Garissa plane was on time, says police airwing boss Rogers Mbithi
The Kenya Police Airwing boss Rogers Mbithi on Monday said his unit was not to blame for the delay in deploying an elite police team after terrorists raided Garissa University College.
He said the plane that carried the Recce Company officers was available before they arrived at Wilson Airport.
The plane that carried them to Garissa had been waiting for an hour before departing the airport at 12.30 pm, said Colonel (rtd) Mbithi.
“If they were late it was not because of the aircraft. It arrived from Mombasa at 11.30 am and waited for them for an hour. The pilots even had time to take coffee while awaiting the Recce team,” he added.
The Airwing commandant was responding to claims that the plane was on a “private” mission to Mombasa at a time when it was supposed to be flying to Garissa.
Col (rtd) Mbithi said the plane left Wilson for Mombasa at 7.30 am on the fateful day on what he said was an “instrument flight”.
He explained that during training on how to fly in bad weather, the Mombasa route is usually the best for the task and every pilot is required to practice at least every week.
On board were an instructor and a student. But when returning to Nairobi, Mr Mbithi admitted that it carried his daughter-in-law and two children.
“There is nothing to hide. It came back with her and two small children. I took full responsibility and explained that,” said Col (rtd) Mbithi.
Inspector-General Joseph Boinnet asked the Airwing commandant to explain the matter, which he did.
Col (rtd) Mbithi denied claims that a businessman had been on the Mombasa trip.
He said other than the daughter-in-law and two children, the instructor and an Inspector who was the student, there was nobody else in that plane.
HIGH CAPACITY HELICOPTER
Col (rtd) Mbithi also explained how matters unfolded that day. General Service Unit commandant Joel Kitili, under whose authority Recce falls, was at the airport early to take a scheduled flight to Turkwel to lead an operation against cattle rustlers.
The task was assigned a high capacity helicopter MI-17. Before Mr Kitili left with his team, the IG arrived and needed an aircraft to take him to Garissa, together with Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery.
Faced with two tasks, Col (rtd) Mbithi walked to the Kenya Forest Service hangar and asked for a helicopter and personally flew the top officials to Garissa while the bigger chopper went with Mr Kitili. Hours later, a decision was made to transport Recce officers to Garissa.
An order to deploy GSU’s Recce could only be made either by the IG or his deputy Grace Kaindi, and the airwing would just follow the directive.