Emmy Allio And Agencies
SUDAN first Vice-President Lt. Gen. John Garang was last night reported missing in the Kidepo valley area between Sudan and Uganda.
Garang had been in Uganda for an official visit since Friday. On Saturday he left President Yoweri Museveni's country home in Rwakitura, Mbarara in the afternoon destined for Southern Sudan where he expected to meet his former commanders of Sudanese Peoples' Liberation Army, SPLA.
Uganda government sources said last night that the helicopter, with a Ugandan crew, ran into bad weather and the pilot asked radar control in Entebbe to turn around. He was granted permission, but then radar control lost the helicopter's signal at about 5.00pm.
Earlier in the day President Museveni introduced Garang to envoys who had called on him at Rwakitura. They included: US Ambassador Mr. Jimmy Kolker, Mr. Tore Gjos of Norway Mrs. Yoke Brandt of the Netherlands and British High Commissioner Mr. Francois Gordon.
Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa could not say Garang was lost. "I have heard something like that but we are still cross checking. You will be told about what had happened there is no need to worry," he said at 8.30pm.
Security sources said that, "on reaching in the areas north of Kidepo Valley in Sourthen Sudan, it was already dark and cloudy and the helicopter could not locate a suitable landing ground. The crew decided to return to Uganda."
Sources said that shortly after communication with the chopper was lost. "Since then there s no communication with the crew"
British Broadcasting Corporation reported that Garang's whereabouts are unclear of after a military helicopter taking him back from Uganda failed to arrive in Sudan .
Garang flew out on Saturday night but did not reach the destination in Sudan's border with Kenya, the United Nations in Sudan said.
There were reports of bad weather in northern Uganda at the time.
Reuters news agency quoted military spokesman Lt. Col. Shaban Bantariza saying that that authorities had lost contact with the helicopter, which left Uganda on Saturday night to take Garang to Rumbek in south Sudan after he visited Museveni.
"What we know is they left here, they went and we don't know where they are," Bantariza told Reuters. "There has been no communication back."
Bantariza said Uganda did not know whether the helicopter had landed in Sudan.
"He is safe and sound," SPLM spokesman Yassir Arman told Reuters earlier on Sunday, speaking from the Kenyan capital Nairobi. He said Garang was in south Sudan.
But an official from Garang's Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) earlier on Sunday said Garang arrived safely in south Sudan.
Other military sources said air force and ground troops were all day long trying to locate the helicopter and Garang.