TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions
By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
Fourth edition August 2010
NEED MORE FROM AFRICA?
I often get enquiries about where else readers of my articles can pick up material about Africa, destination information and conservation updates … well, I can recommend to visit http://www.safaritalk.net where a wide range of issues on conservation is covered on a regular basis and which provides a large number of added links to other sites talking about Africa, safari and conservation issues.
And for those with the taste for still more, google ‘Travel Africa’ or the sister publications ‘Travel Zambia’, ‘Travel Namibia’ and ‘Travel Zimbabwe’ – extraordinary magazines worth subscribing to, which upon reading instantly makes me, a seasoned and frequent intrepid explorer, salivate for travel, travel and more travel to all those places I read about in every new edition … Enjoy what you find and do make sure your next holiday takes you to Africa.
EMIRATES TO USE A380 FOR HONG KONG FLIGHTS
A source at the Kampala office of Emirates has confirmed to this correspondent that the airline will effective 01st October this year begin to use the giant A380 aircraft on their route between Dubai and Hong Kong via Bangkok, offering even greater inflight comfort and service than then has been the case until now.
The giant aircraft, Emirates recently took delivery of their 12th A380, is progressively introduced on high density / high demand routes to permit travellers flying via Dubai reach their final destination in style, while the existing fleet of A330 and B777 aircraft is subsequently being deployed for an increase in frequencies to other destinations, where either the airports are not yet ready to received the A380 until modifications to air bridges and other facilities have been carried out of where traffic at this moment in time does not make the use of an A380 viable.
The same source also reiterated that flights between Dubai and Manchester will be upgraded to the A380 as of 01st September, making it the second such UK destination after London Heathrow.
Emirates is the largest customer for the A380 and has another 78 aircraft on order, due for deliveries over the coming years, all aimed to cement the airline’s ambition to become the world’s biggest airline connecting the entire globe via Dubai.
4G UNFOLDS IN KAMPALA
The first fourth generation, aka 4G network has been officially launched in Kampala last week when FORIS, an Israeli owned company, went into operation. Said Mr. Moshe Mitz, CEO of FORIS in Uganda at the launch: ‘we have identified price and slow internet speed as the biggest barriers for users in Uganda’ – by all standards a true reflection of the situation on the ground, where overprizing, capacity restrictions and at least in the case of some operators like WARID the hanging on to GPRS and EDGE 2G connections is now way beyond the available technology.
With three fibre optic systems now operational in Uganda, and in fact the entire region the cost of connections should have come down considerably in recent months but it almost seems that a cartel of sorts is in place preventing the benefits from reaching the consumers. Limiting capacity for wireless internet users too is not exactly a ‘state of the art’ market approach and those companies trying to blindside consumers with seemingly fabulous pricing then cause prompt outrage when the micro print in the terms and conditions comes under the magnifying glass by only providing a few hundred MB capacity for the money paid before effecting instant disconnections when that limit has been reached. This alone may be ‘consumed’ by regular updates of antivirus programmes or Microsoft updates and upgrades, while the use of social network sites too eats deeply and fast into the low cost / low capacity options.
UTL was the first company to go 3G in Uganda some years ago and is considered by many to become the first of the major telecom’s companies to move towards the introduction of a 4G standard without going 3.5 as an intermediate step, while Orange was the first to introduce a 3+ or 3.5G network in Uganda, which – while offering streaming downloads with literally no time lost for ‘buffering’ restricts capacities and is therefore beyond the means of many users with high utilisation. MTN only a few weeks ago broke into the 3.5G market when upgrading their hitherto GPRS and EDGE wireless connections to the faster standards and Airtel, previously known as Celtel and Zain, too has now added a 3.5G network. In many cases though the ‘faster’ network coverage is still restricted to Kampala and major urban centres leaving the more outlying areas still ‘stuck’ with lower speed transmissions.
FORIS however was therefore understandably reserved in explaining their present coverage and reach, leave alone in the capital city but across the country, so that frequent travellers upcountry could retain and access their connectivity en route, while also being guarded about their own capacity limitations on usage at present.
Inspite of having mobile communications technology now since 1995 in Uganda, there are still many parts in Kampala and more so the rest of the country, which are ‘blank’ and where coverage either does not reach or the signal strength is too low for ‘normal’ operations, causing dropped calls and inexplicable disconnections from the internet, clearly showing the need for the Uganda Communications Commission to further strengthen their regime on mast sharing and even mandate local ‘roaming’ within the country to permit subscribers access to services country wide.
BY SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT ON MEDIA AND FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE UGANDA WILDLIFE AUTHORITY JOHN NAGENDA
Read the content of John’s regular Saturday column in the New Vision of last Saturday titled: ‘who is the rapist in the UWA affair’ … and I again say that greed and envy are might drivers … enjoy this insight from a man in the know, learn more on the background of this sad story and who in John Nagenda’s opinion the ‘rapists’ are… www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/20/729356
COURT RULES IN FAVOUR OF UWA STAFF
(20th August 2010)
As was expected by many informed observers watching the current saga at the Uganda Wildlife Authority unfold in the public arena, the High Court in Kampala yesterday granted an injunction in favour of the applicants, led by the UWA Executive Director Mr. Moses Mapesa, to restrain the recently appointed chairman of the UWA board from appropriating himself powers not provided for by law, interdicting Mr. Mapesa and his fellow senior colleagues, opening and operating bank accounts and other issues the applicants had cited in their application. It is understood that the principal case will be heard as of 13th of September but until then the board is under the present order now directed NOT to interfere with the applicants.
Predictably the chairman was quoted in the media of ‘not knowing about this’, a suggestion raising eyebrows in the public, as having known that court was considering the case informers surely were attending the court session and reporting back promptly once the injunction was granted – although maybe not having been served with the papers by the time the statement was made.
Meanwhile did the minister and the board of UWA ignore summons by parliament to appear before them yesterday, with the minister’s office claiming he was upcountry. In a turn of events the speaker of parliament also suspended parliamentary proceedings until the 13th of September, allowing MP’s to return to their constituencies and stand in party primary elections, a prerequisite to be able to stand again for elections come 2011.
