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February 14, 2012

Congo Presidential Aide and Four Others Killed in Plane Crash

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Written by: BNO News
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The plane crashed in eastern Congo

A close aide to Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila was among five people killed on Sunday when a small plane crashed in the country’s east near the Rwanda border, the government confirmed on Monday.

The accident happened at around 1 pm local time on Sunday when the privately-owned aircraft was attempting to land at Kavumu Airport, which is located about 23 kilometers (14 miles) north of the city of Bukavu in South Kivu province. A total of eight people were on board.

A spokesman for the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), whose rescue unit responded to the scene of the accident, said the aircraft overshot the runway and crashed into a nearby farmland where two women were working.

The Gulfstream 200 jet was carrying several Congolese government officials, including senior presidential adviser Augustin Katumba Mwanke, finance minister Matata Ponyo Mapon, South Kivu governor Marcellin Cishambo Rohuya, and roving ambassador Antoine Ghonda.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior and Security Adolphe Lumanu Mulenda Bwana N’sefu said Mwanke, 48, died at the scene of the accident. He was a controversial political figure, with a 2002 report by a UN panel recommending sanctions against him for alleged illegal exploitation of DR Congo’s mineral wealth, but won re-election last year as a member of parliament from southern Katanga.

Both the pilot and co-pilot of the aircraft, which was reportedly owned by Mwanke, were also killed in the accident. The MONUSCO spokesman said two female farmers who were working on farmland near the airport were also killed when they were run over by the aircraft.

Mapon and Ghonda were seriously injured and rushed to a nearby hospital, according to government spokesman Lambert Mende. He said Rohuya suffered injuries which were considered to be less serious, but gave no other details.

Weather conditions in the area were good, and the cause of the accident was not immediately known. But some officials said the plane landed halfway down the runway and as a result was unable to stop in time. An airport official said the pilot possibly miscalculated the length of the runway.

Aviation accidents occur frequently in the African nation. Because of safety and security concerns, all airlines in DR Congo have been banned from operating in the European Union and a number of other countries.

On February 14, 2011, a African Air Services Commuter Let L-410 Turbolet on a cargo flight crashed into a mountain after departing Kavumu, killing both pilots.

In July 2011, at least 75 people were killed when Hewa Bora Airways flight 952, a Boeing 727 carrying 112 people, crashed while attempting to land during bad weather at Bangoka International Airport in Kisangani, the capital of Tshopo province.

And in April 2008, at least 40 people were killed and more than 100 others were injured when Hewa Bora Airways Flight 122 crashed into a residential area of Goma, a city in eastern DR Congo. Most of the casualties were on the ground.

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