The Bahrain based airline, due to commence flights to Uganda from the 05th December onwards, has yesterday announced the appointment of a General Sales Agent in the country, casting aside their former partners who represented the airline until their withdrawal from the route several years ago, settling for the better reputed Lets Go Travel.
Mr. Karim Makhlouf, Chief Commercial Officer of Gulf Air said in a press statement availed to this correspondent: We are delighted to appoint Lets Go Travel as our sales agent for Uganda, who are well-known in the Ugandan market with their very broad network of customers. We hope through this partnership, we will be able to serve the Ugandan market and drive leisure and business travels through to onward destinations on our network particularly in the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, Europe and the Far East. We believe that with re-launching our Entebbe route, we will serve the growing demand between both countries for trade and tourism.
Gulf Airs Uganda route is the fifth destination on the African continent and the airline will fly four times a week from Bahrain operating an Airbus A320 in a two-class configuration of 16 seats in Falcon Gold Business Class and 120 in Economy Class with the capacity to carry four tons of non-palletised cargo.
The start of Gulf Airs flights comes just over a month after Qatar Airways commenced daily flights between Doha and Entebbe, an event turned into a major media and PR offensive with the presence of Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker and the local media and travel agents fraternity are now closely watching the build up by Gulf Air towards their launch date and how the two will compare and how flight occupancies will develop. Watch this space for regular updates until the 05th of December, when the return of Gulf Air to Entebbe will be celebrated.
Archive for November 15th, 2011
FLIGHTS TO SEYCHELLES POSTPONED
Soon after a meeting between the Seychellois tourism gurus and senior Ethiopian Airlines staff on the sidelines of the World Tourism Market in London, when future cooperation was discussed, was it learned that ET has now postponed the start of flights between Addis Ababa and Mahe for operational reasons, a purely non descript answer to questions fielded in Mahe who were wondering what had prompted this decision and when flights would now finally commence.
It was reported here a few weeks ago that Ethiopian Airlines had committed to regular flights, using a B737-800 for the service, and this was widely welcomed by the Seychelles tourism industry, as more seats mean more promotions, more marketing abroad and more visitors to the archipelago.
Said a regular source from Victoria overnight: We were also surprised to hear of the decision to postpone the inaugural flight and are waiting for more details. All we also heard was that it was for operational reasons, but we could not find out if they lack aircraft, or if they lacked traffic and bookings or why else this would be announced on the eve of the first flight when we were all waiting to welcome Ethiopian Airlines to the Seychelles.
Watch this space to get updates, as and when more information can be reliably confirmed.
TORRENTIAL RAINS BRING AIR TRAFFIC IN MWANZA TO A HALT
Rains of biblical proportions hit the lake side municipality of Mwanza late Sunday into Monday, forcing the airport management to eventually cancel all flight operations in and out of Mwanza as a result of flooded runways, taxiways and aprons. Affected were a number of flights, with in particular the ATR aircraft based in Mwanza by Precision Air unable to carry out the scheduled flights to a number of destination served by this plane, while other airlines due to land in Mwanza from Dar es Salaam and Arusha / Kilimanjaro had to abandon their scheduled flights also.
Reportedly hundreds of passengers across Tanzania, with destination Mwanza, as well as passengers trying to fly out of Mwanza, were stranded without recourse as airline personnel was unable to give details when operations would resume.
A source in Arusha, in apparent contact with passengers from Mwanza, also mentioned that a river near the Mwanza airport had burst its banks as a result of too much rain in recent days, adding to the problems the airport managers already faced in protecting vital installation such as underground power lines from irreversible damages.
Mwanza is one of the airports earmarked for expansion and modernization by the Tanzanian government and it is clear, after this latest flooding, that urgent work is required to avoid future floods and cutting of Mwanza from the rest of the country. Further rains forecast are adding further doubts over a full return to flight operations at Mwanza and any passengers intending to fly to or from Mwanza are advised to stay in contact with their respective airlines, or the airport information office, for updates on the resumption of flights. Watch this space.
Weekly roundup of news from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands, Third edition November 2011
Get daily breaking news updates instantly via Twitter by following @whthome or read the daily postings on my blog via: www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com Many of these articles then also appear on the Africa Travel Association web magazine and of course via the global industry leaders for travel news, eTurboNews, on www.eturbonews.com/africa
Third edition November 2011
DUBAI AIRSHOW 2011 FAR FROM SUCCUMBING TO ECONOMIC WORRIES
(Aerial display over the skies of Dubai part of the bi-annual Dubai Air Show)
The bi-annual Dubai Air Show started off with a bang yesterday, when Emirates announced a record breaking firm order for 50 B777-300ER and a further 20 options, which if as expected exercised would catapult the value of the deal to about 26 billion US Dollars.
The airline already operates 94 of the worlds second largest passenger plane, after the giant Airbus A380, and has another 41 in the delivery pipeline. The B777 can reach literally any point on the globe from Emirates hub in Dubai nonstop and is the backbone aircraft in the fleet on all those routes where their fast growing A380 fleet is too large to make commercial sense.
Current orders are due to be completed by 2015 and the new deal, which incidentally makes it Boeings best ever year, after 2005, for sales of the B777, will commence seamlessly thereafter.
The next biggie expected at the Dubai Airshow, which this year will be held for the last time at Dubai International Airport, aka DXB, is the much awaited announcement by Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker, with speculation over just the size of a follow on order for the Airbus A380, not the fact itself.. The new mega airport in Doha is by the admission of Al Baker, made at a recent meeting in Kampala during the launch of daily flights between Doha and Entebbe, built around the A380, the only airport in fact claiming this accolade, and subsequently QR is expected to substantially increase the pending orders for the A380, though not thought to be an immediate match for Emirates order of 90 overall.
The Dubai Air Show, in 2013 to be held at the brand new Dubai World Central, or DWC airport in Jebel Ali, has also once again highlighted the growing divide between the optimistic if not visionary carriers based in the Gulf region, led by Emirates in terms of size and by Qatar Airways in terms of global quality Sky Trax pronounced QR as the worlds top airline in their last annual survey compared to the gloom and doom talk amongst North American carriers where Chapter 11 talk persists once again, or the airlines in Europe which are struggling with congested airports, congested skies and regulatory regimes and governments making aviation an almost daily struggle. Targetted by a new range of eco taxes, which are nothing else but a blatant attempt to siphon money out of passengers and airlines pockets, restricted by night time landing and takeoff rules, for instance slapped on the new 4th runway in Frankfurt the moment it was opened, are making the fullest use of the expensive fleets an ever more difficult proposition, and the Gulf states of the UAE and of Qatar are making the most and the best out of their rivals predicaments and are stepping up the ante with yet more aircraft orders.
As said here before, this is nothing short of a major re-alignment of market shares and of economics of both scale and capacity use, since the new mega airports in the Gulf area suffer no flying restrictions, allowing the best utilization of the newest and most technologically advanced fleets found anywhere in the world.
Watch this space for the upcoming Qatar Airways announcement from Dubais Air Show.
TABLE MOUNTAIN REPRESENTS AFRICA IN 7 NEW WONDERS OF THE WORLD
In a last ditch effort has Cape Towns campaign for votes yielded the desired result when the famous Table Mountain according to the provisional results now available occupied the 7th position in the global race for fame. Other attractions hoping to make it to the top 7, like Mt. Kilimanjaro or the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, did not attract enough votes though, leaving the sole African honours to Cape Town Tourism, which pulled out all the stops to get into the mind of the voters.
The provisional rankings now available are as follows:
1 Amazon Rainforest Brazil
2 Halong Bay, Vietnam
3 Iguassu Falls, Brazil and Argentina
4 Jeju Island, South Korea
5 Komodo Island, Indonesia
6 Puerto Princesa Underground River, Philippines
7 Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa
No attractions from North America, Europe and the Australia / South Pacific made it into the listings this year, which were notably captured by mostly Far and South Eastern countries and South America, but for the effort of Africas pride, the Table Mountain.
Well done to the tourism fraternity in Cape Town and their countless friends around the world who made this possible.
East Africa News
DREAMLINER SET TO MAKE A VISIT TO THE EAST AFRICAN SKIES
Information was received from usually reliable sources that the Boeing B787 Dreamliner will make a maiden visit to East Africa, with planned stops at Nairobis Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and to Addis Ababa too, amongst other countries to be visited.
