When furious Uhuru ordered Amina back from US over aborted trip
Foreign Affairs Secretary Amina Mohammed was dramatically recalled from an assignment in Los Angeles hours after she had landed in America for the high-profile mission.
President Uhuru Kenyatta recalled Ms Mohammed after his recent trip to the US was cancelled mid-air due to controversies surrounding clearance to fly in airspaces in neighbouring countries.
Sources have told the Sunday Nation that Ms Mohammed was required to get “on the next available flight back” to Nairobi on that Saturday. The CS was also instructed to hand over her working materials to her ICT colleague Fred Matiang’i.
Ms Mohammed and Dr Matiang’i had arrived in the US on Friday ahead of the expected visit by the President to attend the Milken Institute Global Conference.
Sources said that on Saturday, State House called Kenya’s ambassador in Washington Mr Njeru Githae and directed him to extend to Dr Matiang’i “all the courtesies due to a head of delegation”.
The instruction for Ms Mohammed to fly back to Nairobi is said to have been issued by the Head of Civil Service Joseph Kinyua.
“She was shocked by the decision, and she did not attend any meeting. She was supposed to meet Kenyans resident in the US that evening,” a diplomatic source said.
Mr Githae was left with the task of briefing Dr Matiang’i whose task as the head of delegation included representing the President in all meetings and plenary discussions.
In one of the discussions where he represented the President, Dr Matiang’i appeared alongside Rwandan President Paul Kagame and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as Kenya smarted from the embarrassment of President Kenyatta’s return to Nairobi just four hours after taking off from JKIA.
“Dr Matiang’i ably represented the President in all the forums and had to update Nairobi on a daily basis,” said the diplomatic source.
Ms Mohammed Saturday admitted she returned from the US earlier than expected but said it was because the President’s trip had been cancelled. The Sunday Nation had asked why she had been recalled before the end of the conference.
“There is nothing like that. You do not recall a minister; you recall an ambassador. I came back because my boss was not with me. I am minister in charge of Foreign Affairs, and I travel with my boss who is the President of this country,” she said on the telephone. She later sent an SMS to say that she had also lost a relative.
A statement released by the Foreign Affairs ministry last week had indicated that she had told Kenyans residing in the US that the government would open five honorary consulates to serve them better and facilitate voting in the 2017 General Election.
She reportedly said honorary consuls would soon be appointed for Dallas, Boston, Minneapolis and Chicago while the choice of Seattle for another honorary consulate awaits formal approval.
But the Sunday Nation has established she did not address the Kenyans at the forum because by the time the meeting was taking place she was on the return flight to Nairobi.
Yesterday, she said the message to Kenyans was read on her behalf.
“I had prepared the speech, and it had my name on it. It was read on my behalf, and there is no problem with that,” said Ms Mohammed.
She denied being reprimanded over the presidential flight mishap.
State House last evening confirmed that Ms Amina was asked to return home to deal with issues surrounding the President’s aborted trip.
“Obviously we had an issue with the travel and she is foreign minister. She had to come home and deal with them. She was not recalled in any other sense. She came back home because there were things she was required to deal with and that is the practice internationally. CS Matiang’i was at the conference and he naturally fitted into those shoes (as head of delegation). Any other insinuation is absolute rubbish,” State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu said.
The President’s plane was turned back in mid-air en route to Dubai where he was to take a commercial flight to Los Angeles to attend the annual Milken Institute Global Conference.
He later cancelled the trip but addressed the meeting via video link on Wednesday. State House announced that the trip had been called off due to heightened military activity in Yemen where a civil war is underway.
It later turned out that the flight plan had not included Yemen. The plane was to pass through Ethiopia, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia.
The plane is said to have been turned back on Ethiopian airspace. President Kenyatta used a similar route when he visited Jordan recently.
Eritrea on Wednesday sought to absolve itself from blame over President Kenyatta’s aborted trip.
The Eritrean government protested its innocence, saying it had granted permission for the President to fly over its territory.
Eritrean ambassador Beyene Russom said his country issued the permission “in a matter of 20 minutes”.
“We are protesting formally because this is completely false information that Eritrea did not allow the Kenyan plane.
On Monday, Ethiopian ambassador to Kenya Dina Mufti was summoned by the Foreign Affairs ministry in Nairobi, but no information on the discussions was given.