Saturday, March 6, 2010
Blowouts and Battles
First the Blowout
In the case that you thought that I was exaggerating in a previous blog posting, a skid landing this past week of an ATC airplane at an airport in Tanzania gives the impression that I probably wasn't.
Though the details are not yet clear, reports that have come out state that all four rear tires of a Boeing 737 burst on landing at the Mwanza airport. The plane slid to a stop in the mud off to the side of the runway. No one was injured but there were plenty that were pretty traumatized by the whole thing and were taken to a hospital.
Now this wasn't the same plane I was on when we had a blowout (and a flat) upon landing in Dar a couple weeks ago, but it was the same airline. It could be an unfortunate coincidence or it could be an indicator that they are having some maintenance problems.
Then the Battles
It's not often that Tanzanians are tested in battle. In spite of this infrequent practice in sparring with enemies, they seem to hold their own quite well.
The Tanzanian military participated in the struggle to liberate Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Uganda (they all ended up being liberated, by the way). Their most significant involvement was in the Uganda-Tanzania War following a Ugandan invasion into Tanzania in 1978. Idi Amin had long accused Tanzania of backing his enemies. Amin invaded Tanzanian territory on 1 November 1978 and announced the annexation of Kagera Region to Uganda. Tanzania responded like a hammer and in short order took Kampala. Amin was forced to flee the country. The reign of the "Last King of Scotland" ended.
So last week pirates attacked a Tanzanian-flagged ship in the Gulf of Aden. This is that nasty little stretch of water off the tourist-free coast of Somalia. According to the US Navy, the crew of the ship successfully fended off the pirates until the USS Farragut, a US destroyer that was patrolling in the area, arrived and busted the bad guys. This is a rare victory against increasingly organized and impressively armed pirates
Tanzanians, in spite of their reputation as a peaceful people, are probably not people you want to mess with. This is not the same for all such peaceful countries. While I was living in Switzerland, I had several friends who were part of the Swiss Armed Forces. I'm sorry but this is not a tough group of people. Military service is mandatory for male citizens and, by their own admission, they're not a motivated bunch of warriors. This conscripted army works similar to the US Reserves in America where you are committed to just a couple weeks a year (until you're in your 50's) unless otherwise needed by your country. In 1989 while I was living there, a popular initiative was launched which aimed to eliminate the Swiss military altogether. One Swiss friend of mine said at the time that the only reason the initiative failed was because the military served other needs than just assembling beds in bomb shelters. Apparently the men were happy to get away from the house for a couple weeks every year to drink beer with their buddies (and the women were apparently happy about it as well).
It's unlikely that the Swiss would ever go to war anytime soon but this past week Muammar Qaddafi did decide to declare a jihad against them for voting to ban minarets (though me thinks it MAY have had something to do with the Swiss arresting his son a couple years ago for beating two servants). I doubt it will catch on with other world leaders since most of them have their money in Swiss banks and/or their kids in Swiss boarding schools.
The Swiss don't seem worried. They have other important things on their minds. Swiss voters will go to the polls tomorrow (Sunday) to decide on a proposal to appoint state-funded lawyers across the country to represent animals in court. Not kidding.