It's Ethiopia! State now breaks silence over aborted Uhuru trip

Kenya's presidential jet

Kenya has sent a protest note to Ethiopia after the aborted presidential trip to the United States last month.

It was revealed Sunday that the President's jet turned back after Ethiopian authorities advised the pilot to change the flight course in a bid to avoid the Yemen airspace.

It also emerged that President Uhuru Kenyatta's jet turned back to Nairobi in Somalia, after Ethiopian air controllers advised them to reroute.

Officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the protest note was handed to Ethiopian Ambassador to Kenya Dina Mufti, who was reportedly summoned to the ministry last Monday over the matter.

"We sent a strong protest note to Ethiopia for embarrassing us. What they did was wrong," said a highly placed source who requested anonymity.

Foreign Affairs PS Karanja Kibicho confirmed that Kenya had sent a note to Ethiopia but denied the envoy had been summoned.

"It's wrong to say that we summoned the ambassador. He came to pick the note from the ministry just like all ambassadors do," Dr Kibicho said.

The PS told The Standard that the issue had been resolved amicably and it was now time to "let the country move forward".

"It was an unfortunate incident and all the countries involved have held discussions and resolved it. We will ensure this does not happen again," he said.

Until Sunday, government officials have been unwilling to give information about what exactly led to the cancellation of the trip, fueling all manner of speculation among Kenyans. Ethiopia and Eritrea have previously been separately blamed over the aborted journey. Mechanical problem has also been cited as a possible reason why the aircraft jetted back.

The presidential jet flew back to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport four hours after it had taken off headed for Dubai.

Although initial reports had indicated that it had crossed the Kenyan-Ethiopia border almost 40 minutes later headed for Eritrea, which was the safe route given the turmoil in Yemeni, the PS clarified that Uhuru's jet actually returned from Somalia.

"The plane returned from Somalia and not Ethiopia after it become untenable to reroute the presidential jet. There was a misdirection which has since been regretted," Kibicho added.

According to the PS, the President's pilot had two options; to return or land for refueling. The pilot chose to fly back since landing a presidential jet in a foreign country requires a lot of protocol arrangements.

"This is a decision you have to make within a short time given you are cruising at 800 kilometres per hour and you are 3,000 metres above sea level. You can't just land in any country with a head of state on board."

Dr Kibicho says the new route could have seen the President's plane entering Saudi Arabia airspace on its way to Dubai through Somalia and Djibouti.