Mr Odinga from any part of the airport. The airport’s authority should explain where that order came from,” Mr Kariuki stated.

He also said that inspection of luggage, including Mr Odinga’s, is a mandatory security procedure sanctioned by the International Civil Aviation Organisation and International Air Transport Association rules.

Comments from the Protocol Office at the Foreign ministry were not forthcoming as the section head was not in the office.

On Thursday, Parliament is expected to get an explanation on the Monday incident in which the former Prime Minister was unable to use the VIP lounge at the Jomo Kenyatta airport on his way to Kisumu.

“We are saddened and disappointed by his state of affairs,” Suna East MP Junet Mohamed said on Wednesday.

Mr Odinga has insisted on using the VIP III Lounge, but according to KAA, this is reserved for the Deputy President, visiting foreign vice-presidents and retired Kenyan presidents.

He has been advised to use VIP II Lounge, which is also open for use to former vice-presidents, Cabinet secretaries, MPs, principle secretaries and privileged personalities.