2009: A Turbulent Year for ASF

Posted on 22 September 2009

Categories: Avions Sans Frontières

The year 2009 was a particularly turbulent one for Avions Sans Frontières (ASF). The attacks perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (RDC), more specifically in the Upper Uele, a major region of intervention for Terre Sans Frontières (TSF), considerably disturbed the activities of the humanitarian aviation service during the second half of the year 2008-2009.<br>

The acts of violence committed by the rebels started at the end of October 2008, and peaked in December. A report by Human Rights Watch entitled “The Christmas Massacres” enumerates the murders of 865 civilians and the kidnapping of at least 160 children on December 24-25 2008. This violence forced Avions Sans Frontières to leave its base in Dungu, and to head for Bunia. From its new base, ASF began to serve humanitarian organizations, as Bunia is a main transit point for the many workers who must reach the hardest hit regions. In addition to doctors and nursing staff, tons of medicine was transported and the seriously injured evacuated. At the start of the conflicts, ASF took charge of evacuating the international organizations’ personnel who were stationed in Dungu, since no other carrier was willing to go there, and again it was ASF who brought this same personnel back once the situation was restored. “I had never seen so many relief workers in Dungu”, remarked Robert Gonneville, Director General of TSF, upon his return from a mission in February 2009. Indeed, for the last three months of 2008, the number of productive hours flown had increased by 20%. Since the beginning of the crisis, three pilots have followed one another at the controls of the Cessna 206: Maxime Laliberté, who evacuated the plane to Bunia, Jean Deschênes, who carried out most of the emergency operations from Bunia and Xavier Pichot, currently on location, who is experiencing a more normal pace, even though the moving of relief workers remains a priority as attacks are still being perpetrated.

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