Why the Airport Disaster should never be condoned – Shitemi Khamadi

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Any nation starting a war will first bomb the main international airport to ensure no flight takes off or even lands. Crippling this critical infrastructure helps to keep certain individuals being targeted are within a jurisdiction that can be reached. The next thing is to bomb the military installations; armory with weapons and also the nearby military airstrip. From these, the next is blocking access to the international airport by ensuring all the feeder roads are damaged. In the Kenya’s case, the bridges on Mombasa and Jogoo road would do the trick.

This is the reason military personnel were sent to cordon off the airport when the fire got out of hand. Certainly they have considerable better security protocol were there to be any real threat on the territorial jurisdiction of this republic through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

Thinking through the negative effects of the fire,  the damages costs are colossal. Investigations are underway and the truth of what really caused the fire will not be known. Going by Kenyan investigations into significant incidences, such truth is kept in the dark for reasons security and investigations personnel know best. However for a number of reasons, this fire should be a wakeup call on many fronts.

Deportees who were set to be taken to their respective countries could now be roaming around the country. Even those who had been hand cuffed could have been let go in the process because of the speed with which people had to be evacuated. Some of these individuals could have been dangerous in one way or another or they could just have been in the country illegally.

Illegal commodities had the perfect opportunity to be brought in. This could be those being held up in some store within the airport or on transit either in a plane or in the precincts of the airport. Some of these could be weapons, illegal minerals especially from neighboring countries like DRC and drugs. Such goods could now be with the owners within the country thanks to the fire.

Immigration information that assists the country main air safety and general information the immigration department uses could have been lost. While modern safety measures require most sensitive information to be saved in cloud based applications, it is not guaranteed that the country has embraced them. Computer servers within the immigration department were certainly destroyed and one hopes none was lost.

The financial costs of closing the airport are enormous. This is both directly and indirectly, and in the short to long term. From the landing costs, to parking charges, to other commercial enterprises that benefit say through jobs and the sale of commodities, the country has lost millions. Some countries will come in stating they want to assist which is expected. For some of these, this is an opportunity to create relevance in that sector and take the business elsewhere. It could also be used as an opportunity to show relevance,  creating a cycle of reliance through debt and infrastructural repairs.

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The international embarrassment was quite epic. One way was evidenced in how the army was forced to use buckets to help put out the fire. This was a total disgrace albeit whimsical excuse of inaccessibility of some areas cannot be condoned. Secondly is the looting associated with police officers and confessed to media by some witnesses. A country like Kenya should at all times do what it can to ensure negative news does not provide feed the negative African news loop of the western media and society. This fodder cements parochial stereotypes and perceptions that have no place in modern Kenya and Africa in general.

Some day perhaps someone in higher office will look at this disaster, take stock and use it to bring out stronger airline infrastructure. It is unfortunate planes had to be diverted to neighboring countries yet there are good airports locally and many need to be upgraded. It was also an opportunity to help the country realize how disaster preparedness at the airport was too mediocre.

There are hiccups in life and these are not always a bad thing. On the one hand there is damage, loss of property and also image. Certainly JKIA’s reputation has been damaged in the last one week.  On the other hand, it’s an opportunity to learn and move forward with determination that something like that should never happen again.  A repeat of a disaster like this would be highly regrettable and unfortunate. Let the nation see the opportunity in many fronts from this inferno.

The writer is a blogger. Twitter @oleshitemi

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