Drama as rights activist Kiai briefly stopped at JKIA over clearance to travel

Human righs activist Maina Kiai. He was briefly blocked from boarding a plane to Amsterdam en-route to Prague, Czech Republic Sunday morning. [David Njaaga, Standard]
A human rights activist was Sunday morning briefly blocked from flying out of the country.

It took the intervention of director of immigration services Maj-Gen (rtd) Gordon Kihalangwa to have Maina Kiai, a board member of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), cleared to fly to Amsterdam en-route to Prague, Czech Republic.

Watch list

Kihalangwa said Mr Kiai was neither on the Government's watch list nor a Government official to warrant clearance to leave the country. He said there was no cause for alarm over clearance checks at the airport.

"It was a routine procedure and concern from an immigration official at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). He was allowed to leave after I talked to him," said Kihalangwa.

Kiai was supposed to board a KQ flight to Amsterdam at about 7.50 am, and had arrived early for clearance with immigration and to check in on time.

A supervisor at the desk told Kiai he needed clearance to leave the country and referred him to Kihalangwa.

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The former UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association was taken aback by the demands and demanded to know why he needed clearance.

Witnesses said the demands upset Kiai who alerted his fellow activists on the development at the airport.

One of them, Ndung'u Wainaina who spoke with Kiai said it was strange for State officials to demand travel clearance from Kiai.

"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.

Sources said immigration officials at major entry points had been alerted about a number of human rights activists and State officials seeking to travel out of the country. They, according to the sources, had further been directed not to clear them until they got a nod from the "authorities."

Last week, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Commissioner Roselyn Akombe was briefly blocked from boarding a plane to the US due to lack of clearance from the authorities. 

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