Nairobi (Caasimada Online) – At 9:45 pm local time on Friday, the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi was submerged in darkness, severely impacting its operations and inconveniencing travelers.
The incident was part of a broader power outage that swept across Kenya, which Kenya Power, the national electricity distribution company, attributed to a “system disturbance.”
In a significant operational failure, one of the standby generators at JKIA, intended to supply power to the main terminal, failed to activate when the blackout struck.
“It’s an unforgivable oversight,” declared Transport Minister Kipchumba Murkomen in a televised news conference, adding that generators serving the flight control tower and runway were functional, ensuring “no passengers or airplanes were put in danger by the outage.”
Ripple effect on tourism
Tourism, one of the pillars of Kenya’s economy, took an immediate hit due to the airport’s power outage.
Stranded passengers turned to social media, sharing images of the darkened terminal, which quickly went viral.
“Any disruption at JKIA has a ripple effect on tourism and the broader economy,” said Murkomen, underlining the gravity of the situation.
Taking swift action, the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) board terminated the contract of Managing Director Alex Gitari and named Henry Ogoye as the acting head.
JKIA’s manager, Abel Gogo, was also replaced by Selina Gor. Murkomen issued an “unreserved apology to all travelers and airport users” affected by the incident.
Murkomen announced plans to promptly commission two additional generators that had already been procured to prevent a recurrence.
“We are taking this matter extremely seriously. We aim to ensure that this kind of disruption does not happen again,” he stated.
Electricity restored, but questions remain
Though Kenya Power restored the airport’s electricity supply five hours after the initial blackout, many homes and businesses were left without power for over 15 hours.
In a country that predominantly relies on renewable energy but faces ongoing challenges related to infrastructure and alleged mismanagement, the incident raises serious questions.
Despite periodic power outages in the country, this is the first time in recent memory that JKIA has suffered a blackout of this magnitude.
The incident puts a spotlight on the fragility of essential infrastructure at a time when Kenya seeks to bolster its international reputation as a tourism and business hub.
The blackout at JKIA is more than just a passing inconvenience; it reveals serious vulnerabilities in Kenya’s most critical transportation hub.
As the government and various agencies scramble to address these issues, there remains a pressing need for a comprehensive review of the country’s infrastructure and emergency preparedness systems, especially at critical installations like airports.
With both leadership changes and immediate corrective measures underway, the focus now shifts to the long-term solutions needed to ensure such a disruption does not occur again.