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Kenya minister gives rare apology for hourslong blackout

August 26, 2023

A widespread blackout across the country left passengers at the main airport in Nairobi stranded in darkness after the backup generator failed to turn on.

Passengers are seen waiting outside of Jomo Kenyatta International airport
Kenya Power restored supply to the airport, five hours after the incident beganImage: Billy Mutai/AA/picture alliance

Kenya's transport minister apologized to the country on Friday after passengers at the main airport in Nairobi — one of the most important hubs on the continent — were left without power, amid a widespread electricity blackout.

"I'm really sorry for what has happened at the [Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA)] with the blackout," Transport Minister Kipchumba Murkomen said on X, in a rare public apology by a government official.

"There is no excuse worth reporting and there is no reason why our airport is in darkness."

What do we know about the blackout?

Several parts of Kenya were in darkness at 9:45 p.m. (0645 UTC/GMT) on Friday, Kenya Power, an electricity distribution company said in a statement. It blamed the blackout on "a system disturbance leading to the loss of bulk power supply".

Images of stranded passengers sitting in darkness at the JKIA in Nairobi surfaced on social media after the airport's backup generator failed to kick in.

Kenya Power restored supply to the airport, five hours after the incident began, it said. However, many homes and businesses were without electricity for over 12 hours after the blackout began.

It is not yet clear how the power failure affected flights into and out of the country. 

While energy failure and blackouts are common in Kenya, a key airport has not faced a power outage before.

The latest blackout comes weeks before the government hosts the first Africa Climate Summit, where energy is slated to be a key talking point. 

Kenya gets nearly all of its energy from renewable sources but its electricity grid has been hampered by alleged mismanagement and infrastructure issues.


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mk/ab (Reuters, AP)