Archive for April, 2010

Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean report Fourth Edition April 2010

News from ‘Uganda – Gifted by Nature’, the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Fourth edition April 2010

 

Uganda News

GATELY ON NILE TURNS 10

 

(Merryde cutting the anniversary cake at the Gately on Nile’s 10th ‘birthday party’)

A decade ago this correspondent sat on the terrace of the just opened Gately on Nile with proprietor Merryde Loosemore, enjoying their ‘signature dish’ Quiche de Maison and preparing to write an article for what was then East Africa’s leading leisure magazine, Travel News of Nairobi / Kenya. Merryde had a few months earlier taken out a long term lease on a dilapidated residential property overlooking the part of Lake Victoria where it begins to turn into the River Nile, just a few hundred metres away from the erstwhile ‘Rippon Falls’ where the river initially started its long journey to the Mediterranean Sea. Construction of the Owen Falls dam in the 1950’s then submerged these spectacular falls (as seen on archived pictures) and moved ‘the spot’ further down to the current location of the ‘source of the Nile’.

Intense renovations took place during those weeks, with Merryde by her own admission working around the clock, to meet her target opening date in April 2000 and to stay on top of the work to ensure the project was delivered on budget.

Jinja was beginning to emerge as ‘the adventure capital of East Africa’, courtesy of several rafting and adventure companies drawing in the crowds for rafting, kayaking, quad biking, bungee jumping and horseback riding and more quality accommodation was required to meet the growing demand. The nearby golf club and sailing club offer added attractions of course for visitors’ intent to ‘work out’ a little more.

The Gately on Nile, named after Merryde’s adventurous auntie she told me, became an instant ‘hit’, for guest staying in the homely atmosphere – including being able to go downstairs to the restaurant at night and fetch drinks before telling the bar staff in the morning to put it on the bill – but also for the restaurant which soon made it to the top of the list for eating out in Jinja.

Some years ago Merryde then managed to obtain a lease for the building and large plot next door and incorporated a second property into the Gately, now offering more rooms, more facilities but still the very same warm hospitality, good ‘home cooked’ food and most important, the owners attention to detail.

Last Saturday evening a large crowd assembled at the Gately in Jinja to help Merryde and her staff celebrate the achievement of turning ‘10’ and a very hearty ‘happy birthday’ it was for them all. For more information visit www.gately-on-nile.com or write to gately@utlonline.co.ug

Another ‘Gately’ is also found now in Entebbe, enroute to the airport, convenient for those who could not get enough of their hospitality in Jinja.

 

NDEGE JUU GETS NEW BOARD CHAIRMAN

Patrick Bitature, a well known local business man and also presently service as chairman of the Uganda Investment Authority, was earlier in the week introduced as the new chairman of the board of directors of Ndege Juu, a domestic charter airline based at the Kajjansi airfield just outside Kampala, along the main road to Entebbe.

Ndege Juu commenced operations in 2008, as reported at the time by this correspondent, and has since then gradually established itself as a serious player in the otherwise hard fought over domestic aviation market. Their fleet is best known for operating the ‘branded’ MTN plane, which is used to enhance MTN’s marketing activities across the country ‘from the air’.

 

 

CHOGM ‘HUNTERS’ NOW LAY INTO CAA

Top Civil Aviation Authority management got a roasting last week when the public accounts committee of parliament laid heavily into them, demanding answers about changed (upwards of course) contract values, alleged overpricing, payments without retaining withholding taxes, and in the absence of formal payment vouchers, and shoddy work ahead of the 2007 Commonwealth Summit. The massive expenditures incurred by government, prior to and just ahead of the summit in November 2007, continue to excite the mostly opposition parliamentarians on the committee, as they are now less than a year ahead of a general election and while they seek to find culprits and those responsible for not getting value for money. Read all about the latest interrogations of those appearing before the parliamentary committee and subsequent additional questioning of them by CID officers attached to parliament, and the possible fallout for those concerned, via www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/904060/-/wxxm0x/-/index.html

 

MARASA STAFF CHANGES

It was learned late last week that Marasa, the Madhvani Group company overseeing their tourism and hospitality investments in Uganda, has ahead of the opening of the newly restored Chobi Safari Lodge in the upper part of Murchisons Falls reshuffled their senior managers.

