The Ugandan government is downplaying allegations by critics who say its own negligence may have contributed to the accident that killed Sudanese vice president and former rebel leader John Garang. He was returning home in the early evening when the helicopter carrying him went down in Sudan. Bad weather was blamed for the crash.
Critics say regulations established by Uganda?s own Civil Aviation Authority, the CAA, ban helicopters from taking off after 5 pm for trips longer than one hour. They also accused the CAA of not providing up-to-the-minute advice to the pilot about poor weather conditions.
James Nsaba Buturo is Uganda?s information minister. He told English to Africa reporter William Eagle there?s an international effort underway to learn what happened to the doomed flight that includes the US, UK, Russia, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and the UN.
Mr. Buturo did not give direct answers to criticisms that the country?s own aviation rules had been violated by the late take-off of the aircraft in poor weather. On the other hand, he did say President Yoweri Museveni had used the presidential helicopter in the morning and believed it was able to safely make the flight to Sudan.
Mr. Buturo also said President Museveni was emotionally affected by the accident and did not therefore go to the funeral of Mr. Garang in southern Sudanese town of Juba. Instead, the Ugandan president felt it would enough to express his condolences at the funeral procession of Mr. Garang in the southern town of Yei.