Kenya Airways has 9 B787 on order, with a further 4 options, a package thought to be substantially increased in coming years as the airline continues to roll out its strategic growth plan, while Ethiopian Airlines will be the first African airline to take delivery of the B787 after years of delays at a date still to be finally confirmed, as delays on production continue to hamper delivery time frames.
Having the B787 appear in Kenyas skies will be a milestone for Kenya Airways, which intends to replace its ageing B767 fleet with these state of the art new aircraft, the most economical in its class to fly and operate. No date has been set as yet, or rather no date had yet been announced but it is thought this will take place before the end of this year and provide a good marketing and PR opportunity as KQs new share issue will go underway. Kenya Airways management and staff, shareholders and prospective shareholders and the general public including many aviation buffs will be cramming the perimeter of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on the day when the new B787 Dreamliner will make its first ever appearance over Nairobi. Watch this space for relevant announcements.
EASTERN CONGO ELEPHANT POPULATION MORE THAN HALFED IN LAST DECADE
Alarming figures have emerged from research carried out in the Eastern Congo, a region savaged by civil war and divided by militia ruled fiefdoms, denying the central government in Kinshasa full control or a part of the country rich in natural resources, both in the ground as well as above. The presence of the killer militias from the conflict in Rwanda too had played a serious role, as they, like others, are also accused of commercial style poaching for ivory, while in Garamba National Park it was the Ugandan rebels of ICC wanted Joseph Kony which is thought responsible for the extinction of the Northern White Rhino, that last free roaming population on record.
Moreover, biodiversity in general has taken a serious knock since the outbreak of civil war in Congo, first fought to dislodge Mobuto and then, when the late Kabila senior welshed on his erstwhile allies, a second round of war which made life for the populations and the wildlife even harsher. Conflict since then has never ended and pollution was added to the woes of this naturally gifted area when the rulers forced people into mining for coltan and other minerals, poisoning entire stretches of the environment through their greed and the total lack of safeguards and environmental mitigation measures.
Millions of people were displaced, hundreds of thousands died and alongside these atrocities did the numbers of elephant, estimated to be over 22.000 in Eastern Congo before the outbreak of civil strife, sink to as low as 6.000 according to the latest figures circulating amongst the conservation fraternity.
As the focus of the world moved to other hotspots, like the so called Arab Spring, the fight for survival of the wildlife, as well as the people of Eastern Congo persists, and with few reports now making the headlines, these tragic developments go largely unnoted.
Considering the price ivory now commands in the consumer markets of China and other Far Eastern countries, and of corrupt officials facilitating not just the poaching but also the smuggling of blood ivory out of the country to make its way through a pipeline of accomplices to the treasure cabinets of the nouvelle riche in the trade hubs of China, the future is bleak for the survival of the remaining elephant in Eastern Congo, unless a full rule of law can be restored and the protected areas in existence be truly protected from the greed of humans for the white gold. Watch this space.
KENYA AND ETHIOPIA INK 750 MILLION US DOLLAR ROAD DEAL
A new and closer strategic partnership is forming between Kenya and Ethiopia as a result of current and past developments in the wider region and in particular the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia, now landlocked and the direct route to the former Red Sea ports of Massawa and Assab literally sealed off by a hostile Eritrea, depends almost entirely on the port of Djibouti for imports and exports and is seeking redundancy by establishing a second route to Kenyas Indian Ocean coast to avoid potential interference with the Djibouti to Addis transport corridor which is perilously close to Eritrea and prone to be struck with relative ease.
Kenya in turn is keen to develop a new seaport in Lamu for which it would need to generate sufficient cargo throughput of both imports and exports, and plans exist to link this new port by road and rail to the African hinterland as far as South Sudan and into Ethiopia, to ensure viability.
Much has been written here before over the proposed rail links, which should connect Juba and other parts of Southern Sudan with Lamu, and the branch line into Ethiopia to connect Addis Ababa by safe means to a friendly deep sea harbour.
What is on the drawing board now however is a major new network of roads and highways between Kenya and Ethiopia and earlier in the week the two governments put pen to paper to ink a deal worth at least 750 million US Dollars. Existing roads will be upgraded to bitumen standards, widened and strengthened for heavier loads, allowing cargos from Mombasa and Nairobi to reach Ethiopia and its capital Addis Ababa with greater ease.
When discussing the other option of Port Sudan as an outlet with a regional expert he had this to say: Djibouti for now is a safe bet and the port of Mombasa and later the new port in Lamu will also be relatively safe for Ethiopia. Strategic thinking comes into play here. Kenya and Ethiopia, while not having a trouble free relationship over cattle rustling, the incursions into the Turkana area by Ethiopian tribesmen and the issue over the Gibe 3 dam, which threatens the existence of Lake Turkana, the two countries have common enemies, common interests. Ethiopia has been at war with Eritrea and that country is now harbouring and nurturing terror groups which affect Ethiopia and Kenya too. Kenya was forced to go after Al Shabab and the moment that happened Eritrea sent supplies by air to Baidoa. Ethiopia suffers constant threats by the Oromo groups which are supported by Eritrea to needle Addis. As to Port Sudan, in theory yes but then, Khartoum Sudan has of late shown signs of getting more radical and they just opened a new road to Eritrea which was financed by Qatar. So Ethiopia could never be certain, never be sure of uninterrupted and unimpeded flow of goods to and from Port Sudan while, inspite of a few issues with Kenya, that country is considered a long term safe transit partner. And Djibouti is reliable for now, but expensive because they can exploit Ethiopias predicament. Therefore Ethiopia is internally already strengthening its domestic rail network and road network and if linked through such big projects with Kenya, even into South Sudan, those countries will be natural allies against what is generally considered very hostile neighbours. South Sudan wants into the EAC, Ethiopia is keen to join too, and once peace has returned to Somalia with a stable and friendly new government they may also want to come on board. North Sudan, inspite of what others say, is generally not considered as a prime choice for EAC membership, not unless there are very fundamental changes which is not likely and neither is Eritrea. The new partnership deal between Ethiopia and Kenya will benefit regional development, regional integration of the economies, travel and tourism. And most important, they have the support for such major infrastructure plans by the big powers, the US, Europe and even China which is busy trying to get the contracts to build such roads and rail networks.
Funding for the planned projects is due to come from a variety of sources and the African Development Bank is reportedly ready to support the financing with long term soft loans and grants which could kickstart construction of nearly 900 kilometres of roads and highways. Subject to raising all the funding the new links could be operational by around 2015.
Meanwhile has a source in Juba / South Sudan, also confirmed that talks are underway with Ethiopia over new road links connecting the two countries and in particular a rail link between Addis and Juba which could run parallel to a new highway, to allow for greater trade and commerce between the two partners. Watch this space as more news are becoming available on progress.
EMIRATES FLIGHTS FROM UGANDA NOT AFFECTED BY AIRSHOW TRAFFIC RESTRICTIONS
The Dubai Airshow, which will once again take place between this coming Sunday and next Thursday, will according to a source at the Emirates office in Kampala not affect the timings of the daily flight between Dubai and Entebbe, as the restricted period has been set between 14.15 hours and 17.15 hours local time every day, when aircraft are due to perform fly pasts and overflights as part of showing off the latest birds on the market. It was learned that up to about 150 flights on each day will be affected by a closure of the airspace over Dubai during the days but as the arrivals and departures for flights to and from Uganda fall into the night hours, no side effects will be experienced by travelers using Emirates.
The bi-annual airshow in Dubai will also see the much awaited announcement by Qatar Airways Chief Executive Al Baker, who had promised a bombshell of an announcement during his recent visit to Kampala, when QR launched their daily flights to Entebbe. Aircraft manufacturers and airlines often use such events to make major new orders public as they are assured of the attention of the global aviation and travel media, many of which will do pilgrimage from the just concluded World Travel Market in London to Dubai to be on site when news break.
Watch this space for upcoming news, and meanwhile, keep flying.
FALLOUT BEGINS OVER KANYEIHAMBA REPORT
Leading figures, including at least one former chairperson of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, have already vowed to take legal action against the now dissolved Commission of Enquiry for being named in what to many looks a revenge attack by Kanyeihamba and his commission underlings. The entire uselessness of the report became evident when it praised another former chairperson, a Dr. Muballa, said to have been a personal friend of the former tourism minister Otafire, the main reason for his appointment, whose term of office was marked by controversy before being sacked by court for being incompetent to hold the office.
