Kenya Airways to suspend Kinshasa flights over detained employees

FILE PHOTO: The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Nairobi

NAIROBI (Reuters) -Kenya Airways said it would suspend flights to the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa from Tuesday, after military authorities there failed to release its employees from detention despite a court order.

Congo's military intelligence detained two of the airline's staff on April 19, allegedly because of missing customs documentation on some valuable cargo. The company said it did not accept the cargo because the shipper's paperwork was incomplete.

Kenya Airways said on Monday that its staff were still in detention, in spite of a military court saying they should be released to allow due process.

"The continued detention of our employees has made it difficult for us to supervise our operations in Kinshasa," Kenya's national carrier said in a statement.

As a result, it said, it had decided to suspend flights from Tuesday "until we can effectively support these flights".

Spokespeople for Congo's government and foreign affairs ministry did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

Kenya Airways said it was cooperating with investigating agencies and government entities in Congo and Kenya to ensure the matter was resolved.

The airline has said previously that its detained staff are innocent and that it considers the episode harassment targeting its business.

Congolese authorities have not responded to those comments.

(Reporting by Humphrey Malalo and Hereward Holland;Additional reporting by Ange Kasongo and Sonia Rolley;Editing by Alexander Winning and Barbara Lewis)