Plane Carrying U.N. Envoy Found
Plane Carrying U.N. Envoy Found
Jun. 27, 1998
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) _ A small chartered plane that disappeared while carrying the U.N. envoy to Angola crashed into a swamp as it approached the airport in Abidjan, a French diplomat said Saturday. There were no signs of survivors.
The plane carrying Alioune Blondin Beye, a highly respected politician, diplomat and scholar from the West African nation of Mali, had left from Lome, Togo, on Friday night. Beye, 59, had met with Togolese President Gnassigbe Eyadema in an effort to win support for the peace process in Angola, according to a statement from the U.N. Observer Mission in that southern African country.
While rescuers have been unable to reach the wreckage of the Beechcraft 200 because of the terrain, the jet was spotted from a helicopter near the town of Bingerville, about 12 miles from Abidjan, said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.
But townspeople in Akoure, about 10 miles beyond Bingerville, said the plane went down Friday night in a swampy area nearer to them.
``The town is full of soldiers'' trying to get to the plane, said Samuel Oura, an employee of the Ivory Coast's national water company, speaking in a brief telephone interview. He said both French and Ivorian soldiers were involved in the operation.
The control tower in Abidjan lost contact with the plane Friday night about 8 p.m. some 13 miles from the Abidjan airport, the U.N. mission said. Eight people, including two crew members, were aboard, it said.
But Togolese Foreign Minister Koffi Panou said in Lome that the plane had been carrying seven people, including three crew members.
There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.
Panou said the other three passengers were Togolese Foreign Ministry employee Koffi Adjovi, Senegalese journalist Moktar Gueye and Baendegar Dessandre, who is from Chad.
The mission statement said Beye was accompanied by five staff members and two crew members. It did not provide names.
The helicopter that sighted the wreckage detected no signs of life at the crash scene, the French diplomat said.
Beye has been traveling through Africa _ including stops in Togo and the Ivory Coast _ to gather support for the troubled peace process in Angola, where war first broke out in 1975 after it won independence from Portugal.
Beye was named envoy to Angola in 1993 by then-U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Since then, he has been mediating the Angolan peace process from his base in Lusaka, Zambia.
Lingering hostility between the government and the former UNITA rebels has stymied implementation of a peace pact mediated by Beye in 1994. The plan is running more than a year behind schedule, and the U.N's patience is growing thin.
Beye threatened to resign last month, saying the two sides lacked the political will to follow through on the peace process.
News of Friday's crash came as a shock in the Malian capital of Bamako, where Beye has been a well-known figure for years.
``Beye is a ray of hope for Mali,'' said Amidou Diabate, the Malian minister of Justice, who had been a student of Beye's.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also expressed deep grief.
``I am extremely saddened by the tragic incident,'' he said in a statement.
Annan appealed to the negotiators in Angola ``in this difficult time'' to ``continue to cooperate closely with the United Nations to bring the peace process to the earliest conclusion.''
The U.N. Security Council agreed Wednesday to give UNITA five more days to comply with terms of the peace plan, including the surrender of its central highlands strongholds and major steps toward demobilization. Otherwise, the U.N. Security Council will freeze UNITA's foreign bank accounts and ban its diamond exports.
UNITA criticized the threatened sanctions Friday, calling them illegal and saying they would jeopardize the peace agreement.
Before being named U.N. envoy, Beye served in a number of posts in the Malian cabinet, including foreign minister, and has been legal counsel to the Malian president. He has also been on the faculty of universities in France and Mali. He is married and has four children.