Muballa and some of his fellow board members, also sacked by court for being incompetent to hold such positions in the absence of any links to conservation, took UWA for a cash cow, demanded as much as three times the previous emoluments and when the former Executive Director of UWA refused to accommodate them was then first suspended and then sacked, in what was generally perceived as a revenge action. Muballa then illegally turned himself into an Executive Chairman a position which does not exist under the relevant Wildlife Act, which resulted in a court case leading to his sacking. All subsequent actions then became what is known as Otafires kangaroo courts and Kanyeihambas praise for a chairperson sacked by court and his contempt for others who left a legacy behind, speaks volumes.
Amongst those vowing to take action is the current Acting Executive Director Dr. Andrew Seguya, who was brought in from the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre where he held the same position. He, during his work at UWA, suffered of several public insults and run ins with Kanyeihamba who, when not seeing his dubious demands promptly fulfilled, then also took aim at the current UWA management.
A regular source at the Ministry of Tourism, on condition of strict anonymity, had this to say: Kanyeihamba is an embittered old man. He lost out for his erratic behaviour and public outbursts with the powers that be and this commission was his last shot for fame. He failed even here as far as we are concerned and his standing as a legal mind is now soiled by allegations over his motives, his borderline public comments on sitting witnesses before his commission which appear to have prejudged the outcome and by dragging in present UWA management and the new minister. Here he made a big mistake. That report will be torn up in court where it is heading now, but for us in the ministry, we are happy to see the back of this commission and his unreasonable behaviour, his constant demands for ever more funds and ever more facilitation. Imagine, he wanted another three months and multi millions of shillings to travel to the parks at taxpayers expense. He can now have a holiday and rest at his own home and should stay there for good.
These sentiments were echoed across a wide section of stakeholders polled over the matter, though some of those who served on various investigation panels may well disagree, after having been part of Otafires kangaroo courts as the phrase was coined already at an early stage in reference of the apparent revenge motives and prosecutor, jury, judge and executioner style court martial approach. Watch this space as this long saga now inevitably heads to court, and what a proper court will eventually think about the Kanyeihamba report, its methods and conclusions.
LONG OVERDUE KANYEIHAMBA REPORT FINALLY OUT
After being denied yet another extension of the term of office for the controversial commission of enquiry into the UWA / PAMSU project has the long overdue report finally been submitted and was published yesterday.
In a sign of dissent however did the secretary to the commission apparently not sign the report although two other commission members, who had previously indicated they might submit a minority report, appear to have either changed their mind or yielded to pressure and affixed their signatures to the document.
Vengeful, acid and often personal attacks by Kanyeihamba on witnesses during hearings appear to have found their way into the document, which is according to a well informed source at the Ministry of Tourism already being scrutinized with the aim of highlighting errors and inconsistencies and publicly tear it apart and discredit it and its author.
In the cross hairs of Kanyeihambas report is amongst others the former Permanent Secretary Amb. Onen, with whom the controversial retired Supreme Court Justice had repeated run ins over office space and facilitation, i.e. the budget for his work, and has now conveniently repaid by calling for the Permanent Secretarys prosecution. Others recommended for prosecution are former Executive Director Moses Mapesa as well as current Acting Executive Director Dr. Andrew Seguya, with whom Kanyeihambe personally had several public spats.
This is pay back by Kanyeihamba for those he considered standing in his way, and in my humble opinion not based on fact but by other motives much more sinister said a usually well informed source familiar with the going ons in the ministry and at UWA to this correspondent yesterday afternoon.
The report also took aim at the current Minister, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, who was interesting enough not in any way connected with the events at UWA which led to the commission being established by his predecessor in office, but having denied Kanyeihamba a lucrative extension of the commissions term of office by another three months may well have angered the retired justice and let emotion get the better of him, making allegations against the Minister of Tourism which might well lead to a legal reaction by the minister as an individual and the ministry as a whole.
The one positive thing however now is that a report has been produced, no matter how skewed and tilted it might be in its opinions and can now be subjected to proper legal scrutiny, while seeing Kanyeihamba hopefully disappearing again into the obscurity of retirement. Watch this space for any legal action or potential prosecutions, as and when such developments occur.
CAA LICENSING MEETING SET FOR 24TH NOVEMBER
The upcoming licensing committee meeting of the Civil Aviation Authoritys Board of Directors will hear applications from 12 airlines on the 24th of November, when one of the rare meetings will take place at the Imperial Royale Hotel. Unlike elsewhere in the region, where for instance in Kenya these meetings are convened at quarterly intervals due to the volume of applications received, in Uganda at best such meetings take place once a year. Urgent applications may in between licensing committee meetings be granted administrative approvals by the regulators but applicants will then have to appear at the next public hearing to submit and defend their application.
Amongst the five renewals will be Air Ugandas air service license, which is generally considered a foregone conclusion, considering it is Ugandas sole international airline, while others are Ndege Juu, based at the Kajjansi airfield and Uganda Air Cargo Corporation amongst others.
New applications have been lodged with the CAA by a number of aspiring air operators, several for domestic and regional charters proposing to use Cessna 208 Caravan aircraft, while Jubba Airlines from Kenya is seeking a license to start non-scheduled passenger and cargo services using a first generation B737. Other applicants for non-scheduled licenses equally have listed ancient aircraft of the DC9 or B727 types, which while in theory if well maintained can still be airworthy but generally speak volumes about the capacity of such wannabe operators using the cheapest birds available with operating cost and fuel burns almost certain to inflict some serious financial harm on the bottom lines of such companies.
The hearing is public, i.e. open for observers and media representatives and will as usual be preceded by a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Civil Aviation Authority. Visit www.caa.co.ug for more information about Ugandas aviation sector.
In a report just in from a Twitter source, attempting to travel to Mombasa on a Jetlink flight originating from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, it was confirmed that the take off was aborted as smoke filled the cabin. The CRJ200 jet was set to take off for the 50 minutes flight to the Kenyan coast when cabin crew and passengers suddenly found smoke emerging into the cabin, and the cockpit crew brought the plane to a stop at runway exit E, allowing the flight attendants to evacuate the cabin through the main fold down staircase.
(Both pictures courtesy of Edward Kagoce via pic.twitter.com)
Notably were no emergency exits opened at the time from the plane, according to a tweetpic sent out by one of the travelers connected to this correspondent via Twitter. The same source also confirmed that the emergency services vehicles only reached the plane after 20 minutes, a damning indictment for KAA, which over the weekend went wild demolishing houses but appears to have abdicated its primary duty in this case of a potential fire hazard on the taxiway. (see related story published overnight via this link: http://www.eturbonews.com/26350/brutal-demolitions-mark-start-land-occupation-kenya-airport-auth )
Watch this space for breaking news from the Eastern African region and the Indian Ocean islands.
BALALA DECRIES SLOW PACE OF REGIONAL TOURISM INTEGRATION
Kenyas tourism ministry Najib Balala, at the end of the World Travel Market in London last Thursday, decried the slow pace of regional integration of the tourism industry, which in his words was hampering the sector capturing more tourists, generating more investment, creating more jobs and earning the entire region more foreign exchange.
Balala had in the past sent sharp reminders to his colleagues in the region over the delays in agreeing on a single tourist Visa for the East African Community and made an urgent appeal towards that end again during a joint EAC press conference given at the stand of Burundi, marking the end of WTM 2011.
Balalas sentiments are shared by many private sector stakeholders in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, with Tanzania notably keeping the foot on the brake over long lingering fears of Kenyas dominance of the sector, in the process keeping the Bologonja border post between the Serengeti and the Masai Mara closed for commercial traffic and hiding behind a mega wall of non tariff barriers mostly affecting air traffic into the parks and access to the parks by foreign registTwered vehicles, a phrase often used to bash Kenya.
Balalas opinions though are now hugely strengthened by his recent election as Chairman of the UN World Tourism Organizations Executive Committeed, which gives him added clout, besides being entirely right of course on facts, to pile added pressure on his colleagues in the region to make good of a decade of promises and create this hitherto elusive One region with many attractions from which all can benefit equitably and equally. Watch this space to find out as and when the common Visa is being launched and if there are any reductions in the NTBs imposed on in particular the aviation sector.
BRUTAL DEMOLITIONS MARK START OF LAND OCCUPATION BY KAA
Kenyans will be waking up on Monday morning, shocked to read about another act of government brutality and open defiance of ongoing court proceedings, as hundreds of expensive homes were raided and destroyed over the weekend notably done when courts were not in session to obtain emergency orders on land claimed by the Kenya Airport Authority yet also claimed by the owners of the residences.