It could not be ascertained if this also affects the work of parliamentary committees or only applies to the formal sittings of parliament in the main chambers. The chairman of the parliamentary committee on tourism was quoted in the local media confirming that the summons had been ignored and would be re-issued, also citing the possibility of the minister really being in his constituency. Watch this space for more breaking news and updates, as and when available.
UWA’S MAPESA NOW GOES TO COURT
(19th August 2010)
The man whom many still consider THE Executive Director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, Mr. Moses Mapesa, sacked last week by the chairman of the board, has gone to court as was expected, to jointly with others equally sacked senior officers obtain a court order against what they termed ‘illegal’ action.
A range of allegation was made in to court when submitting the documents which seek to reverse the sacking and suspensions until a substantive case can be heard. A judicial review of the board’s appointment by the minister is also being demanded, alleging the minister broke the law when appointing what amounts to ‘incompetent’ board members failing to have the qualifications required.
Amongst the constraints the applicants requested the High Court to place on the board are also to refrain from negotiating and meddling into contract awards, existing tenancy agreements, interference in the financial affairs of the wildlife authority or opening new bank accounts which they [the board] would then illegally operate under no mandate. It is alleged that should the High Court not grant an immediate injunction irreparable harm could be done to UWA. A hearing has been schedule for later today, Thursday 19th August and the outcome will be reported just as soon as a decision has been made.
Should this decision go in favour of the applicants it is however not clear if the chairman and the minister would respect the decision and restore Mapesa and his sacked and suspended colleagues to their offices, but defying such a court order could result in further ‘contempt of court’ charges and action which would undoubtedly bring about yet more fallout from this unsavoury saga. Watch this space.
UWA SAGA TAKES NEW TURNS AND TWISTS
(18th August 2010)
As officials from the Ministry of Tourism and members of the Board of the Uganda Wildlife Authority were summoned to appear before a parliamentary committee this week, revelation began to emerge over alleged irregularities by members of the board and an alleged patronage appointment of the chair himself by the minister.
Against past practise was the previous board not given a second term of office and principled and respected city lawyer Andrew Kasirye subsequently replaced by a Dr. Muballe, who appears to be the minister’s personal physician according the local media reports in the Daily Monitor. This would, if found correct, be a ‘double bogey’ as it could suggest deliberate patronage besides raising issues on the qualification of a medical doctor to hold the chair of the country’s national wildlife conservation and management body.
Added revelations in the local media also speak of sudden raises in sitting and other allowances for member of the board, something it now appears was firmly opposed by both Moses Mapesa when he was in office as Executive Director of UWA and, more important, the ministry’s Permanent Secretary who is also the official accounting officer, but overruled by the Minister himself. According to investigative reporters of the Monitor the new chairman now earns nearly three times the monthly stipend compared to his predecessor and three times the amount of ‘sitting allowances’ which are due whenever the chairman is ‘on duty’, seemingly now a daily event.
Other allowances were reportedly doubled for ‘ordinary’ board members while the chairman is now also drawing sharply increased entertainment allowances, fuel allowances and ‘airtime’ from UWA at a level which would suggest he has made himself ‘Executive Chairman’, a standing not provided for under the relevant laws which govern the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s operations.
To make matters worse, the present ED appointed by the Board without allegedly following the due process of recruitment, had only joined UWA as legal counsel last year, was then promoted to chief legal counsel before being promoted three times in recent weeks by the board. This situation reportedly incensed some development partners and key donors who at present still quietly, but depending on the findings of the parliamentary committee and their own investigations may soon openly raise the questions of qualification, oversight, controls, transparency and protocol.
Other damaging revelations came to light in the local media over alleged ‘familiarisation visits’ by board members to the national parks, which included inexplicably family members too over a nearly three week long trip.
When responding to local media organisations both the minister as well as the chairman of UWA’s board were reportedly defiant and in a combative mood, a situation which may be redressed however when the pair have to defend themselves in the light of growing allegations and suggestions of improprieties before parliament. Meanwhile has the Daily Monitor’s investigative team unearthed yet more background information on the turmoil at UWA, which can be sourced via http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/980714/-/item/0/-/y25hwyz/-/index.html Watch this space.
UGANDAN GETS ROYAL RECOGNITION IN UK FOR CONSERVATION WORK
In a show of positive news about the Ugandan conservation fraternity it was learned that Mr. Jim Muheebwa of Nature Uganda received the prestigious Whitley Award from Her Royal Highness Princess Anne in a ceremony last week in the premises of the Royal Geographical Society in London.
The conservation prize was granted for the work done by Jim in the conservation of Uganda’s national bird the Crested Crane, which numbers have over the past 15 to 20 years been seriously reduced as a result of encroachment on wetlands and swamps, one of the main habitats of the colourful birds. Sightings in Kampala for instance, 10 years ago still very common, have reduced to one every once in a while, or in a blue moon as we often say here, underscoring the urgency of Jim’s tasks and objectives.
In response to receiving the award Jim committed the use of the 30.000 UK Pound prize money to be used for further conservation work aimed at restoring habitat for the Crested Cranes and the protection of the species right across Uganda.
PRESIDENT MUSEVENI TAKES FIRST STEP TO RE-ELECTION
It was reported in the local media that President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has taken the first formal step towards his re-election next year when an aide of his visited the NRM party head quarters in the Nakasero area of Kampala, where he collected the nomination forms for the position of president of the party, which suggests that once ‘M7’ as he is affectionately known in Uganda, has retained that position he will also be nominated by the NRM as candidate for president of the country. Party grass root elections for delegates to the national conference took place last month and the process of democratic elections for party positions is expected to unfold in coming weeks. A recent opinion poll by the country’s leading newspaper the New Vision put the president in a commanding lead over his nearest rival, and the opposition suffered further setbacks when another member of the fragile ‘Inter Party Cooperation’ grouping pulled away from the loose alliance, arguably leaving the field clear for President Museveni to secure a further term of office, come the 2011 election day.
Emerging ‘warnings’ to intending visitors to Uganda can also be discounted, as both party nominations and elections but also nominations for parliament and president, due later in the year, are expected to be conducted in a mature fashion, while security organs too are playing their part to prevent any emotions from spilling over. Come one, come all, Uganda is open for business – local politics notwithstanding.
