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June 04, 2013

Kenya To Investigate Controversy over Odinga’s Airport Convoy

by Peter Clottey

Kenya’s Airport Authority has launched an investigation into complaints that former Prime Minister Raila Odinga was humiliated after officers allegedly prevented him from using the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s VIP lounge.

“There is an investigation because when we got the report, we thought it actually happened, but then the airport [said] he was not barred from accessing the VIP lounge,” said Ezekiel Mutua, Kenya’s communications director. “So you just kind of check whether indeed an officer who was not informed or acted in an individual capacity might have disrespected the former prime minister. “That is a matter of disciplinary procedures,” Mutua added.

Mutua says the Airport Authority has denied the reports. He said the former prime minister is still entitled to VIP status.

“Therefore I wouldn’t expect that he would be humiliated to a point of being barred from using the VIP lounge. The official report we had from the airport authority is that of an issue of his convoy not allowed to drive to the airside [tarmac] which is a restricted area,” said Mutua.

But, legislators from Odinga’s opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), party have condemned the incident and demanded an apology from President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government.

“The officers at the airport claimed they were acting on orders from above through a circular written by Francis Kimemia. We demand to know, who authorized Kimemia to do the said circular...,” the legislators said in a statement. “This is unacceptable... We want to know if the same treatment applies to retired President Kibaki and his wife. There should be no application of double standards.”
         
Mutua says it would be unfortunate to politicize the controversy.

“It would be wrong to politicize the matter. The cabinet secretary in charge of foreign affairs did clarify that the former prime minister has access to the VIP lounge at the airport and in all local airports in the country,” said Mutua. “What the issue was, was that probably the clarification that he can no longer be driven to the airside the way he used to be when he was the prime minister.”

But supporters of Odinga say the former prime minister has often been disrespected and subjected to humiliation after he lost the last presidential election.              

They accused the government of withdrawing his security detail without informing him. The government denies the accusation.

“There is an attempt by some politicians to make political capital out of this and I don’t think that it is useful, to make it look like some people in the government are out to embarrass the prime minister,” said Mutua.
Clottey interview with Ezekiel Mutua, Kenya's communications director