South Sudan Defense Minister Killed in Plane Crash

May 6th, 2008  

Topic: South Sudan Defense Minister Killed in Plane Crash

* 18 other people, most of them senior members of the southern former rebel leadership. Sounds like a clear case of mechanical failure right? I wonder how this will effect the situation there?

South Sudan Defense Minister Killed in Plane Crash

Published: 2 May 12:39 EDT (08:39 GMT)

JUBA, Sudan - South Sudan's defense minister was killed on May 2 in a plane crash along with at least 18 other people, most of them senior members of the southern former rebel leadership.
Lieutenant General Dominic Dim Deng's plane came down 375 kilometers (around 220 miles) from the southern capital Juba, killing everyone on board, including many army officers, the south's vice president Riek Machar told AFP.
Related Topics Southern president Salva Kiir's spokesman Luka Mariak said that two people had survived and 19 others died when the plane came down in the flat, savannah-like region.
Machar gave no reason for the crash, but ruled out an attack. Mariak said the accident appeared to be due to a mechanical failure.
Distraught relatives gathered at Juba airport waiting for news in the hours following the crash. Government offices in the town were closed amid a pervasive mood of gloom, an AFP correspondent reported.
Late May 2, Juba airport was deserted with the bodies of the dead now expected to be flown to the nearby United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) airfield which is off-limits to the public.
"The plane had been rented from a charter company and was carrying a delegation of leaders from the (former rebel) Sudan People's Liberation Movement from Wau to the capital Juba," 450 kilometers (290 miles) to the southeast, Machar said.
UNMIS has sent a helicopter to the area, the United Nations said.
Justin Yak, minister for cabinet affairs until he was dropped in a reshuffle in 2007 because of ill-health, also died in the crash along with his wife.
National First Vice President Salva Kiir's predecessor and southern rebel leader John Garang died in July 2005 when the Ugandan presidential helicopter he was traveling in crashed into a mountainside in southern Sudan, with some suspecting foul play.
In April 2006, a joint Sudanese-Ugandan probe - conducted with assistance from U.S., Russian and Kenyan aviation experts - ruled out foul play in the crash of the Ugandan chopper that was followed by rioting in several Sudanese cities.
Machar said an inquiry would be opened into the May 2 crash.
There was no immediate reaction to the crash from the central government in Khartoum, against which the SPLM fought Africa's longest-running civil war, which ended with a peace accord in 2005.
Around six million people were displaced by the fighting, which also broke the back of the southern Sudanese economy.
Under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Garang was given the title of national First Vice President.
The SPLM said that most of the leaders on the plane were from Twic, in the area between north and south Sudan which provided many of the foot soldiers in the 21-year north-south conflict.
Deng signed up to the national army in Khartoum in 1972 and rose to the rank of colonel before joining the SPLM's armed wing the SPLA in 1987, according to the Sudan Tribune.
He left south Sudan to live in London in 1992, the paper said.
In July 2007, he was appointed defense minister and also minister for SPLA affairs, becoming the first to hold the post since the first southern government was formed after the war.
A census is underway across Sudan, the results of which are supposed to decide, among other things, on distribution of the country's natural wealth.
The census will also prepare voter registration for elections due in 2009. Its results will also redraw or confirm the ratio of power-sharing between north and south in the central government.
The Arab domination of power in what is Africa's largest country was a major reason for the two-decade civil war between north and south, as well as for the separate five-year conflict in the western Darfur region.
Previous marginalization and the costs of the civil war have left the south underdeveloped.
The lack of infrastructure such as roads means that much travel is done by plane or helicopter.


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