A teacher once asked his students to imagine that they were in a plane that was almost crashing. The only thing that could save it was to get rid of everyone else except two people: the pilot and one passenger. Each “passenger” was then asked to prove that he was the fit one to remain on board. The task was elephantine!
The crash of a military plane subsequently killing 14 people including six MPs has enveloped the country in gloom. No! They didn’t deserve to die like that especially when they were in pursuit of a noble mission: the quest for peace and reconciliation.
By December 15 2005, there were 57 air accidents and 1,229 fatalities, according to the Aviation Safety Network, which monitors air crashes worldwide. Out of those, 15 happened in Africa and 390 people died. In 2004, a quarter of all accidents occurred in Africa - a region where air traffic is growing rapidly but which still accounts for only 4.5% of global traffic, according to the International Air Transport Association.
Why is Africa prone to air accidents? As air companies rush to take off are they and their governments ignoring safety? Should some pilots and planes not even be in the sky?
That most airlines operate old second-hand aircrafts; mechanical services are not done regularly; safety standards, for instance, load capacity, are sometimes ignored and there is such a rush to travel that sometimes-bad weather conditions are ignored is no secret. How can the air in Africa be safe in the midst of corruption, where an airline companies can pay for low quality second-hand planes as long as they can take off and land? Some of these planes cannot fly back to Europe and the US because they are not accepted. They just fly from one town to another within Africa since some government officials in Africa accept money and never check them. As more second-hand planes come to Africa, Africa's air will remain deadly and very unsafe.
Placide Matsiaba, a Gabon resident laments that most of the planes in his country are more than 30 years old and should not be allowed to fly as they are poorly maintained. Pilots are irresponsible because they take chances every day flying those flying coffins.
Sigismond Wilson, a Sierra Leonean opines that African countries get these airplanes through the "throw-them-a-bone" programme by the West which happens every once a decade so that they can be seen as doing something. The fact that these countries do not have the parts, manpower or technology to maintain these planes is almost irrelevant.
“The major concern is the practice of unscheduled flights, poor maintenance, ageing charter airline fleets, untrained crews and the illegal movement of aircraft in war-torn countries. Many countries in Africa have a habit of importing second-hand older generation aircrafts from Russia and other countries to boost capacity. What sometimes looks like a solution may in fact be a trap,” says Murila of Kenya.
After Kenya’s plane crash, warring members of the august house cast their differences aside, sat side by side with each other in a bus and traveled together to console the bereaved, united in grief.
Shall we wait for tragedy to knit us together? Shall Africa wait for death to unify her? The ill-fated 14 didn’t deserve to die like that. No African deserves to die for lack of food. No African Citizen deserves to die for lack of medication. No African citizen deserves to die for lack of access to education, just hearing, protection from aggression and equal opportunity.
As we explore redefining of institutions in this issue, we express sincere condolences to the bereaved families and wish the survivors a speedy recovery.
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