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Near mid-air crash puts Kenya and Ethiopia on a collision course

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By ALLAN OLINGO
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Two passenger planes missed each other in the Kenyan airspace by a minute last week, averting what would have been one of the world’s worst aviation accidents.

The near-collision, at Naivasha, 100 kilometres west of Nairobi, was prevented when the pilot of one of the planes — upon receiving a warning from the inflight traffic collision system — made a sudden climb to avoid the oncoming flight.

The incident, involving an Ethiopian Airways plane and an Italian leisure airline flight, has become a major point of discussion in aviation circles, and has led to a blame game between Kenya and Ethiopia.

On Wednesday August 29, the Ethiopian Airlines flight number ET858, a Boeing 737-800, registration number ET-ASJ left Johannesburg for Addis Ababa at 2100 hours. Its flight time was five hours, 12 minutes cruising at a calibrated altitude of 37,000 feet.

On the same day at 18:00 hours, an Italian leisure airline Neos Boeing 767-306R flight number NOS252, registration I-NDOF had left the Italian city of Verona heading to Zanzibar. Its flight time was eight hours before it made its first landing in Zanzibar.

At 00:49 hours, both aircraft were in Kenyan airspace, at the same altitude, with the Italian aircraft having entered from the Ethiopian airspace, while the Ethiopian Airlines from the Tanzania airspace. They were flying towards each other. SEE INFOGRAPHIC

The Traffic Collision Avoidance System is built in planes to monitor the airspace around an aircraft for other aircraft equipped with an equivalent active transponder. The system, which is independent of air traffic control, warns pilots of the presence of other aircraft.

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The TCAS Resolution Advisory alerted the Ethiopian airline crew about the impending mid-air collision and the pilot climbed to 38,000 feet in just one minute (at 00:50 hrs). He maintained the altitude for five minutes, avoiding a collision.

Kenya’s air traffic controllers seem to be blaming the incident on a strike by Ethiopian air traffic controllers.

“The Italian airliner approached and entered the Kenyan airspace from the Westside using 370L but it wasn’t informed by the Ethiopian air control that an ET flight was also using the same altitude East side as it crossed over Kenya heading to Addis. This was a serious breach of safety,” a source in the Kenyan aviation sector told The EastAfrican.

The source said the Ethiopian air traffic controllers had began their strike four days prior to the near-crash, and failed to honour the co-ordination procedures agreed between Nairobi and Addis Ababa on air traffic navigation and management.

The day after the near mishap, the Kenya Air Traffic Controllers’ Association warned that flights going into and out of the Addis Ababa airspace were not safe.

“We have seen some eastbound flights coming in with westbound flight levels while some westbound flights have eastbound levels, increasing chances of serious air misses,” the association president Peter Ang’awa said, adding that they were concerned about serious safety issues they have noted in the past few days after their Ethiopian counterparts went on strike.

The Ethiopian Air traffic controllers had for the second time in three months, downed their tools on August 25, demanding a salary rise, better working conditions and overtime pay. In April, the same airport staff went on strike resulting in dozens of flight delays.

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Mr Ang’awa said the Ethiopian traffic controllers did not provide proper standard separation in last week’s incident.

“We saw flights from Addis Ababa calling the Nairobi Control without prior estimates, with the possibility of creating serious air-misses with known traffic at the transfer point given that they were entering our airspace with wrong levels. This was the issue with the ET and Neos, which both maintained FL360 with no prior co-ordination and no estimates from Addis Ababa control. Were it not for the TCAS, the story would have been different,” he said.

However, a pilot with several years’ experience, told The EastAfrican that if the planes were in Kenyan airspace, then they were under Kenya’s Air Traffic Control (ATC), which should have guided them accordingly and warned them that they were going to cross each other’s flight path.

“Collison is difficult in this age. Throughout the flight you are under ATC, and you’re given ‘separation’ so that you don’t collide with another plane,” he said. “In a situation like last week’s, the pilot must react immediately to save the passengers and crew. The passengers would feel the sudden jerk, but at such a point it is not a matter of comfort. It is about avoiding a collision.”

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority Director General Captain Gilbert Kibe declined to comment on the incident, only stating that everything was now in order.

“As it is, things are now okay and I will not comment on this,” Capt Kibe said on the sidelines of the Africa Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation conference in Mombasa.

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Mid last week, the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA) rejected the Kenyan air controller’s claim, saying its control centre is manned by capable air traffic controllers, adding that the approach and aerodrome positions within its airspace are also manned with professionals possessing all the qualifications.

“We reject the false and baseless statements circulated by the Kenyan Air Traffickers Controllers Association. Our Area Control Centre in Addis Ababa is being manned by adequate number of well-trained, highly capable instructors and professionals with the necessary ratings and validations in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organisation Annex 1 provisions. To date, we have not received any complaints by any airlines operating to/from Ethiopia or over flying our airspace,” ECAA said in a statement, adding that all its air traffic control activities and communications are recorded and protected, and can be verified if need be.