SAFARILINK DOUBLES DIANI FREQUENCY
One of Kenya’s leading ‘safari’ airlines, SafariLink, has just announced that they will go double daily from Wilson Airport in Nairobi to the Ukunda airfield along the famous Diani Beach south of Mombasa. They had previously operated a codeshared flight with Air Kenya every afternoon, while leaving the morning flight to them, but recent developments necessitated SafariLink to introduce their own morning flight, conveniently timed for passengers wanting to spend time at the coast.
Inaugural flight will be on 01st September until which time the codeshare with Air Kenya will continue it is understood. The good news for travel agents and tour operators is the continued payment of a 7 percent commission for ticket sales on both resident as well as foreign visitor tickets.
The morning flight will leave Wilson at 0945 hrs local, arrive at 1115 hrs and then have an eta at Wilson again at 1300 hrs, while the afternoon flight will operate out of Wilson at 1400 hrs and come back at 1700 hrs. These timings will allow passengers on the morning flights from the various national parks to conveniently connect to the coast while coast passengers on the morning flight can reach their park destination on the afternoon departures. For full details on SafariLink’s domestic network and schedule visit their website via their new website www.flysafarilink.com through which direct bookings can also be done with ease.
AIRTEL HITS KENYAN MARKET WITH TARIFF CUTS
The new owners of the former Zain Africa network, Bharti of India, have wasted little time in Kenya to flood the market with lower tariffs, just as soon as the Kenya Communications Commission had mandated a broad lowering of the crucial interconnection charges, which determine how much one operator has to pay another for calls made into ‘other’ networks. The new tariffs have according to a source in Nairobi ‘rocked’ the market by making calls substantially cheaper and there is now speculation if Airtel, under which brand name Bharti of India trades, is also going to lower their internet charges on a broad scale, which could trigger yet another round of marketing stunts, tariff cuts and goodies thrown at subscribers in order to capture market share. Meanwhile in Uganda it was largely the opposition by market leader MTN which had wanted to take their grievance over mandated interconnection charges cuts to court which prevented call charges to reduce, but be assured that Airtel here will find a way too to inject a renewed fight for market domination in order to bring lower tariffs to Ugandans too.
Hot on the heels of this development then came cries of foul by Airtel, formerly known as Celtel and Zain, that market leader Safaricom was interfering with their operations by blocking calls into the Safaricom network by Airtel subscribers and filed an immediate complaint with the Kenya Communications Commission when the extent of the problem became known on Thursday and Friday last week. Predictably Safaricom rejected all complaints blaming Airtel for the sudden increase in voice traffic after their much lower tariffs had come into effect last Wednesday, an opinion not shared by experts and heavily critizised too by the Kenya Consumers Federation which all but accused the market leaders of stifling competition and standing in the way of giving Kenyans the best possible deals when using their mobile handsets.
In a related development the share price of market leader Safaricom promptly dropped by 5 percent following the public spat in the media by the two companies as Airtel recorded one of the biggest rush sales of SIM cards to new subscribers ever recorded by them during their entire period of operation in Kenya.
NEW HOTEL OPENS IN WESTLANDS / NAIROBI
The ‘Sankara Hotel’ has opened its doors recently in Nairobi’s Westland’s area of the city, offering an additional 156 rooms and suites in a market buoyant with confidence of sharply rising demand for meetings, conferences and conventions coming to Nairobi. The recent peaceful conclusion of the referendum on a new constitution has rekindled global confidence, a much needed ingredient for the tourism industry but in particular the MICE market, which habitually shuns unstable and politically unpredictable destinations in favour of stable and predictable ones.
A number of new added hotel projects is reportedly underway in Nairobi but the Sankara, the first of several to come on line in coming months and years, has beaten some of their upcoming competitors to the finishing line, albeit several months after the initially announced May opening. The new hotel is located not far from the long established Jacaranda Hotel and several nearby major shopping malls, which helped to establish a new ‘sub business hub’ outside the central business district with easier parking and still more manageable traffic patterns and all the attractions and services otherwise previously only found in the heart of the city.
Room rates start reportedly in the 280 US Dollar region – rack rates it should be pointed out – but contract rates for tour companies and corporate businesses will undoubtedly reflect a more realistic level of charges. The hotel offers several categories of rooms from ‘standard’ all the way to a presidential suite.
KENYA WILDLIFE SERVICE TRANSFERS BUFFALOES FROM SOLIO TO ABERDARES
The proposed translocation of several hundred buffalos presently found on the private Solio Game Sanctuary near Nyeri has now started in earnest. This correspondent has some time ago made reference to these plans, which were endorsed by KWS in order to reduce competition over food sources on the nearly 18.000 acres Solio ranch, which is mainly known to be a breeding centre for the Eastern Black rhino species.
The buffalos will be sent a short distance to the Aberdare National Park, which has plenty of capacity to eventually see initially 200 of the animals being relocated there and the forest environment is thought to be as good a home for the buffs’ as their present location on Solio. The exercise kicked off last weekend and it will probably take as much as three weeks to complete phase one.
There is still speculation about where a further about 400 more buffalos are supposed to go and KWS is internally evaluating data before making their final decision public. Some more may still go to the Aberdare National Park but destinations further away have not been ruled out simply because of the longer distances. Watch this space for updates in coming weeks.
Notably, six of Uganda’s eight Southern White rhinos were brought to the country by the Rhino Fund Uganda from Solio some years ago and while the two at the Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe are living a celibate live almost as brother and sister, the other two females on the Ziwa sanctuary have lived up to expectations and have produced one offspring each already with more ‘additions’ to their families expected next year.
KENYANS PREPARE TO CELEBRATE THE ‘SECOND REPUBLIC’
A public holiday has been declared for Kenya on the 27th of August, when President Mwai Kibaki will formally sign the new constitution into effect in a ceremony which was long, some say far too long in the making. The Friday ceremony will mark the end of a long and often acrimonious process to give the country a new supreme law, trim the powers of what amounted almost to an ‘imperial presidency’ of almost absolute rule, and reshape the face of politics with the introduction of a second ‘upper’ chamber.
Kenya, a magnetic name around the world for big game safaris and enticing beaches along the Indian Ocean shores, had a chequered political history going back to the early – and often termed the ‘golden years’ – of founder president Jomo Kenyatta, but then eventually slid into a one party state which brutally oppressed dissent before the global community prevailed and multi party politics were once again allowed in 1992.
