Djibouti J20DX IOTA DXpedition Thwarted by Bureaucracy
From ARRL de WD1CKS@WLARB to QST on Thursday, April 18, 2019 20:54:47
Djibouti J20DX IOTA DXpedition operators Col McGowan, MM0NDX; Jonathan Bowes, MM0OKG, and Christian Cabre, EA3NT, have thrown in the towel on their efforts to operate from two infrequently activated African islands - Moucha Island (AF-053) and the very rare Sept-Frères (AF-059). Their J20DX operation was set to run from April 16 - April 21, but McGowan's and Bowe's radio equipment was impounded by customs upon their arrival at the airport, despite the fact that Cabre had cleared customs smoothly 2 days earlier. The team had "official radio licenses being issued by Djibouti Telecom" permitting them to operate radio without any conditions, they reported on the J20DX website.
The operators were told that the Djibouti security agency would make a decision on whether they could obtain necessary authorization to retrieve their equipment, but time wore on along with official inertia. Due to time constraints, the delay quashed plans to activate AF-059.
"Nobody is more disappointed about that than us," they said on their website Wednesday, expressing optimism that they would still be able to be active from Moucha or Maskali Island AF-053 and remain until Friday evening or Saturday morning. "Of course, this depends on the aforementioned bags being released by custom officials," they added.
Still without all their gear, on April 18, they made the crossing to Moucha Island, picked a location to set up, and immediately assembled antennas for 20, 17, and 15 meters.
"Literally 5 minutes before the first CQ from AF-053, we received a phone call from National Security saying signatures were needed for the authorization letter to permit us to collect our impounded gear," the J20DX team recounted. "This same letter would also allow us to depart Djibouti without any more issues at airport customs. However, we had to return to the mainland to get the letter."
With the weekend in Djibouti being Friday and Saturday, this Thursday would be their last chance to obtain the important authorization letter prior to heading home. "Before we had even started, teardown began. Yes, we left the island 2 hours after arriving. AF-053 is now also cancelled," they announced.
Upon reaching the National Security offices, the team said, unfortunately, "no authorization letter [was] to be seen."