Ethiopia has since arrested nine Ethiopian air traffic controllers alleged to be leading the work boycott, with the Police deputy commissioner Tekolla Ayfokiru saying the nine workers were preventing international flights from landing at the Bole International Airport, the country’s busiest hub.

“Some of the employees engaged in the illegal strike are returning to work. The remaining should submit a letter of apology and return to their work. They have until Tuesday (September 4),” the head of ECAA, Col Wesenyelew Hunegnaw said, adding that a salary review was ongoing.



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Tale of misery, hopelessness of the landless Kibwezi Ngulia :: Kenya

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Kioko Mutua stands next to his ‘house’. He is taller than the house that he squeezes self in to sleep.

For more than four decades, they have lived in squalor. They have been abandoned by successive governments and short-changed by leaders, with empty promises of finding them alternative land.

The more than 2,000 squatters in Kibwezi West in Makueni County have for years lived in shanties, adults having to share makeshift beds with their children.

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Their troubles began in 1976 when the Government gazetted Ngai Ndethya as a game reserve and rendered those settled there landless.

According to Wandia Mutungi, 88, they were among 5,000 people who were evicted from Kyulu ranges in 1987 to create space for wildlife conservation.

Ms Mutungi said in 1992, some of those evicted were given land at Masongaleni, Kibwezi, Kiboko ‘A’ and ‘B’ settlement schemes that were created for the squatters. However, not all the displaced persons were allocated land.

Weak sticks

From a distance, one can confuse the structures with manyattas, if not for seemingly weak sticks they stand on. They are grass-thatched, while others are covered with black polythene papers.

Know if news is factual and true. Text ‘NEWS’ to 22840 and always receive verified news updates.

We peep into one of the smoke-stained structures. Inside an old man sits on a stone closely watching as something cooks in a pot on a three-stone fire. He refuses to let us in. His neighbours tell us he would not open for fear that children might stream in to beg for his little meal.

The delay in creating settlement schemes has subverted the locals and crippled agriculture. Most of the squatters have no land to till, while others have pieces measuring 10 steps by 25, which cannot yield much.

“I had planted hundreds of mango trees in Kyulu before eviction. Now I’m forced to make use of a piece measuring only 10 by 25 steps here,” said Mutungi.

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Lutha Kakui, one of the few men in the camp, has pleaded with the Government for land, wondering who, between wild animals and the people, are more important?

“We border a wildlife conservation reserve and a research centre (Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation) that keeps animals,” said Mr Kakui.

He is considered rich, for he owns an old bicycle that doubles up as the locals’ ambulance and also transports them to Makindu market.

There are 79 people in the compound. Many of them are old men and women abandoned in the shacks by their children. Many youthful sons and daughters of the squatters are said to move to neighbouring Kajiado County to do irrigation work. Many never return.

We meet two girls who have dropped out of primary school after giving birth. The younger one yearns for education. She hopes to save her parents from poverty.

At this place, they have also formed a welfare group “Umiisyo wa wildlife” to voice their grievances.

“We formed this group to assist one another and lobby,” says Magaret Katunge, the group’s chair.

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Some five kilometres southwards is ‘Boma 5’ alias Kalembe Raha. It was created by former Kibwezi MP Kalembe Ndile.

Here the situation is dire. Irresponsible sexual behaviours are rampant. Even school girls are said to flee their homes for fear of sharing beds with their fathers.

Some have become beggars and other street children in Makindu town. Mutua Musilu, a local, says several others prostitute on the Nairobi-Mombasa highway.

To the north of ‘Boma 4’ is Katia village, where squatters live in fear of attacks from elephants and Kenya Wildlife rangers.

“We are suffering as squatters, but in addition to that, rangers come in the middle of the night and arrest you. They accuse you of hunting game. We can’t grow anything, all the crops are destroyed by wild animals. We never get compensation,” said Onesmus Manthi, a father of five.

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Milcah Mueni, a mother of 10, shares a shanty with her two daughters-in-law and when their husbands come they are forced to sleep in lodgings in Makindu before returning to work.

It is not a house – the structure has no beds, they sleep on the dusty floor, and they close their structure with an old-tattered cloth. There are no pit-latrines.

Mueni says floods washed away her six goats and chickens, her only source of livelihood.

The suffering locals say they have no place to bury the dead, no means of transporting the bodies as they ferry them in carts to the only cemetery located 10kms in Makindu town, which has no space.

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Baobab trees

The squatters have criticised the Government for promising to find them land. Their hopes have been fading 55 years on. They say they are tired of politicians maximising on their plight every electioneering period.

Most of the poor homeless Ngulia people blame influential Ukambani politicians who grabbed large tracts of land leaving majority of the people squatters scattered in various regions in the former larger Kibwezi.

