Kenya In Diplomatic Row After JKIA Likened To Somalia

 (STN-MUQDISHO):_The Kenyan Embassy to Australia through its envoy Isaiya Kabira has expressed displeasure after the country’s main airport was equated to Somalia.

A letter from Amb. Kabira rebuked the comparison saying that the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Nairobi, cannot be compared to behavior of Somali pirates.

“While it is in your full right to express your outrage, we find it extremely unfortunate that you draw parallels of inefficiency and imagery of piracy to a respected and much-admired airport of Nairobi,” his letter reads in part.

“We also bring to your attention that thousands of young Kenyan soldiers have put their lives on the line to pacify and bring peace in Somalia, a corner of the world, long forgotten by many nations, as part of a peace keeping force of the African Union,” Kabira added.

The comment was made last week by an Australian competition watchdog after a Qantas plane was forced to pay $18,000 (Ksh.1.8million) as diversion fee.

Mr. Graeme Samuel, who was addressing an aviation conference, lamented after one of the planes was delayed for eight minutes at Australia’s Canberra Airport over the charges.

Graeme Samuel's apology to the Kenyan High Commission. Photo/COURTESY

An escort car was parked in front of the plane to prevent it from taking off until the fee was paid. The plane had landed unexpectedly due to bad weather in the incident that occurred in March last year.

“I can’t contemplate any place in the world, except perhaps Somalia or perhaps Nairobi, where an aircraft would, having had to make an unscheduled landing because of weather, had a car parked in front of the aircraft, saying you cannot move until the airline provides a Visa card to extract a charge of $18,000.

“That’s not Australia. That’s a third world country. I’m assured by Qantas it doesn’t even happen in third world countries they are involved in,” a visibly angry Mr. Samuel said.


He has since issued an apology saying it was a spur of the moment comment with a poor choice of words to describe JKIA.

His letter to the Kenyan High Commission in Australia said: “In making these remarks, I did not intend in any way to offend you or your country.”

The Kenya Airports Authority describes JKIA as Africa’s premier hub and ideal gateway into and out of East and Central Africa.

It is Kenya’s largest aviation facility and the busiest airport in East Africa, according to KAA, and a  flagship airport that “makes it the pace setter for other airports in the region.”


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