Protected by a large contingent of well armed police, the bulldozers, reportedly on instruction of the KAA management, moved into position before dawn and the pounced on unsuspecting owners, bringing down one expensive home after the other.
The area member of parliament, kept at bay by uniformed and plain clothed police, vowed to go to court first thing on Monday to stop the exercise, underscoring the residents claim that the land in question was not part of KAAs land, was outside Nairobi in a different county and had a general title issued with individual title deeds under processing, while a source acquainted with the workings of the Kenya Airport Authority said that the land was only claimed by KAA but the legality of the claim highly doubtful.
Ongoing court proceedings over the same issue were ignored by the demolition crews and the security forces and they reportedly tried to destroy as much as they could over the weekend, probably anticipating a court order being served on them to halt the exercise.
The damages are running into the hundreds of millions of shillings already, and while the owners and their families spent a miserable night in the cold, counting their losses of property and assets, the KAA management will probably now get into a fight for their own life as the full extent of their folly becomes apparent. They will try to hide behind an apparent cabinet decision which according to another source sanctioned the demolition, believing KAAs submissions that the land in question was theirs and to be used for the long overdue expansion of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport but a regular aviation source in an overnight communications put doubts to that: For one the present and past KAA managements were and are largely incompetent, we have said that time and again and the failures of JKIA systems are too many to recount here. KAA is dogged by allegations of nepotism, the last CEO is the best example for that and the appointment of the present CEO was surrounded by deep controversy also when even parliament was ignored after the minister made the appointment in great haste. These guys were sitting on their behinds for too long doing nothing. Airport expansion was not a priority until JKIA became the mess it is for all to see. Only last week we were voted to be amongst the worst airports in the world. If that land is truly KAAs, and there is no evidence for that as far as one can see, they should have fenced it off years ago and made it part of the restricted areas secured by patrols and gadgets. They never did however. If government now wants to claim this land they should negotiate with the owners, offer compensation, alternative land and allow an orderly process to go ahead, not to create facts with bulldozers, destroy peoples live savings and property and leave them in the cold to rot. There are elections next year and though the president will retire, the prime minister will face the music over this atrocity. It will become a campaign issue for sure. In any case, this will end up in court Monday morning and I expect an injunction to be issued against further demolitions, which is why they were so busy pulling houses down. The same situation by the way exists at Wilson Airport where buildings were permitted to be constructed in the approach and departure paths, which is very dangerous, for those living there and any aircraft in trouble trying to make it to the runway. We had a few accidents with aircraft crashing into residential buildings already there over the past years. Why did government stand by and see these apartments go up and did nothing. At JKIA the demolished houses were not a threat to the approach and departure paths.
This correspondent has been on KAAs case for a long time over their neglect to develop a timely vision and make it reality for Kenyas and in fact the regions most important aviation hub, but that said, should the bulldozing tactics of the weekend turn out to be illegal by a court ruling, then time really should be up for the KAA management and perhaps a criminal prosecution would be the right response over malicious damage and fraudulent claims over land they do not own. Time will tell, and so will I, so watch this space.
LAND OWNERS BAN MARATHON ROUTE FROM THEIR LAND
In a stunning development it was learned overnight that the Kenya Airways sponsored Masai Mara Marathon might not take place on the 19th November as planned, since apparently the land owners have barred the route from crossing their land. Several of the directors of the landowning company made sweeping allegations over the marathon organizers not honouring their pledges made towards the Masai community and questions are now being asked if the race could be moved somewhere else, inspite of the very narrow timeframe now available to do so and get all the route material ready for the participants and observers.
The timing of the comments made and objections raised though has raised more questions than providing answers and the owners waited well beyond the date of no return for the organizers to raise their concerns which now smacks for many as a blatant attempt to extract money and other benefits for themselves rather than for the community they claim to speak for. Blackmail perhaps? Watch this space to learn in coming days if at all this major sporting event in Kenya does go ahead, under what terms and conditions or if it has to be pulled off, postponed or cancelled this year.
KENYA ROAD AGENCY WANTS YET MORE MONEY FOR MARA ROADS
In what can only be described a damning admission has the Kenya Roads Board now asked for a lot of more money to complete a series of road projects, both new and upgrades from the mudholes and craterscapes many have become. In particular the section from Narok to the main entrance to the Masai Mara Game Reserves at the Sekenani Gate is so dilapidated that drivers have repeatedly threatened to go on strike, road side vendors blocked the shambolic road to express their dissatisfaction and tourists have been known to arrive at their lodges and safari camps in need of a chiropractic to sort out their backs.
For years the ping pong game has persisted between the Narok County Council, which manages Kenyas highest profile game reserve, and the national government, with empty assurance chasing empty assurance while safari operators spend fortunes to repair broken axles, replace shock absorbers and suspensions and suffer from the acid comments of tourists sent by road to the Mara.
However, various other roads too are in limbo with bridges broken down, making access to the Mara from the other side, namely from Kisumu, Kisii and the nearest Tanzanian border post for official crossings by tourists the Bologonja border is only available to individual travelers but not for organized tours difficult to say the least, and during heavy rains all but impossible.
The countrys tourism sector, a key economic pillar for Kenya in terms of foreign exchange earnings, investments and jobs, has often complained about the sorry state of affairs but to no avail so far. The Roads Board now asking for a sizeable increase in their budget for roads in the area is finally an admission that it is after all underfacilitation and giving other roads priority, and that the tourism fraternity has been largely misled over progress and speed of the road to the Sekenani gate being completed. Watch this space.
KENYA AIRWAYS TOO ASPIRES TO OCCUPY THE CONTINENTAL TOP SPOT
No sooner had a report been filed here last week about Ethiopian Airlines aspiration to be the undisputed Number One airline in Africa, did a regular source from Nairobi rush material and input to this correspondent, claiming that it was in fact Kenya Airways which was to be on top of the African rankings in a decades time.
We appreciate your concerns over the capacity at JKIA [Jomo Kenyatta
International Airport, Kenyas main aviation gateway in Nairobi] and share many of the issues you raised in a series of articles about aviation, especially the recent one when you compared airline growth under the context of airports not keeping pace with capacity increases. But in a decade, we here in Nairobi will have a second runway, might even plan for a third one, and will probably have even a terminal 5 in operation [Terminal 4 is due to be opened by end 2012]. So Kenya Airways will have all the infrastructure ready on the ground to go into overdrive with our roll out of destinations, in Africa, the Mid and Far East, India, Europe and North America. By 2013 all African capitals or commercial centres will be connected with our Nairobi hub, several times a week or daily or several times a day as traffic demands. There will be a mix of aircraft used for such routes, from wide bodies to the B737 and the new fleet of Embraer E190ARs which are now joining the fleet.
We are stepping up pilot training which you also identified as a restraining factor to airline growth and our Pride Centre at Embakasi has already a B737 simulator. We might expand on this to train even more of our pilots at home. Right now we have 33 aircraft in the fleet, the freighters are now coming and next year we will get more Embraers. The delivery dates for the B787 Dreamliners are still vague but that applies to our rivals also. We are getting two more B777 and have 9 Dreamliners on firm order and 4 more on options. This number is very likely to grow a lot more because by 2021, in ten years time, we might have a fleet three times the size of today. Now that shows we are aware of the opportunities of professionally managed aviation in Africa, in East Africa and are going flat out to see the full potential exploited, aided by our geographical location and by East Africas tourism attractions.
True enough says this correspondent, and while at present giving Ethiopian Airlines a slight edge, in terms of aircraft numbers in the fleet and destinations served internationally with already existing flights between the US and Addis Ababa, the fight for superiority in the African skies will intensify in coming months and years and the outcome will be determined by infrastructure on the ground, quality of the service at airports, in the air and via service centres, punctuality, safety standards and records and the ability to get enough pilots on line to fly all those new planes. Fodder for thought, as the Big Three in Africa, Ethiopian, Kenya Airways and a revitalized South African Airways take their marketing campaigns and battles for supremacy to each other. And as often said in closing, read all about it right here through regular updates, breaking news and opinion pieces.
FERRY ACCIDENT REPORT REVEALS FULL SCALE OF DISASTER
The Tanzanian government appears shell shocked over leaks of the long awaited and well nearly locked up report of the commission of enquiry, and was seemingly unable to answer allegations as the 50th anniversary of Independence from Britain approaches.
Information received from both Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam indicate that the figures previously published, and very grudgingly raised as more and more relatives came forward claiming to have lost family members, was grossly, if not outright deliberately understated by official organs of government.
