Gire Ali, the Kenya Airways employee who was suspended for filming and sharing a video of a China Southern Airlines plane landing with 239 passengers at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Wednesday, now says he fears for his life.
In suspending him, the airline accused him of going against company policy in exposing poor handling and management of passengers arriving from coronavirus-ravaged China.
The video caused uproar, with Kenyans accusing the government of exposing the country to the virus.
On Friday, Mr Ali confirmed his suspension as social media went abuzz with the news.
“Yes, what is trending is true. They have suspended me,” said Mr Ali.
In the letter to him signed by chief human resources officer Evelyne Munyoki, the airline says it took the action because of his involvement in distributing the clip.
“It has been determined that you be suspended from duty with effect from 27th February 2020 in accordance with provision of clause 16.5 of the Company HR Policy,” Ms Munyoki said.
“During the period of suspension, you will be required to avail [sic] yourself to the investigating team, your manager or any other person in authority as and when required.
“You are therefore required to remain contactable and within easy reach during the period. Also note that the suspension will be on full salary.”
Mr Ali said he feared for his life after he exposed the airline.
“They have been calling and I’m yet to go and meet the team because someone warned me that my life might be in danger and that they were watching me. I handed over my work identification documents through the fence and left. I fear about what could happen to me,” he said.
A video that went viral on social media shows Southern China Airlines’ Flight CZ 6043 landing at JKIA at 7.29am to a hostile reception that saw medical officials at the airport refuse to screen passengers, who were not allowed to leave the plane for almost an hour.
According to a source, it took the intervention of senior government officials to end the standoff.
“All 239 passengers were screened on board, cleared and advised to self-quarantine for the next 14 days,” the Ministry of Health said later.
But Mr Ali says they had earlier this month raised the health safety concerns with the employer but nothing had been done.
In a letter seen by the Saturday Nation, ground crew who handle the Chinese airline wrote to their supervisor on February 2 expressing their fears and asking to be issued with protective gear but got no response.
“As you are aware, we have a duty to provide security services to China Southern from the time of arrival up to departure,” they wrote.
“We’re required to maintain security presence on this flight as long as it is on the ground. Our staff are badly exposed since we do not have protective gear while discharging our duties. We kindly request that similar masks be provided to our staff working on this flight.”
Our calls and text message to get a comment from Dennis Kashero, head of Kenya Airways communications and public affairs, went unanswered.
Kenyans fear that some of the passengers could have contracted the infectious disease, which has spread to over 45 countries, killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 83,000 worldwide, with the vast majority in China.
Kenyans have been furious with the government for allowing flights from China.
They have been calling for the unconditional reinstatement of Mr Ali, calling him a hero for being a whistle-blower.