Juba Airport: Air traffic controllers in precarious and unacceptable situation

By Touembou Ngueyap Romuald

We have suffered enough; we came out from 21 years of civil war. In 2011, we were hoping for a bright future but it’s a total mess now. Someone like me, my mind is wild, I grew up in bush, struggle alone to build up myself , my country … Today the government pay less attention in civil aviation …. Air traffic controllers are suffering here … we are doing heavy job with less money … All air traffic controllers here are puzzled by this situation .If there was another opportunity, I am sure that many will leave, said JEPHREH (borrowed name), Air Traffic controller at Juba Airport.

July 7, 2015 (SSNA) — $ 200it is not the Visa fees to get in South Sudan but the monthly wage of the South Sudanese air traffic controllers. (Sometimes less than that depending on USD inflation). Yes $200 as monthly salary. Here, Working conditions are revolting… Even equipment is still basic and primary; Airport infrastructure is inadequate and non-developed.

Mostly trained in Kenya (8 months training in aerodrome control at EASA, East African School of Aviation), devoted Air Traffic controllers at Juba airport contribute as much as little to the air safety in this poor country of the east of Africa.

Although opened from 0430am to 0530pm, the runway 13/31 at Juba Airport long with its 2400 meters long is one of the most utilized in the region. On the 118.4 MHz (Approach frequency), it is about 200 movements daily processed. These mostly consist of commercial airlines, cargo and especially humanitarian and military.

Indeed, since its independence on 9 July 2011, South Sudan has entered in an infernal cycle of violence with political and tribal overtones.

Frustration and exasperation are visible among air traffic controllers at Juba Airport.

The treatment of air traffic controllers here is unacceptable. Don’t speak about UNION or GUILD because the delicacy of the security situation has led to an authoritarian management of the country.

"Promises, promises and promises” said another controller. 03 months without incentives, irregular wages: That is the sad situation in which the valiant air traffic controllers try to work.

Some are frustrated, other revolted. To make ends meet ABID (alias) embarked for 1 year on Rap Music and this seems to smile: it is now one of the remarquable young figures in this underdeveloped country for about 11 million habitants.

LIECH DAMAI RUEI, meanwhile defected in September last year to join the armed rebellion of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

Yet since 2011, significant efforts have been made by the foreign partners to upgrade civil aviation in South Sudan: US financing through ICAO, technical expertise of the ASECNA (western Africa ANSP) and retraining of air traffic controllers by United Nations mission: Everything has been put to accompany the development of civil aviation in this vast country of 644,324 Km2: Unfortunately the war! From 04 air traffic controllers in 2011, Juba ATS center currently has about 27 active Air traffic controllers which 5 only have license. Two (02) expatriates (Kenyan air traffic controllers Kenyans) also bring their experience. The airport extension started last year by a Chinese company is now interrupted because of instability: War and War again!!!


The Author can be reached at [email protected].

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