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South Sudan Prepares to Bury Plane Crash Dead As Investigation Continues

In South Sudan, investigation is underway to determine the cause of Friday’s plane crash that killed 24 people, including two key government ministers and their wives. Lt. General Dominic Dim Deng, South Sudan’s Minister of defense and Justin Yac Arop, advisor to the president of South Sudan on decentralization were among the dead. Citing initial indications, South Sudan minister of information Gabriel Changson Chan reportedly said engine failure might have caused the crash.

Meanwhile, funeral arrangements are being made for the burial this week of those killed. Pagan Amum is secretary general of the former Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and now the minister for cabinet affairs in the government of national unity. He told VOA state funerals are being planned for the two ministers.

“The government of Southern Sudan has declared a three-day funeral from yesterday, and tomorrow we will be making the arrangements for burial. Doctor Justin Yak who was the presidential advisor to the President of the government of Southern Sudan has left a will that he be buried next to the grave of his mother in his home village, and that we are going to do. He and his wife will be provided a state burial in his village. And our minister of defense of the minister of SPLA (Sudan Peoples Liberation Army) will receive a state burial in the headquarters of the SPLA,” he said.

Three years ago, former South Sudan leader John Garang was killed in a helicopter crash. His widow has called his death an assassination. South Sudan officials have said that last week’s plane crash was caused by engine failure.

Amum said an investigation team has been established to determine the actual cause of the accident.

“The government of Southern Sudan has formed the investigation team to investigate into the accident though the pilot had communication with the towers both at Rumbek and that of Juba and communicated that he was experiencing difficulty with his engine. But of course we will leave that with the investigation to know exactly what is the cause of the accident,” Amum said.

With so many of it leaders killed in plane accidents, Amum agrees that South Sudan needs a better transportation system. But he said the options available to the south are limited.

“Our options are limited; our choices are also very limited. First of all there are no roads. Most of these leaders would have traveled on land if there were good roads. Most parts of Southern Sudan can only be reached by air. Again we do not even have airports. We have open-air stripes, and also the type of aircrafts which are operating here are aircrafts that are old, mostly from eastern European countries. This again is not our choice because one, they are cheaper and the resources that are availed to us are also limited. We have a lot of competing priorities that we have. We cannot afford to buy aircrafts which are secured and stable for the movement of our leaders. So we have very limited choices and because of all this we take risks,” he said.

The SPLM has been conducting state congresses in preparations for May 10 Second National Convention in Juba during which the top leadership would be chosen to represent the south in 2009 general elections in Sudan. Amum said the congresses would go ahead as planned

“The government, through the president of Southern Sudan, has declared a three-day mourning. We are now mourning. But the congresses will continue as planned. There is going to be a meeting of the leadership on the 10th and on the 11th will be the opening session of our second convention,” Amum said.