Pic: Courtesy Standard Newspaper
This morning we woke up to news that Vietnam police seized more than 100kg of rhino horn smuggled into the country from Nairobi. This is not the first time that a third party is doing what we ought to have done. In the past we could have just ignored it but with our quest to get and retain JKIA as a category 1 hub then we must deal with these bad characters. It is no longer business as usual.
Ironically JKIA and Mombasa port have both cut a niche as transit point for contraband goods more so ivory, game trophies and even drugs . Credit must be given to the few officers who have chosen to do the right thing by stopping such goods in transit . Some have paid the ultimate price. We must celebrate these few officers who not only choose to do their work they have also opted to be patriotic.
Automated systems alone is not enough to halt this bad and illegal practice, it takes patriotism and national pride to take the right call coupled with personal accountability . The officers manning these places be it airports or the port must show alot of self will and personal integrity beyond reproach.
Two suitcases stashed with Rhino horns nabbed at Vietnam airport that is reportedly from JKIA Nbi should all worry us. If we continue to choose to look the other way then it will certainly not be the last .The said suitcases ain’t small , we are talking of a 65KG and a 56KG. Traveling through JKIA with my 23KG bad and my hand luggage we all go through a thorough check before we are allowed to fly.
Then how comes such heavy cases have slipped through without anyone noticing them. It is simple, it is corruption at play and it is high time we dealt with it.
Firstly we are showing the world that anything can go through our airport or port which means we must do an audit trail on how the two suitcases were cleared through the airport . We have scanners with clear audit trail and identify all the officers who let it slip through. Where was airport security? KWS officers with their sniffer dogs? What about airline security?
It is embarrassing that officers in Vietnam chose to do the right thing and stopped the illegal haul . The officers in Vietnam are not better trained than the ones at JKIA and I bet they are paid even lower salaries. It is all about patriotism and high sense of integrity. The rhino horn is more valuable in Vietnam than Kenya hence the officers could easily have asked for a higher bribe , they chose not to. It is believed that rhino horn is now fetching close $100,000 a kilo in far east.
As tourism players and business community we have been fighting and lobbying hard to get JKIA to be granted a category 1 status to allow direct flights to USA. Regrettably it’s such acts by unpatriotic and outright corrupt officers who undermine our efforts , simply put it is economic espionage which should be punished in ruthless manner.
I challenge the authorities to do the following:
1. Trace back the entire documentation process of the said suitcases.
2. Identify all the officers who chose to look the other way and charge them. They should face the same charges as the person who owned the cargo and a lifetime jail will serve them right , that is what the wildlife act says.
Folks it is no longer just about rhino horn , it is national economic interest that is coming under a huge threat by a few shameless unpatriotic officers.
It is a national shame that Vietnam that is poorer than Kenya is able to face up to these high level criminals.
We now have a new MD at KAA , he must be allowed to sweep every corner and get rid of these non patriotic personnel. Internal Security must also do their bit without any fear or favour. We have had many officers who have done the right thing and we must celebrate them while the ones who choose to look the other way must face the full force of the law.
We want JKIA or Mombasa to be an international hub then we must deal with corruption in a ruthless manner. Hold to account any officer who has chosen not do the right thing.
Well if we chose to be casual about it then all the investment we are doing to expand and improve these key installations will come to nought. Such omission only go to undermine our status as a category 1 international airport not to mention the threat of terrorism that remains alive. Why should anyone trust us ?
We should not allow that to happen. It is about time we dealt with this menace once and for all.
As always I choose to remain an optimist
Chairman , Kenya Coast Tourism Association