Deputy President William Ruto was on Monday blocked from flying to Uganda in what his office protested as a sudden change of rules that have governed his trips since he became the second-in-command in 2013.
According to his office, the DP, who was making “a private visit” to Entebbe, arrived at Wilson Airport at noon and spent more than five hours trying to secure clearance from State officials, in vain.
Disappointed, he drove back to his Karen home to end his public humiliation before immigration and airport officials.
However, senior security officials told the Nation that Dr Ruto did not seek the President’s clearance to travel as required by protocol.
According to the officials, neither the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, nor the High Commission of Kenya in Uganda was aware of the visit.
While Dr Ruto’s office insisted that the visit was private, the security officials said the Deputy President was not a private citizen.
According to officials, the DP’s office is supposed to get clearance from the Office of the President in case he wants to travel abroad. This is because the DP, courtesy of his office, requires a lot of protocol, aides and State security wherever he goes.
These requirements are not only supposed to keep President Kenyatta’s assistant safe but also ensure that the DP’s movements and whatever he requires are catered for.
On Monday, the DP’s office said the trip had been organised long in advance, and followed all the channels that governed his previous foreign travel, including to Kampala in July.
“We’re surprised the Deputy President was denied clearance to go on a planned private visit to Uganda. It’s our officers who always handle his travel and this time, they were told, that he must get clearance from Immigration to fly out. In all his travels, all these years, this has not happened,” the DP’s office said through his communication secretary David Mugonyi.
A flight manifest belonging to Phoenix Aviation, and seen by the Nation, showed the DP was supposed to use a private jet on flight number Jadestar 12.
The plane he was to use, a Cessna 560XL registered using tail number 5Y WHB, had even been prepared for boarding until its management were told at the last minute that their VIP guest was not going to fly.
When the denial to travel came through, Mr Mugonyi said, the DP was already at the airport.
“He spoke to the Head of Public Service to enquire about the change of rules and the new requirements, who said he was not aware. The immigration officials at the airport told us that they were under instructions from the Ministry of Interior,” Mr Mugonyi told the Nation.
His office refused to confirm whether or not the DP, who met President Yoweri Museveni in July, was to meet the Ugandan strongman in the botched trip.
“This was a private visit. That is all I can say,” Mr Mugonyi insisted.
Also scheduled to travel with the DP were MPs Oscar Sudi (Kapsaret), Benjamin Tayari (Kinango) and Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu). The flight manifest included businessmen David Langat, a Mr Harun Aydin, Dr Eric Ruto and Mr Elija Ronoh.
“It’s alright... tumwachie Mungu,” (we leave it to God)” said the DP on his Twitter handle, presumably about his trip woes.
But while much attention was focused on the DP and his rude shock, sources told the Nation that it was the presence of Mr Aydin, a Turkish national, that might have caught the attention of the State.
Mr Aydin, 54, who first arrived in the country on May 30, 2018, has been making frequent visits to Kenya, with his passport being stamped at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport more than five times this year alone.
Sources say in his maiden year, 2018, he made six return journeys from Istanbul to Nairobi.
“In 2019, Aydin made four trips to Kenya from Istanbul and London between January and August. In 2020, he made two trips to Kenya from Istanbul in February and August,” the sources said.
“Worth noting is that he left Kenya for Istanbul in December having previously departed on August 20, 2020.”
This year, the Turk, whose mission to Kenya was not immediately clear, has so far made six trips to Kenya originating from Istanbul, Cairo and Addis.
“On July 5, he departed with DP and returned from Sudan on July 7 through Eldoret. On July 23, he departed with DP for Zanzibar and returned on July 24 through Wilson Airport,” the sources said.
“Today, August 2, he’s intending to travel to Entebbe with DP through Wilson Airport. The trips with DP have been chartered flights from Phoenix Aviation based at Wilson Airport.”
The DP’s visit to Uganda last month caught the government by surprise, according to sources familiar with the developments.
The last-minute blocking of the DP from visiting Uganda also annoyed his allies, some of whom appear to have continued with the trip without their boss.
“I’ve never seen the kind of embarrassment we were subjected to yesterday. The immigration officials told us we had needed clearance before we could leave the country. The Speaker [JB Muturi] intervened for us, the MPs, but DP couldn’t get the clearance,” Mr Nyoro said.
He insisted that the trip was a private affair and the State needed not interfere. “We’re in Kampala with part of the delegation, Mr Sudi is here and others. The DP had to drive back to Karen after five hours of being taken in circles,” he said.
While the Kiharu legislator blamed their trouble on the Interior ministry, Mr Sudi dragged President Kenyatta into the matter.
“We were told President Kenyatta himself declined to clear his Deputy. I’ve always been telling you that we’re officially back to the dark days,” the Kapseret MP added.
By Patrick Lang’at, Harry Misiko and Vincent Achuka