Figures now leaked inspite of extensive measures to keep the report under wraps, talk of as many as 2.764 people still missing from the fatal sinking of the ferry MV Spice Islander I, which was enroute from Unguja island to Pemba island and sunk less than two hours into the journey. The stricken vessel, licensed to carry no more than 600 passengers, had according to the report nearly 6 times as many passengers on board as she sailed, already banking to the side, and the official report is quoted to have mentioned 3.586 passengers on board. It was also established that only about 100 life vests were available for the sanctioned 600 passengers, and that the manifest was obviously falsified showing a relatively lower figure of only 610 on board. This, if indeed true as one would expect the report of a fully fledged Commission of Enquiry to be would make it one of peacetimes worst maritime disasters in history and for sure the worst in East Africas history. It has also been suggested that any insurance, if any had in fact been taken out, would probably invalidate as a result of evident fraud on the manifest and the gross negligence on part of the owners and the ships master in taking excessive numbers of travelers on board, which could invalidate insurance covers.
Government mouthpieces, trying hard to contain the damage done by the report to the image of Tanzania abroad at the time of the Golden Jubilee Independence, were swift to blame double accounting and multiple reporting of missing persons, a notion however rejected by the commissioners who had spent weeks in reconciling the reports of missing travelers filed by their families.
From usually well informed sources it is also understood that pressure has been applied on the commissions members to moderate their figures when the final version of the report is due to be handed in on the 15th November, not an unlikely scenario by any standards considering how governments in this region have in the past contained such damaging information, which in this case fully exposed a supervision and licensing machinery completely failing to live up to any acceptable standards. Watch this space as certainly a fully blown controversy over facts and figures is now bound to erupt in Tanzania.
AIR TANZANIA TURNS TO BOMBARDIER / CANDADIAN GOVERNMENT FOR LOANS
Air Tanzania, presently flying a single Bombardier Q300 plane, has gotten creative in the face of adversity and reportedly approached the Canadian manufacturer with the aim to acquire aircraft from them, thought to be initially of CRJ200 makes. Usually well informed and reliable sources have mentioned, that in order to transform the new strategic plan of ATCL into action, the airline would require additional aircraft, preferably jets of smaller size to return to the market with a chance to financially survive, and the CRJ200 is already operating in the wider region with a measure of success for their respective operators.
Attempts by ATCL to dry or wetlease aircraft on the open market are presently constrained by the lack of sufficient cash, as lessors, wary of Air Tanzanias troubled past and huge outstanding and long overdue debts, would ask for very substantial upfront payments, something the airline in turn could not afford, limiting the options for them to expand their fleet.
Bombardier in turn is said to be keen to establish a greater presence in the region and the Canadian governments export credit agency would more than likely be on board to make a deal happen, as long as the Tanzanian government steps up and guarantees any loans in case of default.
That however may be the crunch issue as Tanzania, cash strapped too, may find it difficult to make a major financial commitment at this time, even if only as a guarantee, having found it already hard to pay for the heavy maintenance of the Q300 which was held by the AMO in South Africa for nonpayment for the most part of this year. A Canadian delegation, likely to include Bombardier and EDC staff, is expected to visit Dar es Salaam for talks with ATCL and government officials to discuss a framework under which a deal could be structured and implemented.
Meanwhile is Embraer also reportedly pushing itself into the frame, already having established a major presence in the East African market and being willing to offer smaller jets too, like from their successful E170 to E190 series. Embraer is generally being thought to be more flexible with export financing and can count on the full support of the Brazilian government to do export deals for their high tech manufacturing sector. Interesting times ahead, especially in view of the surrounding economic factors now playing out in Eastern Africa like inflation, slackening demand and empty government coffers. Watch this space.
SAUTI ZA BUSARA BIGGEST EVENT FOR ZANZIBAR TOURISM
Zanzibars globally renowned music and culture festival, Sauti Za Busara, is finally getting the official recognition it has always deserved, when official tourism sources announced that a stakeholder meeting will be held later in the week to discuss ways and means to further improve the festivals standing and secure lasting sponsorhips for the organizers. Daytime events staged during the festival period have traditionally been free of charge for visitors to access while in more recent years the evening shows and performances attracted a nominal fee to enter the festival areas in the old Stone Town of Zanzibar.
This correspondent has given Sauti Za Busara exposure since its inaugural edition many years ago, and has been supporting the growth of the festival into the foremost African music, culture and performing arts show. The meeting between festival organizers and tourism and government officials is seeking ways to provide sustainable funding for the event, which has become a magnet for music performers from across the continent while of late also attracting African film makers entering their works to the festival, vying for honours. Sauti Za Busara is arguably, besides the beaches and other tourism attractions, THE crowd puller for Zanzibar when visitors, participants and the media flock to the Spice Island en masse and in growing numbers year after year. Yet, sponsorship support from local stakeholder has been waning, putting future festivals in doubt and the organizers have appealed to Zanzibars tourism businesses to step up and repay the festival with financial and material support and not just reap the benefits from bringing thousands upon thousands of additional visitors to the island year after year. Visit www.busaramusic.org for more details or how sponsorships can be discussed with the festival organizers. Huge publicity, including right here, is of course assured for those willing to help.
PRINCE CHARLES ADDRESSES TANZANIAN CONSERVATION LEGACY
The heir to the British throne, fresh back in Dar es Salaam after a day visit to Zanzibar, did not disappoint the conservation fraternity in his official State Dinner address, when he expressed his hopes to see Mt. Kilimanjaro during his one day visit to Arusha on Wednesday, weather permitting. Notably did Prince Charles pay glowing tribute to the founding father of the Tanzanian nation, the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, whom he described as leaving a priceless legacy of conservation of national parks, game- nature- and marine reserves, which until now have contributed to maintaining global biodiversity.
There is speculation that Prince Charles in his one on one meeting also raised serious questions of the current Tanzanian governments commitment to conservation, in his capacity as President of the WWF UK chapter and generally as a known conservationist and nature lover, ever ready to speak his mind candidly.
Tanzania has been in the bad books of the global conservation fraternity over a range of inexplicable U-turns from Nyereres total commitment to conservation, to the extent of being accused on trampling the founding fathers legacy and inheritance. Tanzania celebrates its 50th anniversary of Independence from Britain this week and has tried to capitalize on the celebrations to promote tourism to the country, however overshadowed by a series of ministerial gaffes and contradictory statements and hugely controversial plans to extract Uranium in the Selous Game Reserve, mine soda ash at the single breeding ground of the lesser flamingo, build a highway across the Serengeti and convert the Tanga Marine National Park, home to the prehistoric Coelacanth fish, into a deep sea harbour, amongst a range of other equally controversial development projects.
Prince Charles has meetings with conservationists on his agenda and will undoubtedly give them reassurance and hope that his support will add to the public pressure to revise if not abandon some of the most controversial plans and seek other options to explore Tanzanias mineral riches without impacting irreversibly on biodiversity. Watch this space.
RWANDAIR ANNOUNCES LAGOS FLIGHTS FOR 03RD DECEMBER
The Rwandan national airline has just announced that they will, as previously mentioned here, commence flights to Lagos / Nigeria as of 03rd December this year. Departure and arrival times of the flight have been tuned to allow easy connections to onward flights to Dubai via Mombasa, Nairobi and Entebbe, from where passengers can now reach Lagos by alternative means.
The flights, to be operated by RwandAirs new B737-800 Sky Interior aircraft, will initially fly the route three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Departure time from Kigali is at 11.00 hrs local time and the flight arrives at 14.10 local time in Nigeria, while the return flight leaves Lagos at 14.55 local time and is due to land in Kigali at 20.05 hours local time.
Meanwhile was it also announced that Rwandair operated a special charter from Kigali to Asmara / Eritrea carrying the Rwandan national football team and staff for the FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifier against Eritrea.
RwandAir is also due to make an announcement soon on their next stage of rolling out their strategic plan, when announcing details on the likely acquisition of larger Bombardier jets in a trade off for their current two CRJ200 aircraft. Be sure to watch this space for breaking news from East Africas aviation scene.
RWANDA HOTEL ASSOCIATION ELECTS NEW CHAIR
The just concluded annual general meeting of the Rwanda Hotel and Restaurant Association has elected Mr. Dennis Karera as the new chairperson. Upon his election Karera emphasized the need to improve training and skills amongst staff to offer better services across the hospitality industry in Rwanda, while also calling on smaller, more localized associations to join hands with the main national body for wider reach and greater ability to shape the sectors future. It was also mentioned that discussions were underway to make membership in the association a criteria for obtaining relevant business licenses from local and central government, so that the association could represent and speak for all hotels, lodges, inns, restaurants and bar owners and fight for their cause.
