The Media in its true form went all out to report the breaking news last week when Kenya’s version of Air Force one turned back with President Uhuru on board, from its intended flight to Dubai. I felt as if the concern for the handling of our President more than the facts around this abrupt flight turnaround was what was mainly being conveyed in the reports across the spectrum of our mass media. One daily, reported that the president’s ride was denied passage over Eritrea supposing this information from the writer’s knowledgeable sources. This sparked off my curiosity as indeed might have done for many people familiar with the aviation industry. The “informed sources” quoted there, negated the issue of flight planning which is a discipline in itself within aviation. You see, no flight takes off on the spur of the moment, as may be the common practice with vehicles on the road, which is what much of the media reporting, whether intentionally or unintentionally wanted us the news consumers to believe. Aircraft are assigned specific routings at specific altitudes for specific timings hence what many may refer to as highways in the skies. This system apart from directing the aircraft to its intended destination has obvious safety and security benefits, like aiding the avoidance of mid air collusions and the all important identification and awareness of the aircraft’s presence through whatever airspace for security purposes, especially now post 9/11. One way al shabaab could bring down buildings in Nairobi or for that matter in any city would be to crash aircraft into them. Therefore as a measure flight planning [which includes getting the prerequisite territorial approvals] is essential. Hence for a state house spokesman or for a badly informed reporter as mentioned above to give excuses like war in Yemen which was only realized mid flight is completely miss leading in my opinion. Just think so how did the pilot realize this? Were rockets fired against the aircraft that suddenly jogged their thinking cells mid flight? Was this intelligence [which was already public knowledge] passed to them on radio? If so didn’t NIS Director Major General Philip Kameru know ahead of time about the President’s trip and thus not make appropriate, sufficient plans? I submit these are all farfetched possibilities to my mid. First of all route planning between the Air Force and Kenya Civil Aviation Authority must have taken cognizance of war in Yemen, the weather including things like humidity wind speed and direction, other traffic operating in the area, the aircrafts capability and serviceability, alternate routes including possible emergency landing airports, the vessel’s gross weight which includes passengers cargo even the fuel and aircraft passage rights through all national air spaces enroute to Dubai etc, that’s an international standard. Even the take off time slot for his jet at JKIA and the landing time slot for the same in Dubai International Airport [DXB] is fixed as per the plan, or have you not seen flights you were to take delayed because they missed their take off time slot or held in circulation while airborne awaiting their turn to land? As you can see route planning is a very detailed and very precise activity and as far as I am concerned both the Yemen war story and the turning back from Eritrean air space, fable [noticeably still without a diplomatic spout from our end] are simply nothing more than hog wash.
So then this forces us to wonder, if not lack of route planning, what then actually led to this situation? I submit two possible reasons, first and easiest one the President did not want to make the trip. Exhaustion, an eight hour plus, flight to the US and having to endure the return there after, oh! Man I sure wouldn’t want to do that either if I could avoid it. But having made the commitment to be at the conference, just maybe presidential aide’s in a bid to let him off saw this as a simple way out. Hmmm, Uhuru at times does seem like the spontaneous kind-a-guy. Yet he is the President no need for such shenanigans if he didn’t want to go he could have just canceled last minute who would question him? I leave it up to your better judgment for me it’s all up there in the sky.
My second reason is what really gets my juices running; I believe whatever caused that abrupt turn round had sufficient weight to cause not only the mid air ‘about turn’ but was of such nature as that which demanded the lame Yemen war cover up story. So for us to then analyze what that might be we examine current affairs with that sought of potential during the course of last week. Curtsey of prompt media reporting we know the morning after the president’s aborted trip he was busy at work, and it is significant to mention here that he set foot back on home soil an hour or so just before midnight and thus we can infer that the morning meeting with the Air Force Commander and the Director General of Intelligence that morning was not an earlier diarized appointment. At least not scheduled from before the weighty incident that may have caused his sudden return. By the way this morning meeting also blows my first presidential exhaustion theory out of the sky!
The timing of my supposed incident is also apparent to the keen observer, it must have occurred, assuming it was an occurrence and not some critical intelligence report, after the President’s departure for Dubai and just before the decision to turn back, unless of course the incident was actually a work in progress and only escalated in criticality during the flight period. The people he met is also a curious combination, air force Commander and Intel Chief, means what was being discussed at statehouse concerned the two functions. Media reporting on that meeting seemed to allude to a presidential dressing down or even a review of reasons for the aborted trip. Again I have problems with that hypothesis firstly important persons like the Director General of KCAA would have been involved seeing that route planning and its prerequisite approvals would have been done in collaboration with them. Then again what had NIS to do with this matter? For truly if it was about procedural malpractice wouldn’t the next course of action have been investigative? To establish criminal culpability and or a quality control process to establish where the lapse may have occurred and there after recommend corrective action? That kind of internal investigation is well within the capability of the air force so what was NIS doing there? Even if the president wanted to deploy the spy agency as a resource available to him would he do it in front of the Commander of the unit to be “intelligence-nized” [my word to mean spied on]? It doesn’t make sense because that for one would mean he didn’t trust his air force commander to carry out an effective investigation into what appeared to be at that point a case of professional malpractice. If so why didn’t he ask the commander of KDF himself to be present and why pit NIS against KDF in a case where individual mistrust and agency culture may collide? The appropriate department in such an investigation may have been the military police or even military intelligence supported by both military and civilian air control specialists based on what may have been required of them. If you look at it like that then you and I can only conclude that this morning meeting was not about the previous night’s aerial escapade. One main arena though, where both the air force and the intelligence community may be working closely together is the war against al shabaab mostly in Somalia. From general observation I would single out airstrikes whether our jets or US drones possibly guided by intelligence reporting on ground. Question is the last reported strike came in response to Garissa University, [might I add rightly so, make em pay for it]. Even then we are well into the war I don’t imagine this scenario, in the recent past or just about to be executed, would merit the president’s return in such fashion.
In my thinking the only other credible scenario is if what brought back our President and what was being discussed in that meeting had to do with the air force in relation to an intelligence report. We know General Karangi is retiring and other than being the KDF Commander he was from the air force specifically. Could there have been serious or worrying organizational dynamics set off in the impending changes? Or might there be another grand corruption saga, Anglo Leasing type involving the air force, unearthed by NIS? With the current high level crack downs in government this hypothesis of a yet an announced hand in the cocky jar is certainly a possibility. At least that is the sort of thing that could force a return of the presidential jet. Even then that would call for a bigger representation at the meeting including possibly the outgoing and the incoming KDF commanders among others who evidently were absent from the morning call up. So are we back to our theory of government duping, cover offs and trickery, snapped up by the media and reported as a serious review of presidential flight procedure after a dangerous, unintended executive flight misadventure? Was it nothing more than a team of senior officials having breakfast at statehouse? Your guess is as good as mine. All I know is we have professional operational route planning which all airlines scheduled or not relay on daily and by which they have, since the escalation of trouble, avoided over flying Yemen. [NB. get a better spin doc]