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Gov’t Defies SDF Warnings, Purchases Chinese ‘Flying Coffins’ 

By Joe Dinga Pefok

The Cameroon Government has snubbed the warnings of the Social Democratic Front, SDF, Parliamentary Group, not to purchase two Chinese made aircrafts, MA 60, which the SDF Group described as “flying coffins.”
The two MA 60 aircrafts, assembled by the AVIC International Holding Corporation in China, arrived Douala on April 1, 2015,painted in Camair-Cocolours.

The aircrafts were accompanied to Cameroon by the Chief of the Cameroon Air Force, General Jean Calvin Momha who had travelled to China for the mission.

The two MA 60 aircrafts were officially received at the Air Force Base close to the Douala International Airport by the Minister Delegate at the Ministry of Transport,Mefiro Oumarou.Ironically, instead of the General Manager of Camair-Co, Jean Paul Nana Sandjo, to present the aircrafts to the public, it was instead General Momha who did the presentation.The Camair-Co boss was more of a spectator at the occasion, which left many people asking rhetorical questions.

MA 60 Are New Generation Planes

In a terse speech, Mefiro Oumarou tried to defend the decision of the Government to buy the Chinese planes. He described the planes as “new generation planes”and insisted that the technical quality of the aircrafts is unquestionable. Mefiro said some other countries have been using the MA 60 without problems, and wondered why it should be a problem for Cameroon.

“We have, over the years, been seeing other countries come to our airports with these planes,” he stated.
The strongest defence of Government’s decision came from the Air Force Chief, General Momha, who told reporters that the first MA 60 plane that Cameroon bought from the Chinese company arrived Cameroon in November 2012. According to him, the aircraft is being used without any problem. He said the aircraft, which Government officially gave to the Cameroon Air Force, is regularly used to go on missions by the Minister of External Relations, as well as the Minister Delegate at the Presidency in charge of Defence and other authorities. “The plane flies every week, and there is no technical problem. I can confirm that these planes are reliable,” Momha averred.

Scandalous Deal

Meanwhile,The Post leant that the complaint of the SDF Parliamentary Group was based on information that the 1stVice National Chairman of the party, Hon Joshua Nambangi Osih, who is a renowned aviation expert, gathered about the planes.

The SDF Parliamentary Group stated that the MA 60 aircrafts manufactured by the Chinese company since 2000 have been grounded for various technical lapses in various countries across Europe and America.

According to the SDF Parliamentary Group, by 2009, the MA 60 aircrafts had already been involved in 11 fatal accidents in different parts of the world (The Post No. 01521 Monday, April 14, 2014).

Before the SDF MPs objected to the purchase of the plane by Government in early 2014, the latest accident in which the MA 60 was involved occurred on June 10, 2013. Worst still,the MA 60 was involved in two accidents on that same day; one occurred in Indonesia and the other in Myanmar. Both accidents occurred under similar circumstances, as both aircrafts encountered difficulties in landing. With numerous technical problems and accidents, the SDF Parliamentary Group said the planes were not safe and described them as “flying coffins”.

Besides the technical problems, the SDF Parliamentary Group equally exposed the financial scandal in the purchase of the aircrafts. The MPs revealed that Cameroon signed a framework agreement for a preferential loan of FCFA 34.4 billion purportedly to pay for the two aircrafts, whereas Congo Republic spent onlyFCFA7 billion to purchase two brand new aircrafts from the same Chinese Company.

From Military To Commercial Aircrafts

Many people who turned up at the April 1 reception in Douala raised questions as to why the event was hijacked by the Cameroon Air Force, whereas the planes were destined for Camair-Co.

The Post learnt that the initial and official negotiations that Cameroon had with the Chinese company was that the planes were for the Cameroon Air Force.

The negotiations started in 2009, when President Biya, during a trip to China, visited a number of companies, including AVIC International Holding Corporation that manufactures the MA 60 planes.
In 2011, the Government started negotiations with the Chinese company to buy two of the MA 60 aircrafts, for the Cameroon Air Force in particular and the Cameroon military in general. The Chinese company promised to offer one MA 60 aircraft to Cameroonfor free, bringing the number of planes to three.

In November 2012, the first MA 60 was delivered to the Cameroon Government, which was handed over to the Air Force.

Camair-Co only came into the scene, during its inaugural flight on March 28, 2011, but could boast of only one plane; the Boeing 767-300 (The Dja), which was left behind by the defunct Cameroon Airlines. Camair-Co took two Boeing 737-300 from an American company on lease.

The Government, then,promised to buy a number of new planes for Camair-Co.When the Management of Camair-Co started complaining that the company was facing a lot of difficulties because it had very few planes, President Biya decided that the two other MA 60 aircrafts that were being manufactured by the Chinese company for the Cameroon military should be handed over to Camair-Co. But the official documents between the Chinese company and the Government on the MA 60 business deal, stipulate that the planes were for the Cameroon military.

However, after the reception of the aircrafts on April 1, the Cameroon Civil Aviation Authority has engaged a procedure in line with international regulations,to formally change the two aircrafts from military to civil aviation.

MA 60 Not Internationally Certified

Meanwhile, two reputable Cameroonian aviation experts, Nyounai Nyounai and Hon Joshua Osih, on a programme over Equinoxe TV in Douala, April 5, insisted that the MA 60 aircrafts which the Government has stubbornly acquired for Camair-Co are insecure.

They disclosed that, even in China, none of the numerous airline companies have an MA 60 aircraft in its float; because they know that the aircrafts are unsafe.

“So, even the Chinese are running away from their own products,” they asserted.
Osih and Nyounai challenged those who are desperately defending Government’s decision, to tell Cameroonians why the MA 60 brand is not certified internationally.

The two aviation experts warned that when Camair-Co eventually starts using the MA 60 brand, which has not obtained international certification and has been banned in many countries for being insecure, the national carrier (Camair-Co) will be running the risk of being put on the blacklist by International Civil Aviation Authorities.
If blacklisted, they went on, many countries, especially those of the European Union and the United States, will bar all Camair-Co aircrafts from flying their skies.

Hon Osih further stated that when the current Minister of Transport, Robert Nkili, appeared before MPs and questions were raised on the controversial deal to buy the MA 60 aircrafts, the Minister washed his hands off the shady deal. Nkili reportedly said, when he was appointed Ministry of Transport in December 2011; he met the file on the table and so had no power to cancel the deal.

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