The country’s second president’s quarter century tenure finally came to an end when Daniel arap Moi was compelled to step down after serving the maximum two terms permitted under the multi party election laws, making way for Mwai Kibaki, who was voted into office with a huge majority in 2002 under a loose coalition of both former Moi opponents and supporters, who split away from KANU when Moi ‘directed’ the party to put his handpicked successor on the ballot.
Challenges for Kenya remained however since then too, and during Kibaki’s first term attempts to make good of election promises for a new constitution bounced when first bickering and infighting hampered the writing of a draft constitution which was then also rejected in a referendum in 2005.
Finally however, though much longer than the 100 days promised by President Kibaki when he took office after country wide post election violence in early 2008, did a draft emerge and was in a referendum endorsed by a sound nearly 70 percent majority of Kenyans, most of whom had vested their hopes for better politics and a better economic future when they voted ‘YES’.
A grand military parade will allow the Kenyan public to witness the coming into effect of what is now already termed as the ‘second republic’ and the ‘wananchi’ will undoubtedly enjoy a long weekend of celebrations and merry making, before on the following Monday reality will once again descend on them. The main celebrations will be ‘copied’ across the country at provincial and district headquarters, although under the new constitution provinces and districts as administrative organs and areas will cease to exist to make way for ‘counties’, necessitating a complete restructuring of the country’s administrative structures.
Meanwhile will an independence day celebration also be repeated, when a group of climbers will hoist the Kenyan flag, as others did before them on the 12th December 1963 when Kenya attained Independence from colonial masters Britain, and this will again be done on the 27th of August 2010 to commemorate the long way Kenya has come since the country was ‘born’ nearly 47 years ago.
Congratulations here once more to the Kenyan people who conducted the referendum polls without violence and where for once the losing side immediately accepted defeat and vowed to work hand in hand with the ‘winning side’ for a better Kenya. In fact, everyone was a winner that day and will again be on the 27th – Karibu Kenya 2.0!
BLOOD IVORY INTERCEPTED AT JKIA
Security operatives successfully intercepted a shipment of ivory and rhino horns at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport last weekend, when sniffer dogs, now regularly used to screen cargo shipments as well, detected two tons of blood ivory and as many as 5 rhino horns ready for shipment to Malaysia, from where the consignment was then allegedly due to be onshipped to the final destination.
Kenya has put a series of added measures into place to prevent shipping of illicit animal products, some of them known to this correspondent but for good reasons not explained in public, to avoid tipping off smugglers as to exactly what is going on in terms of screening and detection measures once a cargo shipment is delivered to the handling company at the airport.
This latest success has boosted morale amongst the staff of the Kenya Wildlife Service, who have been fighting daily battles against an increase in poaching for ivory, rhino horn and other trophies much in demand in the Far and South East where weak legislation still permits the handling, processing and possession of ivory carvings, animal skins and the use of rhino horns or lion bones for ‘medicinal’ purposes. There the global community must now aim to strengthen a legislative regime which bans citizens from those countries to be engaged in any form of ‘legal’ trade in items clearly poached in Africa, if the wildlife, in particular elephant and rhinos, are to have a long term future and can survive this present onslaught.
Congratulations to the vigilant staff at the airport, both at the air cargo handling area as well as general security posted there, and hopefully harsh sentences for the two individuals nabbed in the process of the operation and their soon to be arrested backers and masters.
KQ TO ASSIST IN ANGOLA VISA ISSUES
Following complaints from passengers to Luanda, the latest destination in the growing Africa network by Kenya Airways, has the airline reacted promptly to assist would be passengers to secure Visa for Angola. The nearest diplomatic mission appears to be in Dar es Salaam, and rules in place would require travellers to first apply in person at the Angolan embassy there, a cumbersome and costly process, indicative of how restrictive travel across the continent can still be when Africans from one country want to visit another African country for either business or pleasure. While no details are available as yet, since the news just broke leaving no time to ascertain further circumstances of what exactly KQ is going to do, more information can be accessed via the Kenya Airways website on www.kenya-airways.com
Well done Pride of Africa for the untiring efforts to connect Africa ‘directly’ and a reminder to the Angolans to at least open a consulate in Nairobi to ease the Visa application burden, or better, grant Visa on arrival as it should be.
POTENTIAL CATERING STAFF STRIKE IN KENYA CAUSE FOR ALARM
Airlines using the market leader NAS for their catering out of Mombasa and Nairobi are faced with a potential strike by NAS’ unionised staff, after the trade union has issued a strike warning to the company, which in turn informed all their airline clientele.
This being ‘high season’ with travel in and out of East Africa the airlines have been busy to make contingency plans and while carriers coming to Nairobi and ‘turning around’ have the option to bring catering for the return flight with them on the inbound journey, this adds extra weight to the plane and reduces otherwise the uplift capacity for cargo bound to Kenya. Watch this space for upcoming information which will as usual be published by ‘flash traffic’ or ‘breaking news’ via Twitter (@whthome or with instant postings on the eTurboNews website and on my blog www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com
CLIMATE CHANGE CENTRE TO BE ESTABLISHED NEAR KILIMANJARO
The Tanzanian government has last week announced that they will, in conjunction with development partners and international organizations, establish a climate change research centre near Africa’s highest mountain, only in the news last week when a team of European climate change researchers flew a balloon across the face of the mountain to gather vital data on air pollution.
It is understood that the European Union will be a major contributor to the building and equipping of the new centre, which will – when complete – serve several functions. Besides the quintessential research the new facility will also serve as an education centre for the population living near the mountain and depending on its long term ability to provide melt off water for domestic, agricultural and industrial use, but in addition there are also plans to turn it into a centre for tourists where visitors from abroad can lean about the findings and research carried out by the centre, the already visible impact of climate change on the mountain’s ice caps and mitigative measures developed by the centre’s research team.
As mentioned last week again, in recent decades Kilimanjaro’s glaciers have progressively shrunk, ever faster in fact over the last decade, and unless measures of mitigation can be found and a global climate agreement be reached in the discussions now ongoing in Bonn / Germany ahead of the Copenhagen follow up summit in Mexico City later this year, there could be devastating consequences for the millions of people living on both sides of the mountain in Tanzania and Kenya, their thriving agricultural farms and the tourism businesses in parks surrounding the mountain on both sides of the border.
