The Star (Nairobi)

19 August 2014

West Africa: Cofek Sues to Stop KQ From Flying to West African Cities

A lobby group has moved to court seeking to stop Kenya Airways from flying to West African countries hit by the deadly Ebola outbreak.

The Consumer Federation of Kenya, through lawyer Henry Kurauka, said KQ's continued flying to the high-risk West African capitals is informed by commercial interests, not the safety and public interest of Kenyans.

Cofek said on August 8 it wrote a cautionary letter to KQ boss Titus Naikuni, copied it to Transport Secretary Michael Kamau and his Health counterpart James Macharia, drawing their joint attention to the outbreak.

The letter is said to have reminded KQ that other airlines have stopped flying to and fro the said destinations. Cofek demanded that KQ either suspends its flights to the region or takes full responsibility if Ebola enters Kenya as a result of its business.

Kurauka said KQ, Kamau and Macharia have not responded to the letter, which is urgent.

"There is extreme public anxiety about the possibility of Ebola spreading Ebola, which has no cure. This is especially after the World Health Organisation on August 13 classified Kenya a "high risk" area, being a regional air transit hub. Kenya receives estimated 76 flights a week from West Africa cities," he said.

Kurauka said unless the application is urgently heard and determined, the applicants and the people of Kenya will suffer great loss and damage in lost public interest and real risk from Ebolaspread.

"It will be therefore in absolute public interest for KQ to suspend flights and take full responsibility for any eventuality," he said.

Kurauka said from verifiable experience, the slow nature of government in responding to scourges such as HIV-Aids when it is too late explains why, for instance, nearly every family is either infected or affected by HIV.

The lawyer said in addition to other responsibilities, Macharia has an obligation under the constitution to deal with infectious diseases such as Ebola.

Among other things, Cofek wants the court to determine whether it is right for KQ, Kamau and Macharia to be allowed to gamble with the lives and livelihoods of Kenyans through continued exposure to Ebola.

Kurauka wants the court to determine on what basis KQ and the secretaries are prepared to either deal with the virus and fully compensate lives and beneficiaries of any would-be victims.

Justice Weldon Korir certified the matter urgent and directed parties to appear before the vacation judge tomorrow for hearing. Those sued are KQ, Attorney General Githu Muigai, Kamau, Macharia and Interior Secretary Jpseph ole Lenku.

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