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Wed, Aug 03, 2005

Ugandan President Appoints Accident Commission

Yoweri Museveni Wants Answers In Crash That Killed Sudanese Leader

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has appointed a three-member commission to investigate the helicopter crash that killed a newly-appointed Sudanese vice president along with 13 other people. The decision came amid reports that a Ugandan parliamentary committee had recommended the president get rid of his Mi-172 rather than overhaul it.

A report from the House Committee on Presidential and Foreign Affairs made its recommendation to dump the Mi-172 (file photo of type, below) last year. "It was reported that State House requires for $2.5 million to overhaul the presidential helicopter airframe. This airframe has been in operation for seven years. During the overhaul that is due in November/December, 2004 State House plans to modernize the helicopter and operate it for another seven years."

The report, quoted by the Kampala Monitor, also said, "The Committee, however, reiterates its previous recommendation that State House should ask for an additional $3.5 million to buy a brand new helicopter and with time, overhaul the old one to become a back up Presidential helicopter."

But another minister of parliament sitting on the committee went even further. "This helicopter had structural problems. It was unfit to fly at night. I told the State House comptroller [Richard Muhinda] that we should buy a new helicopter at $5 million but he insisted that they could repair it for $2.5 million," said MP Aggrey Awori. "I told him [Muhinda] that they were taking a chance with the President's life. I even argued with the Presidential Guard Brigade [PGB] recently over the same issue."

Saturday's crash killed Sudan's newly-installed vice president, John Garang (above). The former rebel leader was seen as a bridge to peace in the 20-year long civil war that has all but destroyed his country.

A statement released by the office of the Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir on Monday said, "It has now been confirmed that the plane crashed after it hit a mountain range in southern Sudan because of poor visibility and this resulted in the death of Dr. John Garang de Mabior, six of his colleagues and seven other crew members of the Ugandan presidential plane."

FMI: www.allafrica.com/uganda

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