Over the weekend did news emerge in Nairobi that wrangles over the tender for an additional terminal and a second runway have run into a series of problems, with directives and counterclaims flying from all directions.
While the Office of the President appears keen to see the project break ground before the end of President Kibakis term of office in March next year, the Minister for Transport appears to have different ideas as he reportedly has instructed the KAA management to cancel the tender award and start afresh.
The expansion of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport into a world class airport facility and hub for Kenya Airways, which intends to grow their fleet over the next 10 years from presently 36 to 105, has been at the core of Kenyas Vision 2030, to facilitate a greater inflow of visitors and offer improved cargo facilities able to ship a growing volume of exports to consumer markets around the world as well as allow for speedy imports by air.
Aimed to add to the ongoing construction of a new terminal, apron spaces and other facilities currently underway, the 55 billion Kenya Shillings Greenfield Project would indeed make JKIA the undisputed aviation hub in Eastern Africa, large enough to catapult the country truly into the new millennium and provide space for growth for a generation.
It now appears that in disregard of a ministerial directive to cancel the tender awarded to a Chinese construction company the KAA continued to progress the work programme, probably backed by the keen interest coming from the head of state, who during his address at the Kenya Airways share rights issue in April at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi left no doubt where his interest were vested when he said: I challenge KAA to hasten the expansion of our airports to the thundering applause of all present, including the entire Kenya Airways board of directors and the transport minister, before adding: I would like to see the expansion project move faster because any delay is costly to the country. This was in many circles seen and understood to be a presidential directive, superseding the ministerial directive, i.e. outranking it and the battered ego of the minister must have been responsible for delivering a slap in the direction of state house when he was quoted in the local Kenyan media to have said to him it did not matter who was breaking ground as long as he was getting it right.
This perceived affront will however only bolster those who ignored the stop order and it also appears that KAA involved the countrys Attorney General in getting a legal opinion, which when rendered confirmed that the countrys highest legal counsel found no issues with the tendering and stated that all requirements as stipulated had been met, giving KAA the legal basis to ignore the ministers wishes and stick to the desires of the Presidents Office instead. The minister, when confronted with this development then hit out at his cabinet colleague too, calling him a mere government lawyer, another faux pas certain to raise the heat of argument when cabinet next meets.
Meanwhile are all eyes of the aviation industry glued to developments on that front as hopes were high that after having the tender award given the project would break ground as early as November this year and the building of a second runway would finally be within sight, or perhaps now not, as spanners seem to be flying into the works from all sides.
Aviation rivals Ethiopia will be seeing these development with some glee, as they are planning to build a new airport in Addis Ababa, where no such squabbles exist, and even in Rwanda is a new airport being planned, with ground breaking too expected later this year, at Bugesera to have a longer runway facilitating intercontinental flights by RwandAir from 2016 onwards, when they expect deliver of their first B787 Dreamliner.
Exciting times for the aviation industry in Eastern Africa, so be sure to watch this space to catch the latest updates.