Wednesday, July 29, 2015



 A Kenyan banker reconnoitering a wedding venue to surprise his fiancée with her dream beach wedding changed his plans after being subjected to "humiliating" experience at the airport.

Samali Rotimi Joseph, a banker with Diamond Bank Plc, is a man on a mission. Or rather he was when he recently set foot in Seychelles in search of the perfect location for his fiancée's dream beach wedding.

This was what brought him to Seychelles on 7 July on board Emirates flight EK 707 from Dubai. The plan was to scout a wedding location in Seychelles, starting from the hotel he was staying at – Kempinsky Seychelles at Baie Lazare.

But what should have been a fun adventure quickly turned into a nightmare as the Kenyan national made his way to the arrival lounge at the airport. He found himself being detained for an hour and a half, during which time, he says, he was subjected to the most invasive manhandling of his life.

Worse, the banker stated that he believed he was singled out for this search because "I am a black, unmarried man visiting Seychelles for the first time". Asked why he attributed the search to his race, he said it was because no other passenger on his flight was searched. "I was not carrying any drugs so what would make them look at me and decide I am the person they should search?", he asks.

Recounting the incident, Mr Samali said it happened "just after I presented my passport for inspection at the first point of clearance, where passports are viewed and a few questions asked. There were dogs present. I was the only person who was searched. I went through the most embarrassing ‘search’ performed on me, and I literally mean ‘performed’.” he said.

 According to Mr. Samali, his ordeal began outside the arrival hall where he was searched for methamphetamines - or “ice” as it is commonly known - before being ushered into two different rooms where the search continued. Five officers searched his luggage more than once before asking him to strip down to his underwear. When Mr. Samali asked why he was being searched, he was informed by an officer that he was a suspect. Any further questions from him were ignored, he claims.

When the search produced no drugs, Mr. Samali said he asked for an apology for the way he had been treated. Not only no apology was given but "they would not even tell me why suspected me. And after the search, one of the officers even had the cheek to ask me if he could keep my complimentary Emirates card!"

He added that he was also cautioned by an officer who told him that he was "lucky not to have been insulted as well". Whether or not that counts as “luck”, the experience at the airport has changed Mr. Samali's plans.

“The initial plan was for me to scout places before I return with my fiancée sometime at the end of the year. I have other plans now,” he told this newspaper. "What bothers me is that other passengers on board were not subjected to this treatment. In fact, the way I was picked out, felt like I was being picked out from a lineup of convicted killers! I have never been this humiliated in my life", he says.

Mr Samali's visit was a short one; he left Seychelles three days later but his experience left a sour impression on him. "The folks at the resort had to make extra efforts to change my already tainted opinion of Seychelles", he added, saying he had no plans of coming back here despite the fact that he thinks the country is lovely.

Following Mr. Samali’s claims that he was treated in this way because he is black, TODAY contacted the National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA) where a representative was quick to deny any racial profiling.

“As an organisation, we never pick out someone to be searched depending on the colour of their skin. There is no racial profiling of any sort that takes place. We do not have set procedures that we use to carry out searches. A search happens depending on circumstances and general information received,” an official from the NDEA told this newspaper.

 What information did the NDEA have about Mr Samali in that case? The Kenyan says he regrets not having written down the name of the woman who started the search. "I did not pay attention to the tag because I was watching the other officers very attentively to make sure they didn’t slip anything into my bag".