Some of the squatters say they originated from Ngai Ndethya, past Mtito Andei.

The Ngulias’ sufferings started in 1836. According to Lindblom and Hobley’s book, The Akamba of British East Africa, they were the indigenous Kamba of Kikumbulyu.

As Lindblom and Hobleys explain, the Ngulias migrated to the southwest before settling between Taveta and Lake Jipe near the Pare mountains and later moved to Tanzania stretching from Musi Valley, Usambara and the Maramba region.

Reportedly, a large number of these people remained in Kikumbulyu, the area between River Kiboko in the north and Kyulu Hills in the west.

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Between 2002 and 2006, there was a policy research project by the Masongaleni Community Organisation for Sustainable Development (Macosud) highlighting the plight of the landless Nguliapeople, who lived under baobab trees. 

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Parts of the Jacobus Kiilu-led Macosud research read that when the East African Scottish missionaries, led by Dr James Steward, arrived in Kibwezi in 1891, the Ngulia Akamba were there.

Further, there were documented agreements between the missionaries and the Ngulia under the rule of Kilundo in 1891. The report says the Ngulia, who form part of the biggest population of Kibwezisquatters, had their settlements centered near water points, water courses, hills and raised rocks.

The two-year research found that the Ngulias’ troubles started in the late 1890s and 1900s after missionaries settled in Kibwezi.

“In a blink, the whites initiated a tactical eviction of the Ngulia people. According to existing records, when Tsavo West National Park was established. The Ngulia people were moved from River Tsavo, passed Mzima water catchment area and settled at River Mtito Andei,” said Mr Kiilu.

Chronologically, in 1902, there was the Crown Lands Ordinance, which restricted Ngulia people to the Kikumbulyu Native Reserve, which included Kyale, a region near river Kiboko, Mbui Nzau adjacent to Kibwezi town and Kyulu block along the Kyulu ranges.

Kyulu block reportedly had more than 5,000 people.

The research document points out that in 1932 the colonial district commissioner paid a visit to Kikumbulyu reserve, something that intensified the Ngulia people’s problems.

Records indicate that he proposed that Kamba people from Kyulu block were suffering from drought and they were to be moved to Kyale, near Kiboko River.

The contents of the Carter Land Commission, 1932, states that they agreed to go-by the DC recommendations for the Kyulu residents to be moved north of the railway line.

 

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THE CUTTING EDGE

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The tow trucks and forklifts usually parked at the Cabanas interchange on Mombasa Road, Nairobi, are an eyesore.

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Samurai rule show: Nzomo’s team bounce back to win title as Ngugi is voted the best player

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Samurai bounced back from Day One defeat to successfully defend their Kenya International 14 Goal Polo tournament title at the Nairobi Polo Club yesterday.

The match between Samurai and Four Of A Kind automatically became the title decider after White Cap and Space & Style lost two and one match respectively.

Samurai, featuring handicap five Lance Watson, George McCorkell 3.5, Mbugua Ngugi 2.5 and Raphael Nzomo ( 2.5 ), who had a fraction’s (f) advantage beat ‘Four Of A Kind’ ( 4-8f) comprising Gareth Evans 5, Craig Millar 3.5, Tarquin Gross 3 and Tiva Gross 2.5, to claim the much sought after trophy in Kenya.

In the true nature of the game, the two sides displayed a fast and furious show from the start and at the end of the opening chukka, Samurai had a 2 and a half/ fraction (f) lead- 0-2f over their opponents. Watson accounted for the double.

Midway through the first period, Evans tumbled off his pony and picked an injury hence was replaced by Kenya’s seed one five-goaler James Murray. He immediately canceled Samurai’s goals with a brace with Millar giving Four Of A Kind a fraction’s advantage for 3-2f.

McCorkell hit one in to increase the level of competition as Nzomo performed his defensive role too well, cutting out Murray from the game and creating chances as Ngugi successfully drove the ball through the goalposts with scores at 3-5f.

Each side scored one goal apiece through 40-yard penalties by top handicapped players— Murray and Watson— in the penultimate chukka for 5-6f.

Two field goals from team patron Nzomo and Ngugi were all that Samurai needed to seal the win and grab the title altogether. With two wins each, the champion was determined by goal difference where Samurai carried the day with a fraction goal advantage. On their way to the title, Samurai hammered White Cap and Four Of A Kind on Saturday and Sunday.

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“Though he (Murray) is a top goaler, his inclusion in Four Of A Kind did not help much because attaining coordination in the team with a new player was hard, and that worked to our advantage,” said Watson, a south African international, as Nzomo hailed his teammates for the back-to-back title win.

Ngugi was awarded the Most Valuable Player award while Jessica from Nzomo’s sting and played by Watson, was voted the Best Played Pony. This was for the second time in seven days.



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