by Hervé Pugi.
In July 2015, a Sudan Airways airplane was greeted by water cannons on the tarmac at Abu Dhabi airport. A celebration of the new relationship between Khartoum and the United Arab Emirates. At the offices of the Sudanese national airline company, however, not a time for festivities. A report.
In the heavy heat of early spring, at the Sudan Airways workshops, employees are working feverishly with limited means. Resigned, actually disgusted, one of the company managers points a finger at a rack of engines left on workbenches, saying: « They’ve been there 4 or 5 years, some of them maybe even 10! When we try to buy parts from suppliers, discussions stop as soon as they hear the words Sudan Airways! »
Further along, in a dusty technical room, you see the same incredulity lights in the eyes of the technicians: « Everything here is designed to Western standards. We can’t repair the machines, equipment, components. Everything we have is American. We don’t have the training or the spare parts. In short, we’re in the process of closing down. » On the tarmac, although some are busy on the single Fokker that is still working (of the five that the company has), an improvised scrapyard dubbed the « graveyard” has all sorts of partially stripped down machines.
In a sector such as transport, the notion of security logically takes precedence over all other considerations. So, better to leave a Boeing grounded that revive the drama of 2003 or 2008 which saw almost 150 people lose their lives in crashes. Which doesn’t prevent some dubious planes from taking off every day to fly domestic routes, unavoidable in a country that covers 1,886,000 square kilometres.
So, to ensure that it can fly, Sudan Airways has no choice but to lease planes from its… competitors. That was without counting on the US oversight authorities, in December 2015, fining EgyptAir 140,000 dollars for violating economic sanctions between August 2010 and February 2011. Makkawi Mohamed Awad analyses this decision through a political prism : « The actual size of the fine is not a problem for Egypt. What is more so is the message behind this sanction: don’t go dealing with the Sudanese! »
Far from these types of considerations, in the Sudan Airways workshops, there are few smiles. A man is grumbling: « Our pay isn’t going up and, with this embargo, there is galloping inflation and prices skyrocketing. Month-ends are tough. » Then, slightly embarrassed, he adds : « I had to borrow money this morning to fill up the car and get to work. » Without seeming to know why…