Somalia’s Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke was detained with his entourage at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport despite having been given clearance by the Kenyan Government to fly in directly.
A source in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs showed the Nation a copy of the letter sent to the Somali PM, indicating that his chartered flight had been given the green light to fly directly from Mogadishu into JKIA.
Mr Sharmarke and a team of officials from Mogadishu landed in Nairobi on Saturday morning aboard a Freedom Airline Express aircraft registration 5Y-FAN.
However, they were detained in the airport’s VIP lounge for allegedly breaching flight security rules, even as the Protocol Department sent government vehicles to pick them up.
The letter, dated February 20, indicated that the aircraft had been approved to make a “direct flight from Mogadishu to Nairobi” after the Somali Government officially made the request on Thursday.
“The delegation had diplomatic passports and had indicated they would be travelling as one group. They were given that approval,” said the source in the ministry, who asked not to be named.
The delegation included Somalia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mohamed Omar Arte; Trade Minister Abdirashid Ahmed; Mr Mohammed Abdullahi Hassan of Sports; two members of Parliament; a military official and about 10 other top government officials.
At JKIA, security officials refused to clear the officials, who insisted the plane should have passed through the Wajir Airport for screening as is the norm with other flights from Somalia.
The letter does not state if the aircraft had to first land in Wajir. It, instead, shows approval for a non-stop journey from Mogadishu to Nairobi, and permission to use the Kenyan airspace, but does not specify the airport.
As is the norm, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority and the police require that all flights from Somalia be screened in two stages upon arrival in the country.
In Kenya, all passengers arriving from Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, among other countries, have to be screened based on the assessment of the security situation in those states.
Some airports are said to lack modern screening equipment.
A manual for this procedure justifies the screening as a way of ensuring that dangerous passengers, who escaped the check as a result of a security breach at the originating airport, do not get into the country.
However, visiting dignitaries are given exemptions. For example, the Somali President, the PM and other top officials may be allowed direct chartered flights without first stopping in Wajir.