By Petrit Collaku (BalkanInsight.com),
Relatives and colleagues of James Berisha, who is flying across Africa to lobby for the recognition of Kosovo’s independence, said he has lost contact since August 15, while he was in Eritrea, where he planned to meet with officials in the state and return back to Sudan in two days.
Lumnije Gashi, who is based in Pristina and has been tracking Berisha’s moves in Africa, said he was supposed to return to Sudan after two days.
She said that it was unusual for Berisha not to be in contact so long and she feared for his welfare.
Gashi said she and her team has asked the US embassy in Eritrea for help since Berisha is a US citizen.
“The US Embassy told us that Berisha was not arrested because his name does not appear in any [list of people held in] prisons there,” Gashi told Balkan Insight.
But she said Eritrea had a poor relationship with the US government, and as a result they faced difficulties in researching his whereabouts.
Gashi’s “Flying for Kosovo” team in Pristina has informed the Kosovo government, urging them to make contact with European embassies in Eritrea to help the search.
A resident of the US state of Texas who grew up in Kosovo, Berisha started flying across Africa last November, asking African states to recognise Kosovo’s independence, declared in 2008.
At the end of May, Berisha crash-landed in Sudan, after a cylinder of the Cessna 172 four-seater plane broke and blocked the supply of fuel to the engine.
He was unharmed. “His plane is still in Sudan and not fixed yet. That is why he is using commercial flights to continue his lobbying for Kosovo’s independence,” Gashi explained.
Berisha, 39, flew all over Latin and Central America in 2009, visiting 34 countries and four territories to thank states that had recognised Kosovo’s independence and lobby others that have not.
He was planning to continue his lobbying mission in Asia. Berisha spent his childhood in Kosovo and then left for Western Europe to fulfill his dream of becoming a pilot.
‘Kosovo Independence Plane’ Crash Lands in Sudan
By Petrit Collaku (BalkanInsight.com),
31 May 2011 – Berisha, who started flying across Africa last November to ask African states to recognise Kosovo’s independence, managed to land the airplane after flying for about 15 minutes without a functioning engine.
Berisha, 39, said that due to a very hot day and the age of the aircraft, the first cylinder of the Cessna 172 4-seater single-engine broke and prevented the supply of fuel to the engine.
His team in Pristina said they were in contact with Berisha this morning and ‘fortunately he is fine’.
Lumnie Gashi, executive assistant at the “Flying for Kosovo” office in Pristina, said that Sudan’s police released Berisha after he was questioned for several hours.
Gashi explained the Berisha managed to contact the pilot of an aircraft who was flying at an altitude of 37,000 feet and gave Berisha instructions for an abandoned dirt-road.
“James had many difficulties landing in the middle of the desert, and the plane is badly damaged,” Gashi told Balkan Insight.
Two hours after the accident, a car which was traveling to a nearby mine passed by, and the driver notified the police.
Berisha was flying from Port Sudan to Sudan’s capital Khartoum and had only two countries left before finishing his mission on the African continent, after visiting 35 countries.
“James is on the way to the site to see if he can fix the airplane,” Gashi said.
She said that due to insufficient funds the plane could not get full service while in Africa.
‘We don’t know yet why exactly the engine stopped working,” Gashi said.
A resident of Texas, Berisha flew all over South and Central America in 2009, visiting 34 countries and four territories to thank states that have recognised Kosovo’s independence and lobby others that have not.
Berisha spent his childhood in Kosovo, and then left for western Europe to fulfill his dream of becoming a pilot.
He plans to continue his lobbying effort in Asia and Australia. His travels can be followed at www.flyingforkosovo.com.