Long serving Richard Hodgson moves from Mweya Safari Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park to oversee the final pre-opening phase at Chobi, which will offer 36 rooms in the main building, 21 superior self contained tents on elevated platforms or vantage view points along the river, 4 suites and one VIP cottage. Located along a stretch of white-water of the river Nile the lodge was of old a much sought after place for river fishing but will in the future appeal to ‘non-fishermen’ too considering the added features like conference facilities. Mweya’s loss will undoubtedly be Chobi’s gain.

New in Mweya, and taking over from Richard there, will be a Mr. Renier Botes from South Africa who brings with him a wealth of experience from previous appointments.

Good friend Kenneth Mugira is also leaving the Paraa Safari Lodge, returning to Kenya to take over the first Marasa property there, as told in another article in this week’s edition and will be replaced by another new face, Kenyan Crispus Nguraru Mwamidi who will be managing the ‘jewel on the Nile’ as the lodge has been dubbed in their promotional material.

Welcome to the new faces and good luck to all of them and Kwaheri Ya Kuonana to Kenneth, whose competence and friendly disposition will be much missed by this correspondent.

 

CONTROVERSY BREWS OVER CONCESSION AGREEMENTS

Information was leaked to the media last week indicating a possible change of government’s policy to stick to and uphold contracts entered into with private sector investors, when news surfaced that apparently existing terms and conditions for lodges in national parks were set to be altered, according to public statements made by the Minister of Tourism.

In the early 1990’s, when investors in Uganda’s tourism industry were few and far between, the then Uganda National Parks, legal predecessor of UWA, offered concessions, lasting between 20 and 30 years to those ‘early birds’ who were willing to take the risk of investing.

One of the investments, due to a deteriorating security situation then in the Northern park of Murchisons’, soon went ‘belly up’, was foreclosed, put into administration and then sold to the cash solvent Madhvani Group, which not long before had also acquired the main concession for the Queen Elizabeth National Park’s Mweya Safari Lodge.

Cognizant of the fact, that investors would need a long financial breath to see results from their investments in the tourism sector, UNP had at the time offered exclusion zones of varying radiuses to the concessionaires, to avoid ‘competition’ building literally next door – and it is understood that someone intends to build near the Paraa Safari Lodge – so that a return on the massive investments could eventually be achieved. Most of these first investments faced long periods of sustained losses, justifying the demand for such exclusion zones to the fullest extent, as only the financially strong lodge owners eventually saw their bottom line improve.

Sites outside the parks are of course available on private land or government land, but often rejected by investors, unlike in Tanzania, where TANAPA strictly enforces in for instance the Serengeti a policy of ‘no more lodges’ inside the park, often reported about here.

New investors in the now gradually expanded tourism industry in Uganda have regularly questioned these exclusion zones embedded in existing contracts, but so far government has relied on opinions from for instance the Solicitor General’s Office and the AG’s Office, confirming that existing contracts are ‘air tight’ and government would either need to wait until the present concessions are due for renewal or else be prepared to pay mega money in compensation to existing operators with at times still well over 10 years ‘on the clock’.

While the Ministry of Tourism did not comment on specific questions raised by the time of posting this report, there was also the inconsistency of a statement attributed to the Minister, who reportedly mentioned that the Uganda Investment Authority would soon advertise for investors, while by law it is in fact the Uganda Wildlife Authority to advertise for concessions. Again, this discrepancy was not addressed either and the legal validity as well as the political sense of the announcement is now coming under scrutiny.

