By Cyrus Ombati and Lucianne Limo
"A coup d’Ètat has taken place in Mali as I was about to leave for the airport. I may not be able to leave. Airspace closed. Pray for me." And with those words, Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula broke the news to his friends and relatives from Bamako city, through his Facebook page, following the overthrow of the Government of Mali.
Mr Wetangula and his delegation were caught up in crossfire between disgruntled soldiers and loyalists and appealed for prayer from Kenyans, saying the situation was getting out of control. Wetangula, who had gone to Mali to attend a ministerial conference on peace and security in Africa, found himself marooned after delaying for a day, waiting to board a Kenya Airways flight that lands in Bamako three times a week.
Kenya Airways said in a statement it had diverted its flight KQ 513 – a Boeing 737-700 – from Dakar, Senegal, to Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, which was en route to Bamako. Mali soldiers outside the offices of State radio and television broadcaster after announcing a coup d’etat, in the capital Bamako, Thursday. [PHOTO: REUTERS]
Mali soldiers outside the offices of State radio and television broadcaster after announcing a coup d’etat, in the capital Bamako, Thursday. [PHOTO: REUTERS]
"The aircraft, which was en route to Bamako, was diverted 30 minutes from the capital city of Mali," said a statement from KQ.
Kenya Airways Group Managing Director and CEO, Titus Naikuni, said the aircraft had 60 passengers on board – 53 in Economy and seven in Business Class and they are all safe.
Dr Naikuni added that all Kenya Airways staff in Bamako is safe, and that the airline will continue to monitor the situation and provide any update as, and when available.
Naikuni said he talked to Wetangula on Wednesday when he confirmed he was safe, together with his Personal Assistant, Boniface Munzola, Gilbert Ng’eno from Foreign Affairs in Addis Ababa, and Anthony Safari from Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nairobi.
Naikuni said Kenya Airways would do its best to try and get the passengers who are in Mali out of the situation.
Xinhua news agency reported that statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged all Kenyans in Mali to get in touch with the Kenya Airways senior official in Bamako who will arrange for their possible evacuation. "The Government is working with Kenya Airways for possible evacuation and wishes to inform all Kenyans in Mali to get in touch with the Kenya Airways Area manager Sally Osuke in Bamako Mali on +22177638386," the statement released on Thursday said.
Following Wetangula’s Facebook posts, friends and relatives jammed his Facebook page with messages of comfort and encouragement.