Unease as drone flies over DP home

Deputy President William Ruto receives the Covid-19 vaccine at his Karen office in Nairobi County on March 30, 2021. [DPPS]

Police have launched investigations into circumstances under which a drone was captured flying inside Deputy President William Ruto’s official residence in Karen, Nairobi.

Nairobi County Police Commander Augustine Nthumbi said Ruto’s wife Rachel reported seeing the drone capturing events at the compound.

“On Monday at around 3pm, Racheal saw the drone when she was in the house and reported it to police officers who rushed there and intercepted it,” said the police boss. 

It is believed that the drone came from a neighbour’s compound.

“Police went there and recovered the drone. It had memory cards which were also recovered. We have involved DCI and Anti-Terror Police Unit and National Intelligence Service. We will involve other bodies such as the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) to establish whether the British national had been cleared to operate a drone,” Nthumbi said.

By yesterday evening, the Briton, Hind Jeremy, 37, had recorded a statement at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) as investigations continued.

The drone was found with several multi-event data storage cards, as investigators continue to sieve through the captured footage.

Security issue

When contacted, Director of Communications at the DP’s office Emanuel Talam, replied: “This is purely a security issue. Our office has nothing to say about.”

According to KCAA, flying a drone is legal in Kenya, but the operator requires to comply with the set regulations.

The law stipulates that a Kenyan citizen or resident must be at least 18 years old in order to own and operate a drone. The applicant should have a company registered in Kenya. No one is allowed to operate an Unmanned Aircraft System over a public road or along the public road of at a distance of less than 164 feet (50 metres). Moreover, importing or exporting drones is only allowed with the approval of the KCAA.

The law further states: “A person shall be eligible to own an Unmanned Aircraft System if that person is; a Kenyan Citizen or resident in Kenya of minimum age of 18 years; a corporate; or national government or county government.”

To protect Kenyans from snooping drones the law further provides that such a device can only be operated within visual line of site and at a maximum height of 400 feet above ground level and 50 metres lateral distance from any persons, building or object not associated with the operations.

The official residence of the deputy president is a designated security area which must be heavily guarded at all times. The public is strictly prohibited from taking photographs, over flying the place or conducting any manner of surveillance.

Any person who fails to comply with any direction given pursuant to these Regulations by the Authority or by any authorised person under any provision of the Act or these Regulations commits an offence and shall be liable upon conviction, to a fine not exceeding Sh2 million or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to both.

The DCI officers are trying to establish whether the operator had registered the drone with the civil aviation authority or issued it with a certificate of registration. 

The incident comes just months after the deputy president’s allies, led by Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana, claimed that their homes were being spied on by drones.