The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) has been at the center of controversy and criticism in 2023 due to mismanagement and alleged incompetence by persons charged with running the facility.
The international airport garnered global attention following several occurrences, especially the harassment of international visitors by the taxman.
Despite assurance from the government to restore the airport’s prestige, Kenyans have been skeptical of the introduced measures.
Kenyans.co.ke takes a look at a few of the blunders that made JKIA a symbol of national shame.
Travellers at JKIA in Nairobi, Kenya, which was hampered by a power outage in December 2023
By December 10, JKIA had experienced 3 blackouts within 3 months, leaving the travellers stranded and operations halted.
The first power outage that rocked the airport was on August 25, with passengers left in the dark for hours.
This resulted in public uproar over the lack of functional generators at the airport.
Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen fired officials from the Kenya Airport Authority (KAA) arguing that they were responsible for the hitch and lack of generators.
Murkomen further assured the public that such an episode would never be experienced again.
However, barely two months later on November 11, JKIA faced yet another blackout triggered by a nationwide power outage.
This time, KAA explained that the blackout did not last long as it only took 5-20 minutes for the generators to restore power at the airport.
Kenyans were still dissatisfied with the response suggesting that it should not take more than five minutes for power to be restored.
Power outage struck the airport again on December 10, after yet another nationwide blackout.
When passengers were not dealing with power outages, they were protecting their belongings from the leaking roofs, especially during the heavy rainfall season experienced across the country.
Kenyans complained about the poor state of the roofs and other facilities at the airport asking the relevant authorities to take prompt action.
The situation later turned into a national embarrassment after the photos started circulating in Uganda, leading to citizens in the neighbouring East African country to confuse that for the Entebbe International Airport.
This forced the Uganda Civil Authority to issue a statement and clarify the airport in the images was not the country’s national installation.
When questioned about the matter, CS Murkomen pointed fingers at the previous regime for poor maintenance of the facility. He however explained that the ministry was working to repair the situation.
Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen visits JKIA to assess the backup generators after nationwide blackouts in 2023
In 2023, smuggling emerged as a significant threat, with a rising number of Kenyan citizens apprehended in Asian nations, particularly India, for transporting illegal substances after boarding flights from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
Kenyans found themselves unwittingly entangled in smuggling operations, acting as mules for the illicit transportation of commodities such as gold and drugs, prompting serious concerns regarding the efficacy of security protocols at the international airport.
By August, the cumulative value of smuggled drugs reached a staggering Ksh1.2 billion, leading to the apprehension of suspects on Indian soil.
An Indian detective, highlighting the escalating trend of smugglers originating from Kenya, expressed alarm over the situation.
The detective further speculated that some of the apprehended suspects may have been collaborating with local authorities and security personnel at the airport to facilitate the illicit transportation of these prohibited products.
Harassment of Tourists
In the pursuit of enhancing revenue collection from both Kenyan citizens and inbound travellers, tourists at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) found themselves facing unsettling situations as their belongings were indiscriminately emptied onto the ground.
The incidents of harassment at the international airport sparked public outrage among Kenyans, prompting calls for the government to explore alternative, more considerate methods of tax collection to avoid deterring potential tourists.
One particularly disheartening episode involved a passenger who was compelled to abandon her Ksh300,000 wedding dress after failing to meet the imposed tax requirements, resulting in evident frustration.
Addressing the concerns raised, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) clarified that tourists were permitted to bring in items within the duty-free limit of Ksh75,000 (USD500).
In response to the escalating issue, the Ministry of Tourism announced proactive measures aimed at minimizing instances of harassment at the international airport, thereby safeguarding the country’s reputation and encouraging a more welcoming environment for visitors.
Flight delays posed a notable challenge for passengers at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), with certain instances where delays remained unexplained, prolonging for extended periods.
Several delays were attributed to the closure of runways at the major airport and the rerouting of flights.
Technical issues with some aircraft also contributed to delays, as these concerns necessitated thorough attention before ensuring the safety of passengers and enabling take-off.
JKIA suffers a blackout on Sunday, December 10, 2023