Monday, April 15, 2013

■ CONGO (KINSHASA): Minister lays into government departments, civil service and private sector over country's air safety woes.

DRCAt a recent three day seminar held in Kinshasa, the Congolese Minister of Transport & Communication, Justin Kalumba, lambasted the country's various aviation industry players, both governmental and private, for contributing to the country's poor aviation safety track record.

Justin Kalumba
Justin Kalumba (radiookapi)
Held in light of the country's most recent air crash - A Fokker 50 belonging to CAA - Compagnie Africaine d'Aviation - in Goma, the seminar entitled "Challenges of aviation safety in the DRC", focused on finding and isolating the primary causes of the DRC's accident prone record, with Mr Kalumba stating that following the adoption of aviation legislation due later this year, any "failures, serious misconduct, or breaches" should be punished with "the approval from the Congolese aviation community as a whole."

Painting a bleak picture, Mr Kalumba accused the civil aviation administration, L'Autorité de l'Aviation Civile du Congo (AAC), as having "failed in its mission" to adequately regulate and oversee safety in the DRC. Accusing the AAC of "complacency" and of wantonly allowing unairworthy aircraft to operate in Congo, the minister said the authority had also largely failed to comply with new ICAO safety guidelines. The civil service, and in particular, officials manning airport facilities, was singled out for "transforming airports into an instrument of extortion and molestation of peaceful citizens." 

Global corruption watchdog, Transparency International, ranked the DRC in the top 20 most corrupt countries in the world in 2012.

Map of Congolese aerodromes (RVA)
Next in line was the country's meteorological department, l'Agence Nationale de Météorologie et de Télédétection par Satellite METTELSAT, which was painted as being "not only devoid of technical and financial resources" but also "underskilled" with most weather stations non-operational most of the time.

Minister Kalumba castigated local Congolese airlines for adhering to "questionable maintenance practices," though in summation, he did conclude that, despite the numerous obstacles confronting the Congolese aviation community at large, reforms backed up by adequate legislation and a community effort at large could help improve the situation in the long run.