Readers are requested to make their voices heard about such pressing issues and contact their local members of parliament or write emails to relevant international bodies to impress upon the ‘negotiators’ during the present round of talks the great urgency to make significant commitments towards a reduction of green house gasses in coming years well beyond of what is currently on the table, should mankind indeed be able to save the planet and keep it ‘liveable’ for future generations.
SERENGETI MUST NOT DIE, OR MUST IT
Stroking top politicians’ egos is a favourite pastime of sycophants in the run up to any election, but Tanzania is taking it to a completely new level now by stubbornly sticking to a road project right across the Northern Serengeti, inspite of having a much more feasible route around the Southern end of the national park, which would serve substantially more people but is being dismissed as ‘the boss’ had spoken on it and pronounced his verdict, in the face of competent advice and a firestorm of negative publicity now unfolding across the globe.
The full extent of his relentless march towards this highway is only becoming clear, when information so far not published in the public domain is considered.
A recent meeting between leading tourism association TATO and consultants working for the road project lent credibility to allegations, that governmental organisations have been muzzled, while even the consultants themselves showed little interest in the stakeholder discussions and consultations when one of two teams did not even show up, later claiming to have missed their flight. TANAPA was apparently not permitted to participate in the stakeholder consultations and remained AWOL, as did other bodies under governmental control. Yet it is these very consultants which are responsible to prepare the road design and formulate an Environmental Impact Assessment with emphasis on the social component and impact of these plans.
It is the latter which makes their attitude ever more intriguing as the alternate Southern route reaches probably in excess of 2 million more people while tapping into a rich agricultural area with presently little access to key markets, denying the farmers there an opportunity to turn their lives around by starting to earn some real money, could their produce only reach places like Arusha, Mwanza or beyond.
A further dead giveaway for the allegation that the consultants had made up their mind already in favour of their political paymasters was that they gave the assembled tourism stakeholder a full 7 days, yes SEVEN DAYS, to produce detailed scientific data in support of their claims, with one of them being overheard to have stated ‘the FZS document is based on hearsay, politicised and of no consequence’, yet it is the Frankfurt Zoological Society with the longest research programmes and data at hand, and therefore without argument in the mind of many, though not apparently in the mind of some of the consultants’ staff, the most competent body to offer empirical data, gathered over decades and presented in a format which in any other forum would stand scrutiny of other experts.
It also emerged that sections of the road, namely the Western part of it, were already sanctioned several years ago without any apparent involvement of stakeholders from the tourism and conservation fraternities, making the process of the present ongoing ‘consultations’ a mere window dress if not a face altogether. Giving a 7 day deadline before they were to report back in full to their masters, the consultants made a mockery out of the process of public hearing, the filing of objections and a process of reviews on such objections, and counterproposals like the Southern route, and exposes the system in Tanzania for what it is: ‘Once the BOSS has spoken and given his directives all other views and voices must fall silent, voluntarily or else be made to fall silent by other means’ to achieve the declared objectives, in this case the proposed killer highway. The projected decrease in the number of wildebeest, zebras and other species, contained in the published study by the Frankfurt Zoological Society’ paints a stark picture on the proverbial wall and to dismiss it out of a false sense of political loyalty, or political sycophancy, is just one more reminder how far the founding fathers’ principals and ideals are now being shoved aside and trampled upon for the sake of short sighted and questionable projects ultimately not beneficial to the majority of the people of Tanzania.
No one is suggesting – as has the pro-project propaganda tried to portray – that those people should not have a road and they would be condemned to eternal poverty by ‘foreigners’, to the contrary, the Southern route would give access to over 2 million more people and still link the very communities to the rest of the country. But that is clearly not how leading politicians feel, as allegations over campaign funding by the key beneficiaries of this road routing keep lingering and those concerned have at no time been dispelled to disproven. The anti NORTHERN ROUTE highway coalition is now embarked on lobbying such institutions as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, European financial institutions and their respective home governments in America, Europe and the rest of the world to lean on the Tanzanian government to halt any decision in favour of the presently proposed routing until a fundamental new review has been conducted by independent consultants free of the pressures by their paymasters, while at the same time re-opening the discussion about the SOUTHERN ROUTE in earnest.
Regular updates on this issue are also available on Facebook, and through it on other media, which also give the option of signing relevant petitions and participating in email campaigns. Look it up via the following link http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/STOP-THE-SERENGETI-HIGHWAY/125601617471610?ref=ts
FORMER TOURISM AND CONSERVATION CHIEF NAMED IN TOP THREE
Rosette Rugamba, immediate former head of ORTPN and then Deputy CEO of the Rwanda Development Board in charge of Tourism and Conservation, and now Managing Director of her own tourism business at Songa Limited, has been selected as one of only three participants by the African Leadership Initiative.
The ALI East Africa Foundation is conducting its third intake since 2002 and the newly named Fellows were selected for their talent, their achievements and ability to provide future leadership for their country’s business community and civic society.
The ALI East Africa Foundation is supported by amongst others the ‘Aspen Institute’ from the United States but also has corporate supporters from the wider region and the ‘Letsema Foundation’ of South Africa.
Figures provided to this correspondent speak of over 200 existing Fellows under the AIL East Africa Foundation while well over 1300 fall under the global umbrella of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. Congrats Rosette for continuing to be a shining example of what a focused and determined mind can achieve.
AVIATION MEETING IN KIGALI DISCUSSES FUTURE REGIONAL INTEGRATION
Civil Aviation Authorities from across the East African Community met in Kigali last week to discuss further cooperation and integration of air space management in the region, with particular focus on Rwanda and Burundi. The aim is to promote the Unified Flight Information Region programme, in short UFIR, which would pool resources and jointly manage and process relevant information from the member states to make air transport safer and more secure. Special emphasis was places on the use of Burundian and Rwandan airspace by aircraft flying in and out of the Congo DR and it is expected that additional monitoring equipment will be put in place in the near future to permit for greater surveillance capabilities and detect airspace incursions.
Ultimately though it is the professed aim of the East African Community to unify air traffic control, not just for the upper airspace which already is well advanced in its integration but also the control of other movements by aircraft while flying across the region, before they are being ‘handed over’ to the respective towers for their final approach.
