Home | News    Wednesday 13 December 2006

South Sudan bans Ugandan airline from Yei

Dec 12, 2006 (KAMPALA) — South Sudan authorities have banned all Eagle Air flights into Yei, South Sudan, alleging the Uganda-registered private airline violated Sudanese aviation rules.

Armed Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers on Thursday 7 December]raided Eagle Air offices and ordered the staff there to leave the country, the first such incident involving the authorities here and airline operators. But Eagle Air operations manager Nathan Nataka over the weekend said the ban did not affect fights into Juba, the South Sudan administrative capital.

"Juba flights are operating normally but Yei until we get a written communication cancelling the order our flights we shall not resume" Nataka said.

"We are waiting to hear from them, maybe tomorrow (yesterday). The order stopping Eagle Air Flights originated from the South Sudan Chief of Security. But Uganda’s Consular General in Juba, Ambassador Busho Ndinyenka has protested the ban on the airline.

Ndinyenka on Saturday evening met the South Sudan Transport Permanent Secretary Wan. According Ndinyenka, the latter apologized for the ban and promised to handle the matter expeditiously.

"The cause of all this was that a woman who had an abortion was brought to the airline in the company of two SPLA commanders, but the crew said they could not fly her to Kampala in that bad state unless she was accompanied by a doctor. The SPLA officers insisted she had to be on board, " Ndinyenka said.

"What the crew did was to leave her because there is no way they would have brought her in that state, moreover without a doctor, which I think was right. When the plane left, the soldiers went to Eagle Air offices, closed them and ordered the staff to leave the country."

Ndinyenka said as a compromise the crew wanted the SPLA to provide a letter saying the woman could fly without a doctor to cushion the airline against liability in case she died on flight but the soldiers were adamant.

"If the pilot had taken that woman and she died on the way, his licence would have been cancelled, what he did was therefore right," Ndinyenka said.

Eagle Air has four scheduled flights to Juba and Yei on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The airline also flies to DRC, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia.

Civil Aviation Authority (CAO) Publicist Ignie Igundura said Kampala was not yet aware of the development. "By tomorrow, we shall have the full information," said Igundura, adding that CAO would review its bilateral air services agreement with South Sudan once a formal complaint comes through.

The ban on Eagle Air flights into Yei is a classic case of how high handed officials here deal with situations. Several foreigners, including Ugandans and Kenyans, have allegedly been harassed by SPLA soldiers and they have forced motorists to transport their (SPLA) families.

(Daily Monitor)