The recent events at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) have brought to light the vulnerabilities of one of Africa’s major aviation hubs, potentially jeopardising its Category One status attained five years ago.
The countrywide blackout on Sunday evening affected JKIA with some of the standby generators failing to start as required, plunging the airport into darkness.
Security considerations weigh heavily in the evaluation process conducted by American Transportation Security administration when granting Category One status to airports seeking such recognition.
Kenya faced delays in achieving Category One status primarily due to unresolved security issues during its initial application in 2009.
The rejection was attributed to JKIA’s identified security vulnerabilities and its failure to meet the standards outlined in the International Civil Aviation Organisation Annex 17, including recommended practices.
Over the past four months, JKIA has experienced at least three power outages, casting Kenya’s primary point of entry into complete darkness.
Analysts argue that such disruptions pose a significant security risk, compromising the integrity of the facility.
“This means that there shouldn’t be issues that may compromise security during screening and an airport such as JKIA being plunged into darkness for even a few minutes is something that should worry the authorities,” said a security expert.
As a Category One facility, JKIA serves as the last point of departure for passengers heading to the United States, where crucial security screening takes place before boarding.
The recent incidents, such as the blackout in Terminal 1A, 1B, and 1C in August and the subsequent power outage last week, raise concerns about the airport’s ability to maintain the necessary security standards.
The Kenya Airport Authority (KAA) disclosed that during the Sunday blackout, the standby generator failed to start promptly as required.
In response to the ongoing issues, Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen assured in August that two standby generators procured two years prior would be commissioned within a month.
KAA released a statement on Monday, affirming their commitment to completing the synchronisation of the backup power supply within the next 30 days.
This is intended to ensure instant backup support in the event of any power interruptions, addressing the critical security concerns associated with power outages at JKIA.