Kenya Airways suspends flights to Kinshasa over DR Congo detentionsMon, 29 Apr 2024 15:16:46 GMT

Kenya Airways announced the suspension of flights to Kinshasa starting Tuesday over the detention of two employees by a military intelligence unit in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”Due to the continued detention of KQ employees by the Military Intelligence Unit in Kinshasa, Kenya Airways (KQ) is unable to support our flights without personnel effectively,” the airline said in a statement Monday.The employees, who work at the carrier’s airport office in the DRC capital were arrested on April 19 by the Military Detection of Anti-Homeland Activities (DEMIAP) allegedly because of “missing custom documentation on valuable cargo”, the airline said last week. But the airline’s CEO Allan Kilavuka said last week that the cargo in question, whose contents are not specified, was “not uplifted or accepted by KQ due to incomplete documentation”.This cargo, whose contents are not specified, “was still in the baggage section being cleared by customs when the security team arrived and alleged that KQ was transporting goods without customs clearance.””All efforts to explain to the military officers that KQ had not accepted the cargo because of incomplete documentation proved futile.”According to Kenya Airways, a military court in the DRC had promised their release last week, but they were still being detained.The airline said that its employees were held “incommunicado” in a military facility until April 23, when embassy officials and a KQ team were allowed to visit them.The DRC government has not commented on the allegations and calls to DEMIAP have not been answered.- ‘Serious infringement’ -In its statement on Monday, Kenya Airways said the “unlawful detention” had “made it difficult for us to supervise our operations in Kinshasa, which include customer service, ground handling, cargo activities, and generally ensuring safe, secure, and efficient operations”.”We ask that the Military court’s direction that they be released to allow due process to be respected so that our innocent staff can return to their families and everyday lives without harassment.”The incident sparked anger in Kenya, with the head of a powerful parliamentary committee calling it a breach of diplomatic rules.”This is a serious infringement of the rights of the two Kenyans and a worrying breach of the diplomatic principles upon which… Kenya-DRC relations are founded,” Nelson Koech, chair of a parliamentary committee covering defence, intelligence and foreign relations, said Friday. KQ was founded in 1977 following the demise of East African Airways and now flies to 45 destinations, 37 of them in Africa.