Kenya Airways Speaks On Arrest & Detention Of 2 Staff By DRC Military

During their arrest, their phones were seized, and all access to them has been denied.

Kenya Airways Speaks On Arrest & Detention Of 2 Staff By DRC Military
A Kenya Airways plane at an airport. /KENYA AIRWAYS

UPDATE: Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Korir Sing’Oei has revealed that Kenya has taken great exception to the arrest and detention of its nationals lawfully carrying out commercial activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo by authorities in DRC.

"Our Mission in Kinshasa is engaging actively on the matter. We shall update the public on developments touching on this issue. The government reaffirms its commitment to protecting our citizens working abroad," he said in a statement on Friday

National carrier, Kenya Airways on Friday, April 26 condemned a situation that saw two of its employees arrested and detained in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) last week.

In a statement, KQ Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Allan Kilavuka revealed that the employees who worked at the airline's office in the DRC capital were apprehended by the Military Intelligence Unit known as Detection Militaire des Activities Anti Patrie (DEMIAP).

DEMIAP was the military intelligence organization of the DC. According to Belgian official sources in 2002, it falls under the authority, 'at least officially', of the chief of staff of Congolese Armed Forces (Forces armées congolaises, FAC), now succeeded by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC)

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

Soldiers attached to DR Congo military. /RELIEF WEB

"The reason for their arrest was alleged to be missing custom documentation on valuable cargo that was to be transported on a KQ flight on April 12th, 2024. However, we wish to state that the said cargo was not uplifted or accepted by KQ due to incomplete documentation," Kilavuka stated in part.

KQ added that on April 24, 2024, it filed an application in the military court for the two to be released unconditionally.

The court heard the matter on April 25, 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 was accused of still holding them incommunicado, yet the staffers were civilians being held in a military intelligence facility.

KQ then established the facts on the incident as follows:

  1. The cargo was not on the air side for transportation and, therefore, not in the possession of KQ as the logistic handler was still completing documentation before handing it over to KQ.
  2. 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.
  3. All efforts to explain to the military officers that KQ had not accepted the cargo because of incomplete documentation proved futile.
  4. The military officers took the two employees to the military side of the air wing (DEMIAP)to record statements. They were held incommunicado until April 23, when the Embassy officials and KQ team were allowed to visit them.

"For clarity: Kenya Airways adheres to international best practices in handling and transporting cargo. The airline has 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," added the statement.

These include:

  1. The relevant agencies and regulators of ferrying cargo must comply and approve documentation.
  2. The appropriate authorities must sign and approve security and safety checks, such as weight and relevant documentation.
  3. No cargo can be accepted until customs endorsement is given.

KQ affirmed that all cargo must pass the 'Ready for Carriage' compliance checks before KQ accepts it, and this is the responsibility of the shipper or logistics partner, not the airline.

"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," added the statement.

By the time of publishing this story, neither DEMIAP nor Kinshasa had yet to respond to KQ's statement.

Kenya Airways planes at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). /FILE