‘I’m allowed to fly my kin in police aircraft’
Nairobi, Kenya: Beleaguered Kenya Police Air Wing Commandant Rodgers Mbithi has told a team of investigators he committed no crime in allowing his daughter-in-law to fly in a police fixed wing plane from Mombasa to Nairobi.
Mr Mbithi said in his statement that the law permits him to allow his pilots to pick and fly his relatives and civilians.
He also said the presence of the Cessna 208 Caravan (5Y-POL) in Mombasa on April 2 as terrorists struck Garissa University College did not delay or stop the flying of Recce personnel to the scene.
A team of five officers has been appointed to investigate the Kenya Police Air Wing over allegations that the unit failed to respond in time in the wake of the attack, in which 148 people were killed.
Mbithi (pictured) told the team that Police Standing Orders 209 allow civilians or relatives into such planes.
“The carriage of civilians or relatives of Air Wing officers is prohibited except with the express permission of formation/provincial commanders of Commandant Air Wing,” says part of the procedures for operating planes there, which he cited.
He told the team that he called the captain who had the plane that day and asked if he could bring his daughter-in-law and two children to Nairobi.
“The in-law and family resides in the Coast and I was only asking for a lift to Nairobi. The pilot had the discretion of refusing to carry any passenger. He agreed to fly them.”
“The law allows me or any other commander to do so,” he told the officers.
In his statement, he said the Air Wing has only three serviceable aircraft, which include one small helicopter with a capacity for only four passengers, and two fixed wing caravans.
On that day, the air wing had only one operational task to Turkwel, Turkana County, to take GSU Commandant Joel Kitili with Bell 206 helicopter and one programmed training flight to Mombasa by the Cessna flight.
By the time the flights departed from Wilson Airport, the officers had not been informed of any need to fly to Garissa.
The Cessna plane left Wilson at 7.26a.m. and landed in Mombasa at 9.17am and took the recommended 20 minutes on the ground. During this time the pilot picked the three civilians before starting the journey back to Nairobi at 9.49 a.m. He landed at Wilson Airport at 11.36a.m.
By then, they had been ordered to be ready to fly the 18-member Recce Squad to Garissa. The team took an hour to drive from Ruiru to Wilson Airport.
Earlier on, at about 9 a.m., Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery and a number of North Eastern region politicians had flown to Garissa in two Kenya Forest Service and Kenya Wildlife Service helicopters.
It was after he landed in Garissa that Mr Boinnet called Nairobi saying he needed the Recce Squad there. And because Boinnet and Nkaissery had used the only available helicopters, the Recce team was told to drive to the airport to pick the two available fixed wing planes.
Another team with medical equipment was told to drive to Garissa as they were too heavy to be ferried in the planes.
The planes could not fly to Ruiru to pick the team, which had been on standby since 6am when an alarm went off over the attack in Garissa, because there is no runway there