Maina Kiai briefly stopped at JKIA as officials demand clearance to travel

Maina Kiai was on his way to Amsterdam when immigration officials demanded his clearance to leave the country. Photo: David Njaaga, Standard

Human rights activist Maina Kiai was Sunday morning stopped at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by immigration officials who were demanding for his clearance to travel.

It took the intervention of Director of Iimmigration Services Maj-Gen Gordon Kihalangwa to have Kiai cleared to proceed with his trip to Amsterdam.

Kihalangwa said Kiai was not on their watch list and is not a government official to require clearance from any party to leave Kenya.

“It was a routine procedure and concern from an immigration official at the JKIA desk. He was allowed to leave after I talked to him,” said Kihalangwa.

He said there was no need for alarm over the checks at the airport.

Kiai was supposed to board a KQ flight to Amsterdam at about 7.50am and had arrived at the airport ready for boarding when the drama took place.

A supervisor at the desk told Kiai he needed clearance to leave the country. The former UN Special Rapporteur was taken aback by the demands and sought to know how and why they required the clearance.

Kiai alerted his fellow activists on the development at the airport. Ndung’u Wainaina, who was among those who talked to Kiai, said it was strange for state officials to demand clearance from even private citizens.

“I think we are back to the dark era when officials would do anything because of your perceived political affiliation. We have to resist this,” he said.

Wainaina said Kiai told him the officials at the airport seemed to have been waiting for orders from above to clear him.

Kiai is a board member of the Kenya Human Rights Commission. The commission was " target="_blank">recently involved in an altercation with the NGO board after the latter ordered its accounts be frozen.

They obtained orders from a court stopping NGO coordination board boss Fazul Mahamed from executing the freeze order.

Last week, IEBC commissioner Roselyn Akombe was detained at the airport after immigration officials refused to clear her. She had to miss her flight and left the following day. She said she is expected to fly back to Kenya from New York Monday.