KQ suspends flights to Kinshasa due to staff detention – The Standard Health

A Kenya Airways Boeing Dreamliner at JKIA. Nairobi. (Elvis Ogina, standard)

Kenya Airways has suspended flights to the Democratic Republic of Congo in protest at the ongoing detention of two employees in Kinshasa.

The national airline said on Monday it had suspended flights to Kinshasa as operations at the airport suffered from a lack of sufficient support.

KQ had protested on Friday against the detention of two employees by Congolese military intelligence over alleged incomplete documentation of what the carrier described as valuable cargo. The employees have been in detention since April 19, when they were arrested at the airport office in Kinshasa in what the airline said constituted harassment of its business.

“Due to the ongoing detention of KQ personnel by military intelligence in Kinshasa, Kenya Airways (KQ) is unable to effectively support our flights without staff. We have therefore made the difficult decision to suspend flights to Kinshasa, effective April 30, 2024, until we can effectively support these flights,” KQ Chief Executive Officer Allan Kilavuka said in a statement.

Kilavuka said the ongoing detention of his employees had made it difficult for KQ to monitor operations in Kinshasa. In addition to flights to the DR Congo capital, KQ also offers flights to Lubumbashi, while its subsidiary Jambo Jet flies to Goma.

“(This includes) customer service, ground handling, cargo activities and generally ensuring safe and efficient operations. “We also demand that our employees be treated humanely and respectfully during this unlawful detention,” he said.

The airline had previously said that the staff was arrested for allegedly missing customs documents for valuable cargo that was scheduled to be transported on a KQ flight on April 12, 2024, with the logistics provider still guiding them through the documentation process.

According to KQ, when the two employees were arrested, their phones were confiscated and they were denied communication. It was not until April 23 that Kenyan embassy officials and some KQ staff were allowed to visit, but only for a few minutes.

Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs Korir Sing’oei said last Friday that the Kenyan Embassy in Kinshasa was following up the matter and the government was committed to protecting its citizens abroad.

“Kenya has serious concerns about the arrest and detention by the DRC authorities of its nationals lawfully carrying out commercial activities in the DRC,” he wrote on X.

“Our mission in Kinshasa is actively engaged in this matter. The Government reiterates its commitment to protecting our citizens working abroad.”

Nelson Koech, chairman of the National Assembly’s Defense, Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committee, also released a statement calling on the Democratic Republic of Congo to immediately release the two illegally held Kenyans.

“This is a serious violation of the rights of the two Kenyans and a worrying breach of the diplomatic principles on which relations between Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo are based,” he said, adding that the Congolese authorities had no legal reason to do so to detain both KQ employees because the national airline had not taken possession of the cargo.

Koech also protested against military intelligence arresting civilians.

In the statement, Kilavuka said the airline continued to cooperate with authorities.

“We continue to work with investigative authorities and relevant government departments in both the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya to ensure this matter is resolved. We demand the order of the military court to release them so that due process can be followed and our innocent employees can return to their families and their daily lives without harassment,” he said.