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Kenyan Government's Brutal Treatment of Its Air Traffic Controllers Creates a Dangerous, Unsafe Situation - (4/8/2002)

WASHINGTON - The National Air Traffic Controllers Association is warning travelers flying to Kenya about unsafe conditions as a result of disgraceful treatment and disciplinary action of controllers by the Kenyan government. This has left control of the country’s skies in the hands of untrained, retired replacement workers and overworked managers.

For the fourth time in the last 10 years, Kenyan controllers are striking to protest the government’s refusal to improve their pay despite having to handle increased traffic. Kenyan controllers have told NATCA that air travelers should be alerted the Kenyan airspace is unsafe because the government has brought in invalidated air traffic controllers and other unqualified personnel as a replacement. The Civil Aviation Act Air Navigation regulations state an air controller who has been absent from office for more than 20 days should be retrained. Those replacements currently controlling traffic in Kenya are not licensed, making them illegal. As for the dedicated and courageous controllers they are replacing, the BBC reported today the Kenyan government fired 32 controllers and suspended another 82. Today, Agence France Presse is reporting the government arrested and detained 20 fired controllers.

“What’s happening in Kenya is utterly unbelievable and outrageous and could not be more dangerous to the passengers in those skies,” NATCA President John Carr said. “This situation has gone from bad to worse. They’ve had to suspend night flights and we’ve even read press reports about only one manager being on duty in Mombasa and he had exceeded the required 48 hours of duty.”

“We urge the Kenyan government to act in the interest of safety. It should reinstate the fired and suspended controllers, hear their demands regarding pay and conditions and respect the vitally important safety role their controllers play, especially now as air travel in that country increases,” Carr said.

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