Friday, October 27, 2006

 

A never-boring-story

Hello Hans

Sorry for the late reply but we had some work going on in St. Charles and therefore some power cuts from time to time in addition to the regular ones.
Life here goes on as you remember it. On Sundays and Mondays we are having our obligatory drink before lunch. Since Soeur Noella has come back she is usually joining us on Sunday as well. Whenever there are people coming or going we are having a little welcome or farewell drink and yesterday we had one on Austria since it was our national holiday.

There is more news at the airport though. The King Air 90 I told you about has left for Entebbe. They have got another contract there. But there is another one here now, French registered. A few weeks ago another Cessna 206 arrived, registered in the DRC. Yesterday a Cessna 208 arrived and will be based here for 6 months to fly for the World Food Program and UNHCR to Mboki.

The propeller for our plane is still in Florida. So I talked to Alex from the Ministry of Transport yesterday if we might get an extension for the old prop since there are still almost 400 hrs to go. It is actually the 7 years that limit us to the end of October. It seems that it will not be a problem to fly until the new propeller arrives. I still hope that it will be sooner than later. I would rather get it done before Bas gets here so that he does not have to deal with it while he is getting settled in.

Last Sunday I went to Berberati. The Saturday flight there was postponed due to weather and so I went there twice on Sunday. I tried to leave early but was a bit delayed because of quite thick fog in Bangui. We finally took off at 07:30 hrs local time. As usual there were low clouds covering the beautiful landscape all the way to Berberati. I got hold of ASECNA (L'Agence pour la Sécurité de la Navigation Aérienne en Afrique et à Madagascar) in Berberati on the HF and they told me that the cloud base was at 400 feet, solid overcast. Now I was thinking about the last flight when I did not have to find a hole in the clouds to find the airport. By the way, the VOR in Berberati is working!
This time I was about to turn back towards Bangui when, oh what a miracle, a hole in the clouds appeared. It was about 3 NM northwest of the airfield and we had a nice low pass over the town which is the second largest in CAR (according to the Britannica 2002 with 47000 inhabitants). On downwind the right suction pump failed but luckily we have two. When I got back to Bangui the weather was VMC and I flew back to Berberati. On the second run I was finally able to see most of the landscape since the sun had burnt the clouds off. I stayed there until Wednesday and was able to finish my book (must be around the 20th book I have read in CAR). Back in Bangui we changed the vacuum pump and the plane is again in perfect order (apart from the prop but this is being dealt with as well).

You might have heard about the not so good news. The problems in the Darfur region in Sudan are not getting any better, au contraire. Saturday morning I talked to a South African crew who was on the way back from Chad to SA. They told me that the situation in Abeche (east of Chad, not far from Sudan) was getting worse by the day. There are lots of problems with so called rebels. When I was in Abeche about 2 years ago there were 43 NGOs working in that area because of the problems in Darfur. Most of those NGO were trying to help the thousands of refugees. Back then it was the refugees that had come to Chad and now the violence has caught up with them again. Today at the aeroclub I was told that there was news on the radio this morning that rebels had been chased away by government troops from Am Timan in Chad. Am Timan is only about 300 km north of N’Dele. It was said that the rebels fled but nobody knows yet whether they went east or south.
Another unknown factor for the stability in this area is the second round of the elections in DRC the day after tomorrow. Apparently there has been some shooting in G’Badolite just south of Mobaye. It was said that it had happened between supporters of Bemba and a son of Mobuto (who, as far as I know is not involved any more because the election on Sunday is only between Bemba and Kabila). However, the northern part of DRC is a stronghold for Bemba and maybe the other faction is now supporting Kabila as well. The situation is sometimes very confusing. I am sure that if you ask those fighting what they are actually fighting for they will not be able to tell you. All they will tell you is that they are either fighting for this leader or for another.
It seems that our politicians have not yet understood that Africa is not Europe and that sending some soldiers is not a solution. But who am I to criticize.
All I can tell you is that at the moment the situation is not yet out of hand and CAR seems to be still in some kind of orderly state although there is apparently also some fighting already happening in CAR as well. However, the problems all around it are certainly not helping. In the local newspaper there have been talks about more French soldiers being sent (about 1500!) or even UN troops.
My personal opinion is that the problems are mainly coming from outside at the moment. CAR may need help (military or other) to deal with that or things could start boiling within as well because I am sure that there is one or another that might just be waiting for Bozize to be weakened and then start another coup d’État.
We will have to wait and see what the future holds.

Best regards
Mario

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