Kenya Airways protests arrest of its employees by military in Kinshasa

By Wycliffe Nyamasege
On 26 April 2024 at 10:44

Kenya Airways (KQ) has condemned the arrest and continued detention of members of its staff by the military in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In a statement on Friday, KQ Managing Director and CEO Allan Kilavuka disclosed that the two employees were arrested by the Military Intelligence Unit at the airline’s airport office in Kinshasa a week ago.

According to the Kenyan national carrier, the military cited missing customs documentation on valuable cargo that was to be transported on a KQ flight on April 12, 2024, as the reason for the arrest.

“Kenya Airways [KQ] confirms that on Friday, April 19th, 2024, two of our employees at our Airport office in Kinshasa were arrested and continue to be detained by the Military Intelligence Unit known as Detection Militaire des Activities Anti Patrie [DEMIAP].

During their arrest, their phones were seized, and all access to them has been denied. On April 23rd, 2024, Kenyan embassy officials and a few KQ staff were allowed to visit them but only for a few minutes,” KQ said.

Kilavuka lamented that attempts to secure the release of the staffers have proved futile as the authorities continue to ignore court orders regarding the matter.

“On April 24th, 2024, KQ filed an application in the Military Court for the two to be released unconditionally. The court heard the matter on April 25th, 2024, and granted KQ’s request that the two staff members be released to allow due process. Despite the court orders, the military intelligence unit is still holding them incommunicado, yet these are civilians being held in a military intelligence facility,” the CEO said.

The CEO has denied any wrongdoing on the part of the Kenya Airways employees whom he insists had not cleared the cargo to be airlifted.

“The cargo was not on the airside for transportation and, therefore, not in the possession of KQ as the logistic handler was still completing documentation before handing it over to KQ. This cargo was still in the baggage section undergoing clearance when the security team arrived and alleged that KQ was transporting cargo without customs clearance.

“All efforts to explain to the military officers that KQ had not accepted the cargo because of incomplete documentation proved futile,” Kilavuka lamented.

He maintained that Kenya Airways adheres to international best practices in handling and transporting cargo.

“We have stringent processes and compliance checks known as ’Ready for carriage’ to ensure any cargo ferried on our flights meets all the statutory requirements across our destinations. All our logistics partners MUST comply with these measures before KQ accepts any cargo,” he added.

“We are perturbed by this action targeting innocent staff and consider it harassment targeting Kenya Airways’ business. KQ continues to cooperate with the investigating agencies and is working with the relevant Government entities in both DRC and Kenya to ensure this matter is resolved.”