A Kenyan military plane carrying politicians to a peace conference crashed while attempting to land Monday in northern Kenya, killing a Cabinet minister, six other politicians and at least seven other people.
Four of the 17 people on the plane were pulled from the fiery wreckage alive and flown to the capital Nairobi for treatment, witnesses said. But one of the survivors apparently died on the way to Nairobi.
The plane crashed into a hill near the town of Marsabit, 280 miles northeast of Nairobi. The politicians on board were heading to a peace conference in Marsabit intended to ease tribal tensions along the Ethiopian border, Parliamentary Speaker Francis ole Kaparo told a news conference.
Police said the crash appeared to be an accident.
“This is the worst tragedy to hit the National Assembly,” Kaparo said with tears in his eyes. “We have lost a lot of very good people in this crash.”
Kaparo said Minister for Youth Affairs Mohammed Kuti was killed along with two assistant ministers and four other lawmakers.
He identified the other politicians as assistant minister for internal security, Mirugi Kariuki; assistant minister for regional development authorities, Titus Ngoyoni; the deputy leader of the opposition KANU party, Bonaya Godana; and lawmakers Abdi Sasura and Guracha Galgallo Boru.
Also on board was a Kenyan member of the East African Legislative Assembly, Abdullahi Adan, a retired army general who served under former President Daniel arap Moi, Kaparo added. The East African Legislative Assembly includes lawmakers from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
Kaparo said he would adjourn parliament on Tuesday until all of the lawmakers were buried.
President Mwai Kibaki issued a statement expressing “shock and concern” at the crash.
The Ministry of Defense said 17 people were on the Chinese-built Y-12 twin-engine cargo plane when it crashed, “including government officials, leaders and crew.”
“The government has dispatched a search and rescue team to support rescue operations which are in progress,” a ministry statement said.
Survivors pulled from wreckage
Police identified the survivors as Patrick Onsare, provincial commissioner for Eastern Province, Peter Kingolane the commissioner for Moyale district; the pilot and one crew member.
An aid worker at the Marsabit airstrip told The Associated Press that the four survivors were flown to the capital, Nairobi, for treatment. But when an air ambulance arrived in Nairobi, journalists at the scene could see that one of the survivors had died during the flight.
Godana was among the most prominent of the lawmakers. He was a former Cabinet minister who served as foreign affairs and agriculture minister in Moi’s administration between 1997 and 2002.
In July, unknown assailants killed scores of people in Marsabit, including at least two dozen children in a school, provoking retaliatory attacks between members of different tribes and raising tensions along the border with Ethiopia.
Since that time there have been efforts to ease tensions, including Monday’s planned meeting.
In January 2003, a plane carrying four Cabinet ministers and other people, crashed in western Kenya killing one minister and the two pilots. A public inquiry into the crash recommended that in the future no more than three Cabinet ministers or senior government officials should travel on the same flight for security reasons.
The report also said many airstrips in the country were poorly maintained and the government did not allocate enough money for repair and maintenance.