Once again however did aviators contacted by this correspondent point out that pending questions over the often critizised non tariff barriers MUST at last be tackled by the EAC to bring ‘errant countries’ in line with the political goals of the East African Community, whereby aircraft and airlines registered in one memberstate ought to be accorded the same status and treatment, including landing rights at ALL licensed airfields, aerodromes and airports, uplift of passengers and cargo, processing of clearances and the fees charged, as airlines registered in that particular member state.
GORILLA TOURISM SHOWS RESULTS FOR LOCAL ECONOMY
The Ruhengeri / Musanze area of Rwanda is best known around the world for being the access point for tracking the famous mountain gorillas living up the volcanic mountains which form the ever present back ground against the horizon.
Over the past 5 years alone the number of tourist quality hotels and safari establishments has more than doubled, providing added job opportunities while a large number of cooperatives have sprung up which provide local crafts and curios to the hotels, lodges, markets and shops where foreign tourists can then purchase genuine items produced in the area. Porter services, operating in form of cooperatives, too allowed people to earn a living every day by carrying the backpacks, water bottles and camera cases for tourist visitors tracking the gorillas or taking hikes up and around the mountains, a service incidentally highly recommended, not just to spread some income into the communities but also to ease ones’ own burden of carrying something, which originally weighs two or three pounds but in the end feels like the proverbial ton.
Other businesses too were boosted by the rollout of the electricity grid into the area and the construction and upgrade of roads, which also benefitted farmers who now have easier access to the markets near and far.
Meanwhile in a related development has the RDB – Tourism and Conservation released the tourism earnings in the first half of 2010, standing just under 90 million US Dollars. This is nearly 10 percent up compared to last year and on track to bring substantially higher earnings from tourism into the Rwandan coffers this year.
Ms. Rica Rwigamba, head of the tourism and conservation division of RDB, released these details last week to the media and attributed the strong growth this year also to the establishment of state of the art conference and meeting facilities, which attracted business travellers to a greater extent into Rwanda, now that regional and continental meetings could be held in Kigali. She did however also point out that more beds in the 4 and 5 star bracket were needed to cater for future growth. The ongoing project by Marriott Hotels and the planned renovation and expansion of the former Novotel, now Laico Kigali, will undoubtedly assist in meeting these objectives and adding room numbers to the market in coming months and years.
Meanwhile has the Rwandan Commissioner General of Police held a meeting with nearly 100 hotel and hospitality business owners and managers in Kigali last week to emphasize on the need to keep their premises secure and their patrons safe, by installing state of the art screening equipment on all entrances and step up surveillance in house through the use of technology now available in the market place. The business community at large was also urged to cooperate closely with the Rwandan security forces to prevent any harm coming to visitors and local hotel and restaurant patrons alike.
Similar meetings have involved transporters and operators of cross country busses too who were also reminded to step up security for passengers travelling on their vehicles and check boxes and luggage before loading on board of their busses.
NYUNGWE FOREST LODGE DOES WELL AFTER 6 MONTHS
Having opened for the public in March this year the Nyungwe Forest Lodge has steadily picked up occupancies over the past five months and received some very positive reviews from visitors, going by the ‘comments’ section on their website www.nyungweforestlodge.com
Located in the Nyungwe National Park the lodge has been described as a hidden gem, while the park itself of course is an absolute gem too, considering that 13 species of primates, including chimpanzees, are found within the forest. If that is not enough yet to attract visitors to the forest national park, there are plenty of other game found plus over 275 species of birds resident in the forest, some 24 of them endemic to Nyungwe, while more than 240 tree species and more than 140 orchid species wait to be seen and recorded by tourists during their hikes into the forest. Yet one of the most amazing features are the very large groups of Black and White Colobus Monkeys, which at times number several hundred at a go, in total contrast with other locations in Eastern Africa where tourist often are lucky to see several at a go.
The lodge, owing to the elevation, operates a heated swimming pool, attractive to take an early morning swim regardless of the crisp early day temperatures at this altitude, and the capacity is 22 guest rooms plus two suites with two bedrooms and a sitting room each, every one of them featuring individual fire places. All facilities like bars, restaurants, conference rooms and public areas are accessible for guests using wheelchairs it was pointed out.
The picture above shows the unique setting of the lodge where right next to the pool the forest starts already, allowing for easy bird watching after taking a dip.
The Nyungwe Forest Lodge belongs to the Mantis Group and is a ‘Member of Boutique Hotels’ worldwide with Rwanda after South Africa and Zambia the third African country featuring in the Mantis Collection, otherwise found at key upmarket tourism and adventure destinations across the globe.
More information via www.mantiscollection.com, worth a visit …
RWANDAIR TAKES DELIVERY OF THEIR SECOND B737-500
The Rwandan national airline has confirmed that they have taken delivery of their second leased B737-500 last Friday. More routes and frequencies can now at last come on line as planned, the fleet now comprising a turboprop aircraft for domestic services, two CRJ and two 737 aircraft. This latest addition to the RwandAir fleet will like the sistership operate with a two class configuration of 12 business and 90 economy seats.
The leases for the two B737-500 were undertaken by GECAS, a leading aircraft leasing company based in the US and will run for a year, until the two brand new B737-800 ordered directly from Boeing will be delivered in the third and fourth quarter of 2011. It has been confirmed during the delivery ceremony that RwandAir will commence flights to Kinshasa / Congo DR soon, likely twice a week initially, and is also eyeing flights to Dubai via Mombasa four times a week from early October this year onwards. Watch this space for breaking news and up to date information from the East African and Indian Ocean aviation sector.
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES SEALS FINANCE DEAL FOR NEW AIRCRAFT
Information was received last week from Addis Ababa, that Ethiopian Airlines had earlier that week signed a deal worth more than 1.5 billion US Dollars with the American Export – Import Bank. The funds will be used to pay for 5 B 777 and 10 B 787 aircraft presently on order from Boeing Corporation and due for delivery over the coming years. While the B 777 aircraft are according to the source in Addis following the delivery schedule with no delays expected, the 10 B 787 aircraft delivery is still somewhat uncertain, considering the massive delays in pre-production and flight test schedules over the past two years. This however now finally seems to have stabilised somewhat and the airline, after getting reportedly huge concessions from Boeing over the delays, is confident that their still ‘secret’ delivery calendar will now finally hold up. The new aircraft will, when delivered, take over from the ageing B 767 which will progressively be phased out once the new deliveries begin to take shape.
