(eTN) – Travelers returning last weekend to Juba, and having traveled via Cairo to use the Egypt Air flight, which now operates twice a week but first stops over in Khartoum, complained bitterly about the alleged shenanigans of staff at the Cairo airport, when they got stuck there due to a takeoff delay.
Juba is presently restricted to daylight operations in the absence of sufficient approach, runway, and taxiway lighting, and when the flight departure from Cairo got delayed, passengers destined for Juba were told that the crew could not fly the plane from Khartoum to Juba, as it would arrive there and find the airport closed. This naturally resulted in arguments, as only two flights a week operate on to Juba, while Khartoum is served daily, and passengers were left reportedly distressed by these news, with others getting into hot arguments with airport staff, as they had planned to be home for Christmas.
It was in one of those conversations that some airport staff then allegedly called the Southern Sudanese “slaves” in an Arabic phrase often used by regime sycophants in Khartoum prior to the peace agreement, and many still do so in private conversations, though no longer very openly in public these days. It stems from this fact that added information was credible that those passengers traveling to Khartoum also engaged in tirades against the Southern Sudanese, and it is difficult to establish who ultimately threw the most invectives and insults, the airport staff or the Northern Sudanese, who are known to be increasingly angry over the expected forthcoming separation after the independence referendum on January 9.
It is understood that Egypt Air did eventually book the affected passengers into hotels and gave them some cash compensation for the inconvenience they had been subjected to, but the incident has not done Egypt Air any good in the South Sudan, where the airline is now being actively de-campaigned and where prospective passengers are “helped” by travel agents to make other flight arrangements and rather fly via Entebbe, Nairobi, or Addis Ababa and change planes there to their final destination, if only to avoid traveling via a hostile Khartoum and similarly hostile other Arab countries – which exactly reflects the sentiments and perception amongst the Southern Sudanese population.
In a related development, it is also understood that passengers on this particular flight to Juba are well advised to remember, that Khartoum does not recognize a visa issued by Southern Sudanese missions abroad for visits to the north of the country, i.e., when entering the country through Khartoum, and that they demand a separate visa for the “Republic of the Sudan” in such cases. Independence surely cannot come soon enough now for the Southern Sudanese people.