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AU mission welcomes joint investigations into Somalia plane crash

By East Africa correspondent , Garowe Online
The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia, Ambassador Francisco Madeira

ADDIS ABABA - The decision by stakeholders in Somalia peace quest to settle on a joint investigation to Bardale plane crash was "necessary" for transparency purposes, African Union Mission in Somalia said, just a day after Monday's accident.

Six people among them three Kenyans died on the spot after the plane was allegedly downed using Rocket Propelled Grenade [RPG], just three minutes away from landing at the Bardale airport which is manned by Ethiopian troops.

In a statement, the African Union Mission in Somalia leader Ambassador Francisco Madeira welcomed the decision by Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia to conduct a joint inquiry to the accident which targeted innocent aid workers.

The mission, he said, would facilitate the process as part of promoting accountability in the undertaking of the exercise, which threatens huge divisions among stakeholders in the Somalia peace quest.

"We'd like to pledge our continued solidarity with the governments of Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia and will support and facilitate investigations aimed at clarifying circumstances surrounding this accident," he said.

The accident took place in a territory under the AMISOM, thus the direct involvement of the mission in the process. Ethiopian National Defense Forces [ENDF], which has been directly linked to the incident, dismissed the reports as "sheer" imaginations.

Sources within the region told Garowe Online that the ENDF and some FGS officials had denied KDF and other Kenyan officials access to the black box. However, the reports could not be independently established.

The plane was registered under African Express and had been operating in Somalia since March, Kenya said in a statement. At the time of the accident, it was carrying medical supplies and mosquito nets to the town from Baidoa, the regional administrative capital of Southwest state.

On Tuesday, Somalia Foreign Affairs minister Ahmed Awad revealed that President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta held a lengthy phone conversation over the tragedy.

Farmajo, he said in a post on Twitter, condoled with Uhuru over the loss of lives and assured the Kenyan leader of "thorough" investigations to unearth the mystery surrounding the plane crash.

"President Farmajo assured President Kenyatta that thorough investigation will be done into this unfortunate crash," said Awad, adding that Farmajo offered his condolences following the crash. The plane was carrying medical supplies to Bardale within Southwest state, officials had said.

Shortly after the conversation between the two, top leaders from Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia visited the crash site but they did not issue any statement. Their visit, however, is an indication of a commitment to establish the cause of the accident.

Those who visited Bardale on Tuesday include Mohamed Abdullahi Salad Omaar, Somalia's Transport and Aviation Minister, Hassan Hussein Mohamed of Southwest transport department, Kenya ambassador to Somalia Lucas Tumbo and his Ethiopian counterpart Jemaludin Mustafa Omar.

Earlier, Kenya had demanded an "in-depth" explanation from Somalia over the crash, terming the accident as "unclear". Humanitarian operators, Kenya urged, "should be extremely cautious" as the matter is being investigated.

Several parts of Somalia are receiving humanitarian aid from NGOs following the Coronavirus pandemic. As of Tuesday, 835 of the less than 1400 who have been screened, tested positive for the virus, with 36 already dead.

The ENDF has been in having quiet differences with KDF which are anchored on their divergent and parallel policies on Somalia, especially in Jubaland state. However, a possible assault by Al-Shabaab cannot be ruled out given its dominance in southern Somalia.

AMISOM troops, whose number is estimated to be 22,000, are set to leave Somalia in 2021. Besides Kenya and Ethiopia, other contributing nations include Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania, and Uganda, and they are credited for liberating several towns.


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