Tourism is a key pillar of Rwandas national economy and the hospitality sector in particular has been the focus of increased training and standardization in line with the East African Communitys guidelines for grading and classification of hotels and related service providers. Here the Rwanda Development Boards Tourism and Conservation division was leading the way to offer training to owners and staff to improve client satisfaction and generate repeat business. Congratulations to Dennis on his elections and all the best for a successful term of office.
RWANDAS ARRIVALS UP BY 28 PERCENT
The Rwanda Development Boards Tourism and Conservation division staff went to Londons WTM armed with good news: Arrivals are up, AGAIN, by over 28 percent compared to the previous year, manifesting the result of hard work and creative approaches to marketing the country and keeping it in the spotlight of the global travel media.
Amongst the fastest growing markets were East Africa, South Africa and West Africa, no surprise here as RwandAir is now flying increasingly often to these destinations, especially now that the airline has taken delivery of two B737-800 aircraft, bringing the total fleet to 7.
RwandAirs marketing efforts though go hand in hand with RDB and the private sector, which have been fielding a united front when going out to promote the country and in the process being mentioned alongside such marketing giants like the Seychelles.
Small but oh la la comes to mind when talking Rwanda and the nature experience of the three national parks is complemented by forest reserves like Gishwati, birding trails and now the Congo / Nile Trail, which traverses the continental water divide feeding into Africas two most important rivers.
The sharp increase has also in part be attributed to the market entry of KLM, which now operates 5 times a week between Amsterdam and Kigali, and the return of South African Airways on the route from Johannesburg will add further arrival numbers. Once Turkish Airlines will commence flights in April next year, and considering the interest in Kigali of such giants like Qatar Airways, this will only further improve the performance of the tourism industry which in recent years has become an economic cornerstone of The Land of a Thousand Hills. Watch this space for all current news on tourism and conservation, brought to you right here as and when things happen in Rwanda.
As the long march for the new Republic of South Sudan continues into Independence, the young country has made another milestone step when it finally was accepted as the 191st member of ICAO. The International Civil Aviation Organization admitted South Sudan last week on the 10th of November, paving the way for a range of support measures ICAO can give to new countries which have to build an entire new structure aviation supervision and create a new regulatory regime. The ICAO Regional Office for Eastern and Southern Africa will next week send a fact finding mission to Juba to establish areas of most urgent need and to jointly devise a programme and timeframe for the implementation of ICAOs technical requirements and harmonization to fast track South Sudan to become a compliant member, upholding the principles of aviation safety and effective oversight.
From regular sources in Juba it is also understood that efforts are now underway to enter into negotiations with other countries for bilateral air services agreements, to reflect the aspiration of the new country on the basis of reciprocity and to replace existing BASAs inherited from the regime in Khartoum, which in the past dictated access to South Sudans territory while still a semi autonomous region prior to Independence. Amongst the key areas of investment and infrastructural development is the completion of the countrys main airport in Juba, where presently only daylight operations are possible due to the absence of runway lighting systems, and where the limited space can no longer cope with the sharp increase in aircraft movements and passenger numbers. ICAO and other international bodies will seek to assist the new government to establish a viable and well regulated sector. Notably, the government in Juba seems also set to establish a new national airline, which will operate side by side with a number of privately owned airlines, already operating for some years or else just recently established, and some aviation stakeholders have voiced their concern of routes being given with priority to a new national airline, pushing them either out of business or else limiting their own growth. Watch this space.
WATER RATIONING MAY AFFECT TOURIST RESORTS TOO
Information was received from Mauritius that the ongoing water shortage will extend right across the peak holiday season over Christmas and New Year into January 2012, with periodic rationing now a problem for not just the tourist sector but the Mauritian population at large. Sources on the island claim that annual rainfall has progressively reduced in recent years, keeping, similar to the Seychelles, the reservoirs far from their full capacity and subsequently having to reduce the supply of piped water to many parts of the island.
It is understood that tourist resorts are given priority in deliveries of piped water and as and where necessary supplies by bowser trucks but this fall out of the ongoing climate change is likely to not just persist but worsen in coming years, necessitating additional investments in tapping into water resources or else going into large scale desalination plants.
The Seychelles, in comparison, have installed substantial de-salination capacity in the recent past to produce potable water from sea water, but of course at a substantially higher cost per unit than harvested rain water. Watch this space.
NEW WINDFARM SET TO GENERATE ELECTRICITY FOR MAHE BEFORE END OF YEAR
Information was received from Victoria overnight that an Abu Dhabi / UAE based clean energy company will commission the archipelagos first wind turbine power plant, thought to go on line as early as before the end of December. Initiated as part of a wide ranging cooperation agreement between the governments of the Seychelles and the United Arab Emirates, the new power plant will provide clean renewable energy for the main island of Mahe and is likely to commence operations with an initial feed of up to 18 MW into the national grid. Once on line the wind power plant will be expanded further to add reserves to the national electricity production and allow for a reduction in the generation of electricity by the relatively expensive diesel and heavy fuel oil propelled plants, which are heavy on emissions and costly to run. Seychelles has a few months ago launched a visionary plan involving the increased use of clean and sustainable energy, promoting solar and wind energy and the expected commissioning of the new plant not far from the port is seen as a first step into that direction.
Only recently was it reported here that an Abu Dhabi funded team was to develop a new master plan for the capital Victoria, with the introduction of a wide range of sustainable components. Watch this space.
SEYCHELLES PRESIDENT OPENS NEW COAST GUARD BASE
A brand new base for the Seychelles Coast Guard was opened yesterday by President James Michel at Ile Perseverance in the presence of high ranking visitors from the United Arab Emirates, which funded the construction of the new facility and gave it to the Seychelles as a gift. Previously had the UAE also gifted several new ocean going high speed patrol boats to the Seychelles, allowing the archipelago to stage a determined and robust fight back against the ocean terrorists from Somalia.
The UAE and the Seychelles maintain warm and friendly relations, underscored by regular official and private visits of the respective heads of state and other government delegations. In fact, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, has established a personal residence high above Victoria on the site previously occupied by a US surveillance station cementing the close ties between the two countries.
The new naval base also includes the new command centre for the Seychelles Coast Guard besides a number of added facilities like a helicopter base, maintenance and repair facilities fit for any major shipyard and state of the art quarters and offices for the Coast Guard personnel.
When discussing the opening of the base by email overnight with a regular source on the islands, the mood was overwhelmingly positive: our ties with the UAE have gone from strength to strength since President Michel came to office. They have donated to us this brand new navy installation, and several major patrol vessels, which has allowed our country to take the fight to the pirates and make shipping within our national waters and across the economic exclusion zone safer. Only the other day was it made public that we are now offering armed protection to vessels coming to Victoria harbour or transiting across our waters. This new facility is timely and was urgently needed. I know you are keen to write about this because our ties with the UAE are also impacting on tourism. Two of the UAEs flag airlines are now flying here, Emirates from Dubai is coming 12 times a week and Etihad from Abu Dhabi has just started flights 4 times a week but want o increase to daily flights also. This is very important for our tourism industry. It helps fill the beds of resorts, it offers enough seats for visitors and helps to promote Seychelles abroad. It really supports and assists the efforts of our tourism board and our private sector stakeholders.
Our government has struggled to develop the country and has taken with gratitude and appreciation the offers from the UAE. Earlier this year, when we had a severe water shortage, their President personally intervened and shipped us several new desalination plants which mitigated the worst shortages immediately. I think we need to appreciate this and not constantly talk of sell outs when we are the main beneficiaries of close diplomatic and commercial relations brought about by President Michel.
True words indeed which manifest themselves in action and material assistance while the flights from the UAE to the Seychelles are becoming more and more the backbone of the archipelagos tourism industry and most important air link after the national airline Air Seychelles.
Watch this space for regular and often breaking news updates from the Seychelles many islands and the going ons in tourism, aviation and conservation.
(State House Victoria all decked out in national colours earlier this year ahead of the swearing in of President Michel for another term of office)
The famous landmark State House in Victoria, now seat of the President and previously the mansion of the British colonial governors, is turning 100 years old this week. Already open for visits by tourists one day a week, when guided tours are conducted through the manicured gardens and along the historic buildings, a special ceremony later this morning will be held in the grounds of State House to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the building being completed and first occupied in 1911.
