RWANDA TO PLANT 67 MILLION TREES
Rwandas policy of active re-forestation by 2020 an area covering 30 percent of the country with forests has been set as target has received a further boost when it was announced that over 67 million tree seedlings will be availed for planting to speed up the exercise. The Ministry for Forests and Natural Resources is at the forefront of the exercise but local administration personnel has been drafted in to support the planting at village level. Eastern province has been singled out as the part of Rwanda in greatest need of re-forestation and according to a source in Kigali about a fifth, or 13.5 million tree seedlings will be sent to that region for planting. Rwandas national policies of conservation and protecting biodiversity have made headlines around the world and the country is expected to be the main advocate for the passing of stricter environmental protection laws on the level of the East African Community, where only recently a crucial bill was deferred so that the forthcoming summit of heads of state could deal with principle questions on how such laws should or could affect plans by a national government to push through controversial projects without a neighbour having a say, yet suffering to the projected fallout and environmental degradation.
Rwandas forests have been subject to a range of articles right here, about the Nyungwe Forest National Park but also about Gishwati Forest, but there are always more stories to be told, so watch this space.
SUBIOS ANTE PORTAS
Seychelles globally renowned festival of marine life under the waters of the Indian Ocean is just around the corner now, due to take place between November 04 and 06. Diving and underwater safari aficionados from around the world will fly into Mahe for the event to participate in the annual competition for best picture and best film, to be awarded amongst other prizes and recognitions during the festival when the jury announces the winners of the previous years entries. Started in 1989 SUBIOS, short for Sub Indian Ocean Seychelles the archipelago has stunning underwater scenery along the coral reefs the festival has become a fixed point in the annual calendar of events, which under a proactive tourism board has been filling up steadily but not taking anything from SUBIOS significance in the process.
With more than half of the Seychelles territory now declared as terrestrial national parks, marine national parks, nature and bird reserves the country has taken the global leadership in conservation and the protection of nature and SUBIOS in particular highlights the underwater wonders which make the archipelago a much sought after place to dive, snorkel and explore the rich biodiversity which exists around the islands. This correspondent only recently published a feature story on the worlds second largest atoll, Aldabra, which has been dedicated to research and conservation, and which is, though hard to get to, one of the worlds greatest marvels. Read that article via this link to the authors blog site by clicking on this link:
Meanwhile though, SUBIOS is now only two weeks away and with ever more flights linking the Seychelles to the world, by Air Seychelles, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Kenya Airways, Condor amongst others, do make an appointment with the islands. No Visa are required by any nationality and proof of a confirmed hotel booking, a return ticket and funds to sustain ones stay on the archipelago are enough to be granted entrance to the Creole Island Paradise of Seychelles. Accommodation, prized to suit ones pockets, can be found via the Seychelles Tourism Boards website on www.seychelles.travel or www.seychelles.com and bookings can be made on line for most of the featured properties. Seychelles truly Another World.
KENYA GOVERNMENT CHANGES STRATEGY, ALLOWS HOT PURSUIT
In a long awaited policy shift has the Kenyan government now given their military, and probably all security organs involved in keeping Al Shabab at bay, permission to cross the border with Somalia in pursuit of militants. While it was not immediately known if this is being applied in retrospect to the cases of the abduction of four foreigners from Kenyan soil, first a tourist from Kiwayu, then a part time resident from Manda Island in Lamu and two days ago two MSF doctors who were working at the worlds largest refugee camp a short distance from the Somali border, that much is now clear that any further incursions will trigger a military response. A statement released yesterday in Nairobi the minister for internal security announced that The Kenyan Government has decided to take robust measures to protect and preserve the integrity of the country and the national economy and security. This is taken as a thinly concealed reference to keeping Kenyas vital tourism sector assured that border security and what is generally considered a forward defense is not officially on top of the agenda and that finally all measures available will be taken to ensure the safety of visitors, and Kenyans of course alike. The Dadaad camp near the border now houses over half a million refugees from Somalia, most of which are trying to escape the senseless violence inflicted on them by hardline Islamic militias, which try to enforce a warped and what has been described perverted Islamic rule, or the cross fire when fighting breaks out amongst competing militias trying to widen their territorial control. However, there have been allegations that militants have used the constant stream of refugees across the border to the UN operated camp to hide amongst genuine asylum seekers aimed to create a fifth column in the camp or else slip away into Kenya ready to commit terror attacks. International staff have been withdrawn from the camp for the time being and Kenyan security operatives are now starting to screen the camp population attempting to flush out militants posing as refugees.
It is understood that several units of the Kenya Army and also of the Kenya Air Force have been mobilized and are enroute already to their new deployment areas, a development reminiscent to the Shifta War in the 1960s, when the government in Mogadishu tried to repossess what they claimed was Somalias land across the border in Northern and North Eastern Kenya, leading to an undeclared but nevertheless active war, which Kenya eventually won. This was the only active engagement Kenyan troops ever had to undertake, other than countering a coup attempt by the air force on 01st August 1982, when they were deployed with General Service Units and other pro government security organs to counter the coup plotters, clear them off the streets of the capital and neutralize them.
Kenyas navy is already deployed since the second abduction in Lamu and is now actively patrolling the waters along the extensive coastline from the Somali border to beyond Lamu and they too it is understood from a Nairobi based source are now free to engage in hot cross border pursuit. If this is a broad signal that Kenya is now actively hunting across the border for the militants and their hostages has not been confirmed but it is thought a likely scenario, considering the heated internal debate between a government which has hitherto sat back and reacted while the public at large demanded active and robust responses against the constant violation of the countrys border with Somalia.
The most likely scenario now seems that units of the Kenya Army, supported by air force surveillance and navy units, will establish a forward buffer zone inside Somalia to widen the distance militants would have to travel to get into Kenya without being challenged and then run hot pursuit missions on the ground, assisted by air support, very likely in a coordinated fashion with the African Union mission in Mogadishu, which is also seeking more troops to expand their operational capabilities and push the militants back.
This latest development has been broadly welcomed by regional powers already involved in the AU mission as it will likely force the militants to fight on two fronts in the future, and it is understood that in particular Ethiopia is keenly monitoring Kenyas move, very likely prompting a renewed engagement in Somalia in support of the AUs force on the ground. There is also greater pressure on the UN Security Council now to consider and decide on imposing a full air and sea embargo on Somali to make it considerably harder for Al Shabab and other militants to get fresh supplies from their foreign godfathers and either complement or take over the role the African Union has played on behalf of the world community in the past years.
Meanwhile though have words of caution also been voiced, demanding that security inside Kenya be stepped up considerably and immediately, following this change in policy, to prevent any attempts by Al Shabab and other Al Qaida affiliates to destabilize Kenya, with in particular the tourism and aviation sectors being potential targets. Watch this space as new developments are evolving.