Kenya Airways (KQ) has said that it was compelled to suspend the employee who recorded and shared a video of a China Southern Airlines plane landing at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
In a letter published on March 1, 2020, on social media and coming in the backdrop of public pressure to reinstate the employee, KQ said it was the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) that cited their employee for alleged breach of airside security procedures.
"As an operator at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), we are expected to adhere to Airport Security procedures and regulations set by the KAA as the airport regulator and which are prescribed by law," said KQ's Corporate Communications department.
The national carrier promised to conduct investigations into the matter in a fair and transparent manner.
"On February 26, KQ received a letter from the KAA stating that there had been a breach of airside security procedure at JKIA involving one of our employees. In accordance with standard HR procedure, the employee was suspended to allow a full investigation to take place to determine the facts of the matter," KQ admitted on Sunday.
But Kenyans have already dubbed the suspended KQ employee a hero for revealing what would have otherwise gone unnoticed by the public in wake of global fears about the spread of the deadly coronavirus disease.
The suspended KQ staff, who has since been identified and who told K24 Digital that he fears for his life, was the first person to alert Kenyans with his video recording that 239 passengers from China had been allowed into the country.
His video led to widespread condemnation of the government, especially the Foreign Affairs, Transport and Health ministries for putting the lives of Kenyans into danger.
Following the widespread anger mostly expressed on social media and in daily newspapers, President Uhuru Kenyatta took action ordering the reactivation of the Mbagathi Hospital's national isolation center and the Kenya Defence Forces to screen visitors in all Kenya's entry points.
The courts also came to the aid of Kenyans, amid growing public concern and panic, and ordered the Interior Ministry to ensure that all the 239 passengers who were aboard the China Southern Airlines were quarantined properly.
The China Embassy in Kenya had initially, much to the chagrin of Kenyans, indicated that the Chinese nationals had only been directed to self-quarantine.
A day after the video leaked, the Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary was at pains to explain the nationalities of the 239 passengers who landed in Kenya from China and where they were travelling from.