KAA has let us down with its denial of the stowaway story

Friday November 15 2019

A combination of a photo of Paul Manyasi, the man who fell from a plane in the United Kingdom, and an e-fit image of the stowaway that was released by London police. The KAA statement should have acknowledged receipt of the new information the Sky News report yielded. PHOTOS | COURTESY


It has been five months since an unidentified stowaway sneaked into the wheel well of Flight KQ100, then fell into a London garden.

Nobody knew who the stowaway was, where he came from, how he got into the belly of the aeroplane, what motivated him to risk his life for pastures anew, and whether his next of kin had been alerted of his death.

It is, therefore, understandable that when Sky News — a British television news channel — released the results of its investigation into this case, all eyes turned to the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) for their reaction.

The KAA communications team rubbished the entire report and denied they had anyone like that in the JKIA staff register.

They added that they had never issued a pass for him to access the airside of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). They fell short of calling Sky News merchants of fake news.

The denial was astonishing, lending itself to further microscopic inquiry to ascertain its source.



The release had neither an official signature nor a recognised accountable signatory; it almost seemed to have been penned in a hurry and in total panic.

The communique also mentioned a multi-agency security team — but the team was not identified, and neither were its terms of engagement defined.

We don’t know the methodology or amount of time it took them to arrive at the speedy conclusion that Sky News was inaccurate.

Whoever authorised the release of that hollow statement should have thought twice before embarrassing his or her employer thus.

Kenyans were expecting a press statement acknowledging that someone breached their airport security systems, gained privileged access to the airside and coiled himself inside the stomach of the plane, exposing passengers and crew to grave danger.

The KAA statement should have acknowledged receipt of the new information the Sky News report yielded.

They should have updated KAA’s clients on the measures they have since taken to correct this lapse.


They should have shown commitment to liaising with the relevant UK authorities to collaborate on piecing together the loose ends regarding this story. This is the professional thing to do in such dicey circumstances.

This was a chance for KAA to show Kenyans that it is taking this matter seriously, and it is doing all it can to find closure.

To rubbish the entire Sky News exposé, when you have nothing to show after five months of internal investigations, not only points to a government institution bereft of professional ethics and moral conduct, but also government officials unfit to continue holding public office.

When you are in a hole, the wisest thing to do is to stop digging.

There is no denying that the flight containing the stowaway originated from JKIA and was about to land at Heathrow when the stowaway dropped out.

The sole responsibility of guaranteeing the safety and security of passengers at JKIA rests with KAA.

It not only owes Kenyans a report on the identity of the stowaway, but also an explanation as to how he had access to the JKIA airside undetected.


That Kenyans are still waiting for this report five months later points to a KAA that does not care for its international reputation, and doesn’t consider itself accountable to the Kenyan public. The denial raises more questions than answers.

That a stranger could easily bypass airport surveillance, enter the airside unchallenged, and travel to Britain undetected points to dangerous security lapses at JKIA, something that could lose the airport its coveted Category 1 status.

It has taken the Kenyan government many years of relentless lobbying to convince the aviation world that JKIA is safe enough to be a Category 1 airport, only for KAA to treat this stowaway incident overly casually.

What’s more worrying is how Kenyans in government institutions are starting to take their cues from our badly behaved political class.


For a long time, we have lived with the lie that only politicians respond to news exposes with statements of denial.

We did not know our government agencies have been benchmarking with our political class on how to get away with lack of accountability.

If the management of KAA wants to convert the professional body into a political outfit, then Kenyans need to know so that we lower our expectations of it.

There is no use being hopeful of a KAA report that will never come. Let them just register as a political party and wait for us at the ballot in 2022.

The writer comments on topical issues; [email protected]