Tourists on the island right now will also be able to purchase commemorative postal stamps, which are being launched to coincide with the event, and those lucky to secure a spot in the guided tour this week or next week will be able to go home and tell the story of the Seychelles not just offering a pristine environment over 50 percent of the archipelago is under special protection as nature and marine reserves but also full of history.
Happy Birthday it is then and many more returns in full splendour, if a building can receive such good wishes that is.
SEYCHELLES TO ARM FISHING VESSELS, OFFERS ARMED PROTECTION TO SHIPPING
Information was received from Victoria yesterday that the government has in the face of a recent abduction by Somali ocean terrorists of two Seychellois fishermen stepped up the ante by granting armed escorts to all fishing boats under the national flag. Reportedly did Home Affairs Minister Joel Morgan also point to the fact that none of the foreign flagged fishing vessels with armed escorts on board had been hijacked and that in the past months any attempt to capture one of them was successfully repelled.
The Seychelles were the first country to actively and robustly engage the ocean terrorists and recaptured in the past hijacked vessels by using appropriate force, disabling and sinking pirate motherships and skiffs and bringing the criminals to swift justice in the courtrooms of Victoria.
New is that foreign vessels, bound for the Seychelles, may now also request armed guards to be flown to their previous port of call to join the ships for armed protection, at a cost that is, and will then also be accompanied to their next port of call after leaving the Seychelles, a strong commitment by the Seychelles government to protect their national interests which are threatened by ocean terrorists who pose a clear and present danger. The move was hailed by supporters of robust and determined responses against the menace while the usual cry babies have already voiced their concern over the escalation of force, yet have not ever come up with constructive countermeasures aimed to contain ocean terror or how to defeat it.
It is understood from a usually spot on source on Mahe that the offer for armed guards is also available for cruise ships wishing to call on Victoria harbour, in order to bring back the big ocean liners with their big revenues to the archipelago. A request has reportedly also been made to the Nepalese government to provide at least a company of the famous Ghurkas to the Seychelles which can be used to deploy alongside the regular Seychellois units already fighting ocean terror, and as the reputation as fearsome fighters precedes the Ghurkas also part of elite units in the UK armed forces the pirates would be well advised to think long and hard before attempting to incur the wrath and fierce mentality of such battle hardened men on board of ships. This correspondent can only welcome the move by the Seychelles government and encourage others to follow suit and and fight back. Watch this space.
AIR SEYCHELLES DROPS SINGAPORE AS RESTRUCTURING CONTINUES
News broke today that Air Seychelles will, effective 22nd November 2011, drop its once a week flight between Mahe and Singapore, throwing a spanner in the works of promoting the archipelago in this part of the Far East but at the same time keeping an eye on cost cutting measures.
The development does not come completely unexpected as new CEO Bram Stellar, now in office for just about 6 weeks, has set out to look at each and every aspect of the airlines operation, fleet and destinations with the aim to reduce cost and help HM survive in an increasingly tough aviation market.
Already have two of the five B767 aircraft been returned to ILFC, following successful negotiation to end the leases for the two -200 versions prematurely, leaving Air Seychelles with three B767-300 to operate the routes to London, Paris, Milan, Rome and Johannesburg.
Passengers already booked well in advance on the Singapore to Mahe route will be contacted by the airline and offered alternatives, but once the last flight has been concluded, traffic to and from the Seychelles to the Far East will depend on such airlines as Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad, which are operating up to 25 flights from the Gulf to Mahe per week by the end of this year and offer convenient connections to Singapore and beyond to China and other key Far and South Eastern destinations.
It is understood that other destinations too are subject to performance review under the ongoing restructuring process and any further emerging news will be reported right here in real time.
And once again, in closing, some worthwhile material from The Livingstone Weekly, produced week in and week out by Gill Staden, thank you! The story of the sad demise of the lesser spotted eagle in particular has caught my eye this week as it shows that superstition still rules, here at the expense of a tagged and collar fitted bird, bringing her life, and the research, to an abrupt end. The following story about a client experience while on safari is equally sad and such practices should be banned, the camp owners named and shamed and boycotted.
I also note the consequent stand taken by Gill to rather face temporary disruption of her domain than leaving it with a company which to blatantly promotes the macho image of its founder and his misguided pride for having killed an elephant, especially when reading the following story about the Kafue elephants and seeing the pictorial. Way to go Gill for your principled stand and I hope that more dump the GoDaddy host.
Hiccup ahead for the Weekly
My domain is registered with a company called GoDaddy. It is about to expire. So I may go off-air for a while. I have decided not to renew with that company. The founder, Bob Parsons, put a video on the internet of him killing an elephant. Here is his comment: It takes a guy like me to protect villagers’ crops from rogue elephants.
I cant tell you my comment to a statement like this it is unprintable …
From a website:
GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons posts a video showing him shooting an elephant. Parsons says the kill, in Zimbabwe, gave local farmers meat and protected their crops. Animal rights group PETA launches an online boycott of GoDaddy.
So, … I have no idea what will happen and may find myself getting a different domain. Just dont panic … The Weekly will continue …
During our travels in Kafue National Park in October we went north towards Lake Itezhi-Tezhi to see the elephant orphanage at Camp Phoenix. It is necessary to let them know that you are on the way, but Nanzhila Plains Safari Lodge will do that for you.
Venice and I trundled through the park watching the animals, taking photos and getting bitten by tsetse fly. All part of the fun. By the Nkala River we found Camp Phoenix and were told that the elephants would soon be arriving from their walk in the bush.
Before we could enter the elephant boma we had to don a green coat and pass infection control by walking through a dip and washing our hands. Each elephant has its own sleeping quarters all within one shelter with lots of grass to sleep on. Their feeding regime is written up on a board and all milk and pellets ready for feeding time.
When the elephants had marched back into camp with their keepers the two youngest ones were given a bottle of milk and the older ones a bucket of pellets.
After feeding time the elephants were left to relax in a nearby pool of water. The little ones were not very good at spraying themselves with water to cool down so, eventually, two of them decided that a sleep in the pond would be a better way of getting wet all over.
Meanwhile on the other side of the pond, Chidoba, the oldest, was using her trunk to push Rufunsa, the youngest, into the water.
We watched the elephants for about half an hour as they relaxed and realised how special a place this is
To raise orphaned elephants is not an easy job. Elephants are very intelligent animals and the bond between mother and baby is strong. When the mother is poached and the baby left alone, it not only dehydrates it also suffers extreme stress. A young elephant is dependent on its mother for 2 years, after that it becomes a member of the herd but will not mature for many years after that. Females can only conceive after about 9 years; males reach maturity at 10, although they are unlikely to be sufficiently dominant to father offspring until they are 35 years.
There are six elephants at the orphanage Chidoba, Chamlandu, Batoka, Tafika, Kafue and Rufunsa. They and their keepers have developed a special bond of friendship, a family which offers support. The keepers are so attached to their wards and care deeply for them.
The orphanage is supported by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. David Shepherd, although now over 80 years old, is still tireless in his efforts to raise money for wildlife conservation all over the world. He and his family, though, have a special fondness for Zambia as it was home for them for many years.
Satellite-tagged Lesser Spotted Eagle killed in Zambia
A satellite tagged Lesser Spotted Eagle from Romania was killed in northern Zambia out of superstition
On 24 October 2011 Tom Papp, President of the Milvus Group, received a letter from Zambia, David Chisala Ngwenyama a researcher who is following our online eagle tracking project and believes that one of our lesser spotted eagles was killed by locals:
"I am a researcher in Zambia’s Bangweulu Swamps and came across a story that I thought may be related to one of the Lesser Spotted Eagles your organisation is tracking. A few days ago some villagers in Kawambwa killed an Eagle, which according to the description had 2 rings and a solar powered satellite transmitter. Looking at your map, it seems that one of the Eagles from your project was in the area at the time. Could you please verify if you have lost track of one of the birds. I have attached the story below.
Best regards, David
David Chisala Ngwenyama, Bangweulu Shoebill Research
The letter was copied to the local press. Gadgets, which turned out to be a satellite transmitter and two rings, were believed by locals from Mutoba Village to have magical powers and therefore the eagle was beaten and burned to death:
Magic Bird Hacked and Burnt In Kawambwa
By Godfrey Chikumbi in Kawambwa
An eagle believed to be superstitious was yesterday hacked and burnt to ashes in Kawambwa after it failed to fly for safety.