Ethiopian, together with Kenya Airways, South African Airways and Egypt Air, has established itself as a leader in African aviation and is offering their passengers a multitude of cross Africa and intercontinental destinations via their hub in Addis Ababa.
AIR SEYCHELLES ADDS NEW DESTINATIONS, PEAK SEASON FLIGHTS
Information received from Mahe tells the story of the archipelago’s national airline on the ‘prowl’, adding a stop enroute to Singapore in Chennai / India in both directions from 01st November this year. The service is operated on B767-200 aircraft and the latest information from Mahe is that the Chennai – Singapore ‘leg’ of these flights do not at present have traffic rights to pick up passengers and cargo between India and Singapore, something which should in due course be changed.
This latest route development comes hot on the heels of much improved and very cordial relations with India, from where the islands’ tourism sector is trying to attract more visitors to come to the archipelago for holidays. The Seychelles notably do not require Visa for Indian citizens to be obtained in advance, although a return ticket, proof of booked accommodation and evidence of sufficient funds will be required at the airport immigration desk on arrival in order to be granted a tourist pass.
The airline will also operate added Christmas and New Year flights according to the same source for their flights to Mauritius and Johannesburg to cater for the ‘overflow’ in bookings exceeding available seats in both directions. The ‘Creole Spirit’ flying high indeed.
BHARTI / AIRTEL TO BOOST SEYCHELLES TELECOMS CAPACITY
The CEO of Bharti, one of India’s leading telecoms companies which recently acquired the Zain Africa network, during a visit last week to Mahe promised to substantially boost investments in better telecom services, including a fibre optic cable connection. The absence of such a link has made the Seychelles rely on slower and much more expensive satellite connections, preventing a much wider penetration by wireless connectivity to the internet to much of the population so far.
However, the recent acquisition of Zain’s Africa operations by Bharti has also raised the stakes for the other telecom providers on the Seychelles, notably Cable and Wireless, as new roaming agreements to the new Airtel destinations on the continent are now in the offing, providing connectivity where hitherto mobile phones remained silent due to lack of contractual relations.
Bharti will reportedly invest at least 10 million US Dollars in network improvements as it now owns 100 percent of Telecom Seychelles following a recent acquisition of the remaining shares of TSL. First of the new services was the launch of WAP across the archipelago permitting subscribers to the Airtel service to roam the net via mobile handset. Way to go.
SEYCHELLES AND MAURITIUS SEEKING SEABED EXPANSION
The two Indian Ocean countries are in the final stage to prepare their bid to request the United Nations for an expansion of their underwater ‘territory’ along the so called ‘Mascarene Plateau’, which links the two island nations along the ocean floor.
Last week two delegations from the Seychelles and from Mauritius defended their claims in New York before the United Nations Commission on Limits of Continental Shelves, staking out their claims and providing documentation in regard of the proposed future joint management of resources and proposed exploitation of any minerals or raw materials found there on the ocean floor and below.
It is remarkable that the two countries have opted to have joint jurisdiction over about 400.000 square kilometres of seabed but also a sign of their close cooperation in political and economic affairs of mutual concern and interest to both of them, once the commission consents to the proposals, at which stage it will become a globally binding treaty.
Preparations have been ongoing for the past more than two years and it is understood that the Commonwealth Secretariat in London was supportive of these demands and helped in shaping the documentation now awaiting the UN’s decision while other friendly countries too offered advice and technical assistance to achieve the Seychelles and Mauritius objectives.
Southern Sudan News
KHARTOUM REGIME TRIES TO PAINT DOOMSDAY SCENARIO FOR INDEPENDENCE
Noises from the regime in Khartoum are intensifying ahead of the January independence vote by the people of the Southern Sudan, attempting to portray a gloomy picture of projected economic failure and civil unrest, should the South indeed – as is massively expected – vote to become a newly independent country.
Leading figures from the South last week boycotted a meeting called by Khartoum’s leader Bashir, during which the referendum was a key agenda item, as several appointments towards the joint commission from the Northern side are still outstanding.
Meanwhile have concerns be expressed by the people of Abyei, and of the Nuba Mountains, that they too demand international supervision and mediation in the run up to their referenda, also due next year and aimed to determine where the populations wish to go, South – again as expected going by sentiments heard and seen by this correspondent – or else remaining with the Northern oppressors, which would be as good as delivering themselves to a permanent status of second class citizens, hardly tolerated on their own land. It is in Abyei where the Northern regime is trying to ‘stuff’ the area with hitherto non resident members of the Misseriya tribe, who when the British colonialists carved out Abyei from the South were predominantly known as cattle raiders and slave capturers whereas the Dinka Ngok clans of the Dinka tribe were forever recognised to be the true inhabitants of this region before being displaced during the occupation of the area by the regime troops and militias.
The calls for international intervention grew louder last week when SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum all but said that complete deadlock had been reached over the Abyei referendum, not a surprise as the North seems determined to grab the oil rich area for themselves by corrupting the process towards the referendum and introducing ‘voters’ who basically do not belong there. In retaliation have northern politicians last week also accused leading SPLM figures to openly work towards secession while still in a coalition government in Khartoum and demanded stronger ‘protection’ from the regime ahead of final agreements in regards of the January 2011 vote. Watch this space.
And in closing once again some interesting material taken from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’, produced by Gill Staden in Zambia and giving news from ‘further down south’, at least from where I stand (or sit, but essentially live, ever so slightly still in the Northern Hemisphere by some 30 KM as the bird flies) …
Livingstone Rowing Regatta
The Zambezi International Regatta returns to Livingstone for the running of the fourth Oxford v Cambridge v South African Universities boat races at the Zambezi Boat Club in September 2010. The event has been held previously in 1904, 1905 and 1907. The last occasion included Brown University from the USA.
