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19.04.2006 General News

Garang's death is blamed on pilot


Pilot error was to blame for the helicopter crash which killed former Sudanese rebel leader John Garang, an international investigation has found.

Mr Garang's death last July sparked days of rioting in Sudan by his supporters, who accused the government of involvement.

The helicopter crashed just three weeks after Mr Garang became vice-president under a deal to end 21 years of war.

The report was published in Uganda, which owned the helicopter.

"The findings attributed the cause of accident to a combination of factors all centred around the captain," said Uganda's Minister of Works, Housing and Communication John Nasasira.

Peace process fears

Mr Nasasira, who led the commission of inquiry, pointed to the decision of the pilot of Uganda's presidential helicopter to fly through a mountain range without electronic navigation equipment in worsening weather.

Uganda, Kenya, the United States, Russia and the United Nations helped with the inquiry.

Mr Garang was returning to Sudan after talks with Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni.

Both Mr Garang's the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) group and the government said at the time they believed the crash had been an accident.

But this did not prevent riots in Khartoum and in Juba in the south, in which at least 130 people died.

The violence sparked fears for a peace deal signed a few months earlier to end southern Sudan's 21-year-old civil war.

The conflict pitted the Muslim north against Christians and animists in the south, leaving some 1.5 million people dead.

Mr Garang was succeeded by Salva Kiir, who pledged to stay committed to Mr Garang's vision of Sudan as a united country and opposed independence for the south.