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Foreign Affairs sticks to Yemen line on Uhuru’s aborted trip

The Foreign Affairs ministry on Thursday defended Ethiopian authorities in an incident in which a plane carrying President Uhuru Kenyatta was turned back.

Instead, the ministry stuck to the Yemen line, accusing journalists of “digging out for a sophisticated story”.

“Why can’t you believe things even when they look simple? Must they be complicated for them to be believed?” Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho told a news conference in Nairobi.

“The story is the Yemen air space. The ceasefire ended unexpectedly. The people planning the trip could not predict this because it was safe minutes earlier,” said Dr Kibicho.

Last Thursday, President Kenyatta’s plane was turned back mid-air en route to Dubai, from where he was to take a commercial flight to Los Angeles, US, for the annual Milken Institute Global Conference.


The Presidency cited “increased military activity in Yemen”, where Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of air strikes against Shiite rebels, known as the Houthis.

On Thursday, Dr Kibicho said the plane returned because the ceasefire that had been in Yemen suddenly broke, meaning that it was no longer safe to pass through it.

“Remember, this is a route we had used a week before when going to Jordan,” said the PS.

“We had all the clearances. There is no one who would start a plane without clearances. As the pilot, you would have to make a choice whether you want to take a risk with the President on board or do the right thing,” he added.

But a set of permits showed that the flight path did not include Yemen. It shows that Ethiopia, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had all given approval for the aircraft.

However, Ethiopian authorities are said to have refused to allow it into Eritrea.


Ethiopian Ambassador Dina Mufti is yet to respond, although he met with ministry officials on Monday.

When asked to comment on the matter, Dr Kibicho said the meeting was routine and not related to the incident.

“When you see an ambassador visit us, it does not mean they have been summoned. This is a contact ministry. Whenever they have an issue, whenever they see you (journalists) reporting something that touches on their country, they will come to this ministry to seek clarification,” he said.

On Wednesday, the Eritrean government protested its innocence in the matter, saying it allowed President Kenyatta to fly through its territories as requested.

“We gave the permission in a matter of 20 minutes. We provided the entry and exit permits for the aircraft. Unfortunately, the aircraft never reached the Eritrean air space,” Eritrean Ambassador in Nairobi Beyene Russom said at a previous interview.