In what is believed to be a bizarre incident, a group of people from Mutoba village located 25 kilometers away from Kawambwa boma yesterday morning found what was believed to be a magic bird in the nearby bush. Narrating the ordeal to tumfweko.com village headman Mutoba said the bird fell from a tree that was being cut. He said when the bird fell down it lost strength and became so weak that it failed to make a flight as it was decorated with ornaments of different kind.
The headman said the creature had a metallic silver ring on each leg with inscriptions on them saying the right ring had letters USA with the left having 1995. He said on its chest the bird had a small Television screen with a solar panel and battery connected to it. The traditional leader added that on the birds back was a small motor car attached to a motorbike. Headman Mutoba said when some people started beating the creature with sticks it showed no sign of losing its life until after 3 hours. He said the creature was later burnt to ashes after hours of watching it.
We already suspected something was wrong with Lisa, born in Brasov County on 8th July 2011 and later fitted with a satellite transmitter. The last GPS co-ordinates were recorded on 15th October. This was followed by satellite broadcasts on October 18, 21 and 24, after which the transmitter became silent and no more messages were sent from her. In a letter sent by David Chisala Ngwenyama, he explains everything: the location indicated by the coordinate of the last record from the transmitter, and the described killing and burning at the same place and time … arising from religious fanaticism, cruelty and human stupidity the victim being an eagle.
Here is Lisa:
And, here is Lisas 8,535 km journey to her death in northern Zambia:
Lisas 37 day voyage began on September 9, 2011. On 13 September she crossed the Bosporus and four days later reached Turkey. The Belen Pass on September 17, took between 6-8 hours to cross and in two days she reached the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula. Six days later, on 25th September, Lisa successfully left the Peninsula and finally succeeded in getting through the Suez Canal, reaching Africa and the Egyptian Nile Valley. She then travelled undisturbed across Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda. On 10th October she crossed the Equator. The last flight co-ordinates were recorded in Zambia on 15th October, having travelled 8,535km.
From Birdlife Zambia
Mfuwe Lodge, South Luangwa
Cathy Goody, Zambian Ornithological Society [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Not long after our arrival, we were trying to relax after an early start to the day, sitting on our balcony overlooking the stream, already considering the political correctness of finding a shot-gun to hush up a pair of demented fish-eagles, when one flew across to our chalet and went out of sight just to one side and below us. The other followed, but went to the other side, again, just out of sight. At that moment a Hadeda flew out from where the first one had disapppeared, with said Fish Eagle just behind it. At this point I realised that they had purposely flushed it out and we watched in amazement as the hapless Ibis flew to the other side of the clearing and tried to get enough height to reach to the treetops.
It stood no chance – the Fish Eagle simply grabbed it effortlessly in its claws and took it down to the ground where it just kept re-adjusting its grip until, after about 15 minutes, the Hadeda ceased to struggle and lunch could begin. Interestingly, the second Fish Eagle did not partake in the spoils, but just left the area. What a start to the holiday!
New Mining Licences in the proposed Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Park
Conservancy and Tourism Association of Matabeleland has complained to government over the issuance of mining licences to four mining companies in the Gwaai-Shangani area. The Environmental Management Agency has warned of environmental damage should full-scale mining go ahead.
It seems, however, that although the companies are required to submit and Environmental Impact Assessment, some are already operating without them.
More Mining Worries
A Chinese-owned milling company in Shamva is milling ore to extract gold. Mercury is used in the process.
After separation, the balance of the ore is dumped in a huge pile which is now approximately 15 feet high, 30 feet wide and 60 feet long and the complainants are concerned that there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that the mercury is removed from the waste ore prior to dumping.
There are concerns that when the rain comes the mercury will be washed out of the dump and find its way into the Mazoe River. The mercury will kill the fish and can also cause many illnesses in humans including cancer.
Chelsea Whyte, contributor
(Image: Michael Raimondo/Green Renaissance/WWF)
A flying rhinoceros is about as likely as a flying pig, but this picture is no exaggeration.
The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) airlifted 19 black rhinos out of the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, moving them 1500 kilometres north to the Limpopo province to put the rhinos out of range of poachers.
The rotund animals, which can weigh between 800 and 1400 kilograms, were anesthetised and blindfolded before being lifted by their ankles with long straps connected to a helicopter. After a ten-minute flight, the rhinos are transferred to trucks, which transport them the rest of the journey. This new technique for relocating large animals reduces the stress on the rhinos and eases transportation through dangerous or uneven areas.
"Previously rhinos were either transported by lorry over very difficult tracks, or airlifted in a net," says project leader Jacques Flamand. "This new procedure is gentler on the darted rhino because it shortens the time it has to be kept asleep with drugs, the respiration is not as compromised as it can be in a net and it avoids the need for travel in a crate over terrible tracks."
This group of 19 rhinos is the seventh population that WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project has relocated. There are only 4500 members of the species left globally.
Seven Natural Wonders of the World
I was always under the impression that the Seven Natural Wonders of the World were the Victoria Falls, Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef, Harbor of Rio de Janeiro, Mount Everest, Aurora and Parícutin volcano. It seems, though, that a Swiss-based organisation decided that there should be another list the New 7 Wonders of the World.
Since 2007 they have been collecting photos and information of spectacular sights, making a final list of around 28, and then plugging them to governments and organisations. The cost of entry was US$199. Finally on 11.11.11, there was a global vote via the internet and the New 7 Wonders were chosen:
Amazon, Halong Bay, Iguazu Falls, Jeju Island, Komodo, Puerto Princesa Underground River, Table Mountain.
One can only wonder why this organisation took it upon themselves to find a new list and to take so much effort and go to such obvious costs Here are some comments:
A four-year long competition to name the seven wonders of the natural world has run into controversy after governments accused the organisers of asking for millions of dollars in marketing costs.
But after initially paying a registration fee of $199 (£125) to enter, each country was then asked to take part in a high-profile global marketing campaign that included a world tour.
In May, the Maldives government moved to withdraw from the competition after receiving a "surprise" demand for half a million dollars. They were followed in August by the Indonesian government, representing Komodo Island national park, who said the organisers wanted $10m dollars in licensing fees and $47m dollars to host the closing ceremony.
Gordon Oliver, a former mayor of Cape Town, whose Table Mountain is on the shortlist, told the Cape Times: "What authority does this organisation have to determine a natural wonder as a finalist? It’s important that our authorities get the credentials of such organisations who set themselves up as the authority to decide the prominence of natural features."
And, finally from the Cape Times
By Tony weaver
BAH! Humbug! Thats my own personal reaction to the campaign to have Table Mountain declared one of the New7Wonders of the natural world. Wat n klomp tos, as my late friend, Ronnie Morris would have said.
Besides the fact that the entire campaign has absolutely no standing internationally, why should we be particularly worked up about trying to get some Swiss company that is making billions of bucks to declare our mountain one of the new wonders of the world?
Sure, Table Mountains a nice piece of rock, but it really is nothing more than an accident of erosion. If you want to make geologist jokes, you could say it is a gneiss big inselberg.
I also think that the people whove put together this New Seven Wonders campaign are remarkably unimaginative: Table Mountain is just so in your face, so obvious. A bit like Kilimanjaro, the only other contender from Africa (at least the cloud on Table Mountain lifts from time to time so that we can actually see our lump of rock, as opposed to the poor residents of Moshi and Arusha in Tanzania, who seldom get to see what Kili actually looks like.)
I mean, there are hundreds of other natural events and features in Africa that could have qualified, but then, I suppose that when youre running a marketing campaign to make some bucks, you dont want to promote anything that cant pay its own way with branding, merchandising and logo copyrighting. Call me cynical, but Ill bet their marketing guys looked at our genuine natural wonder, the Cape Floral Kingdom and the fynbos biome and said geez, how do we design a logo that shows 8 000 plants?
Even harder to stick on a logo (and lets face it, you cant really get warm and fuzzy about them) are the eight million fruit bats that migrate every November from the Congo to the Mushitu swamp forest in the Bangweulu Wetlands of Zambias Kasanka National Park. Its the worlds biggest animal migration, but I suppose that doesnt really qualify as a natural wonder because there is only limited and difficult access to the area, and the surrounding tribespeople cant really afford the branding fees.
If you look carefully at the 28 finalists that this Swiss company has elevated to the final countdown to their seven new natural wonders of the world, they are all international tourist attractions. Why? Because they are accessible to western travellers and are easy to market (with access to tourism dollars to pay for the branding).