This year is the Centenary of the World Professional Sculling Championships held on the Zambezi River. The event in 1910 was hosted by the British South Africa Company to ensure that the development of Central Africa included the sports world as well. They put up a purse of £1,000 to the winner. Richard Arnst (NZ) and Ernest Barry (Eng) the two top professional rowers of their day competed in the race which was won by the New Zealander (funnily enough sponsored by the city of Sydney). In the 2004 regatta Ernest Barry’s nephew rowed an exhibition race on the Zambezi, and his great-nephew rowed for the Cambridge crew.
It is planned to bring the crews back again in 19 – 26 September 2010 to compete for various trophies on Saturday 25 September between 0900 hours and 1500 hours (the rafting event will be held in the gorges between rapids 1 and 7 on Tuesday 21 September). Viewing of the races will be done from the Zambezi boat club and VIPs and sponsors will be entertained on board the luxurious African Queen, African Princess and Lady Livingstone launches.
The crews have already been put together and they are looking forward to the competition which has gained international recognition. In the past we have had Olympic Gold Medallists (Luka Grubor, Andrew Lindsay in Sydney, Ed Coode in Athens for Great Britain and Jake Wetzel in Beijing for Canada) and reigning World Champions and Gold Medallists in Beijing (Peter Reed, Andrew Triggs-Hodge [GB]) and Olympic Silver Medallists (Colin Smith [born in Zimbabwe]Josh West, Matt Langridge and Acer Nethercott in Beijing) rowing in the crews.
This year we have Kieran West (gold in Sydney) amongst others coming along to row.
We would be delighted to hear from anyone who would like to assist in helping run the event on a voluntary basis especially people with safety boats and we are also looking for sponsors to help with running costs to ensure that the centenary is carried out in style.
There will be a number of events which need local competitors to take part:
Single kayak race
Double kayak race mens
Double kayak race ladies
Double kayak race mixed doubles
Raft race – sprint- crews of 7
Please get hold of Peter Jones at the River Club or the committee of the Livingstone Tourism Association if you need any further information. It will be a great week celebrating the diversity of Zambia’s sporting history.
LAKE SNIPPETS – Levels, lions and lower prices
Marineland Harbour reports that there was concern that after the floodgates closed, the continuing flow of water over Victoria Falls would result in another increase in the lake level, but much to everyone’s relief this didn’t happen. In fact, after stabilizing for about 10 days, the lake level started to decline further and by the end of July it had dropped in total by nearly 1 metre. The annual bush fires have now started and there are some large clouds of smoke back across the escarpment. Very shortly the Zambian bush fires will blow smoke in, but already there have been a few days where the Matusadona mountains were completely obscured.
Lions are being frequently sighted on the Makuti / Kariba road. If you are driving to Kariba, watch out for them near the the last section of the Kiburi escarpment towards the Moto River, just after the Roads Department camp where the big pile of tarmac stones is stored. Marineland reports that its company driver sees lions in that area almost every time he goes to Harare in the truck. There is also a report of a herd of sable being seen nearer to Makuti, so look out for them as well. (I am very disappointed as I drove this road last week with my eyes peeled for those lions and didn’t see them. Gill)
Starvation Island revisited
I stood, rather pensive, watching the guys launch the boat, not because of any issue with them, but because I was about to embark on yet another trip across lake Kariba to Starvation Island. The Island
has become such a part of my PDC life having experienced some near death experiences there during the five years since we first introduced the dogs. The last time I had been there was in April and it was the memories of the appallingly rough crossing that was making me rather agitated. The Lake at least looked calm enough this time!
We do not have dogs on the island at the moment, however we do have a certain responsibility towards this programme. This particular visit was prompted by the need to check on a feeding programme for the resident impala and waterbuck that were dying of hunger as the result of exceedingly high water levels in Lake Kariba. The panacum grass they rely on for food had been covered by the lake waters. The feeding programme was initiated and spearheaded by nearby Bumi Hills Safari Lodge. They had raised considerable support from the Zimbabwe people and were busy sending bales of grass and feed over to the island on a daily basis in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority, who control the area as part of Matusadonna National Park. It made no sense for us to duplicate efforts and so, with support from Sea World, we combined our efforts. The bales of grass had been delivered and I wanted to see what was happening.
Everything was well under control with the Management of Bumi Hills doing an excellent job. They collected the ZPWMA scouts in the morning and then ferried several boat-loads of grass and feed to the island. By this stage they had three “drop zones” established and it was interesting to see the impala and waterbuck observing from a distance as the food was spread around. The ZPWMA scouts patrolled the island while the boats went back for more feed, checking for any new carcasses and snares.
Several animals have died, though not too many, thanks to this concerted effort. With the lake waters now receding, we hope that the worst is over. There is enough food to last up to the end of August and hopefully by then the impala and waterbuck will be able to feed themselves again properly. However, the situation will continue to be monitored.
Back in Hwange, Jealous was busy trying to keep up with the Kutanga pack. After losing their pups in June, they were now fully nomadic, covering enormous distances each day in the search for food.
The GPS collar on Bulls Eye was filling in all of the gaps and indicated that the territory being used by the pack was approaching 2000 square kilometres! A typical territory size just ten years ago was 750 square kilometres. With Greg, Jealous had witnessed the pack kill a sub adult female kudu late one evening, which is a good meal for a pack of six hungry dogs. However rather than wait around as they would normally do after such a feast, they moved some ten kilometres away, possibly getting into another area for hunting while they still had the energy to do so.
Wilton and his Bush Camp team had another very busy month with the camp hosting two schools from outside of our normal programme area in addition to the local schools. It was a pleasure to host the children from Hwange Orphans (funded by Christian Care) and Acacia Primary School from Zambia. This was the second time that we had had children from Christian Care and the first from a school outside Zimbabwe, quite a success and the children from Zambia didn’t want to leave! A THANK YOU card displayed in the office speaks volumes on the impact the camp had on the children.
During Wilton’s post camp visits he discovered that the children had talked enthusiastically to their parents about their experiences. One boy from Ndangababi School said his father had made a comment that “the bush camp should be a forever thing as the children had opened up their mind on nature and conservation issues.”
(Acacia School is the private school in Livingstone. They read about my visit to the Foundation and decided to take the children. As the article says they had a great time and intend to make it an annual trip for the children. Gill)
KARIBA…don’t miss the 49th INVITATION TIGER FISH TOURNAMENT 6th, 7th & 8th OCTOBER 2010! www.kitft.co.zw