All parties in fact remained rather guarded in the few responses received, but it is clear that, should the existing concessions be altered unilaterally, government would be in for a decisive court battle, and potential investors could count on court injunctions to be granted on application, to stop any negotiations, agreements or building activity until the principal suit would be determined, which can take many years of course, considering the appeal provisions, and in the end undoubtedly resulting in a massive multimillion US Dollars compensation for affected ‘first round’ investors.  Watch this space as this saga continues.

 

UWA CONFIRMS SITATUNGA HUNTING

Recent reports about the Sitatunga gazelle now being officially on the hunting list were confirmed last week by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, causing the predictable outcry amongst dyed in the wool conservationists on one side while those in favour of hunting considered it a step to open up hunting in the entire country, and hoping for hunting blocks or areas to be established as concessions.

There is amongst the more mature conservationists however still the concern about game numbers, which prompted at least some of them in communications with this correspondent to voice their concern, if not outright demand that this MUST be ascertained first before hunting for any species should be granted, while there is also of course a group categorically opposed to the consumptive use of wildlife, inspite of this being embedded in the amended Wildlife Act under ‘wildlife use rights’.

Where UWA could defuse some of the arguments would be by publicly availing the findings of the erstwhile ‘pilot hunting project’ outside the Lake Mburu National Park, an issue still raising the temperature amongst the hardline ‘anti hunting’ activists and in a public forum state their intent and discuss their way of going about the introduction of new hunting areas and granting of relevant concessions. Building consensus would clearly be the best option to bring diverse interests together towards an ultimately common objective, which is wildlife conservation.

It was also pointed out to this correspondent that UWA’s heavy leaning towards the Southern African school of thought could also open the door to ‘canned hunting’ a much condemned activity ‘down South’ which has come under increased criticism before criticising the lack of governmental intervention to stop illegal poaching outside the protected areas, where a profitable trade in game meat appears to be going on and growing, according to some sources. Here, it was said, the police needs to be working hand in hand with UWA enforcement and intelligence personnel to bring this menace to a halt. Upon questioning the sources conceded that they do make a difference between subsistence hunting and commercial poaching, but were firm that the latter must be tackled by the country’s law enforcement bodies immediately.

While hunters and anti hunters will arguably never really see eye to eye, it is only opportune to give the UWA CEO the opportunity to comment on the questions posed to him and allow his view to be published here too, a move which in the past has drawn criticism for this correspondent but is in his opinion only fair, as well as beneficial for all others to be able to read a clear position taken to the question:

eTN: ‘I recently saw a German weblink claiming the Sitatunga gazelle is up for hunting in Uganda.’

 

Mr. Moses Mapesa:

‘On Sitatunga, as you may know that this is the easiest antelope to hunt

traditionally. It is easy to trap along the swamps with traditional nets or

spear.  In the last 2 decades lots of Sitatunga have been traditionally

hunted wherever they occur in swamps outside Protected Areas. This was after

their numbers had drastically gone up especially in Central Uganda because

of the War.

 

On the Sesse Islands, Sitatunga hunting tremendously increased with

increased logging and the palm oil project. There is no UWA presence on

these Islands.

 

It is against that background that we decided to lisence Sitatunga Sport

Hunting, rather than have them exterminated through traditional hunting.

 

With the Sport Hunting program the traditional hunters aid the sport hunters

and therefore do not loose out, they earn some money, they take the meat,

and only a few animals are taken out. They then participate in conservation

and protection of the animal as an economic resource.

 

Controlled hunting programs in Europe and South Africa have proven

conservatives wrong about the no hunting policy, especially where land is

owned privately as is the case for where (illegal) Sitatunga hunting has

been happening over the years.  To win over the land owners, traditional

policing by a government agency is rarely successful but economic incentives

do work.

 

eTN: ‘If you say that the poaching of the Sitatunga is reducing in areas where hunting is now permitted – how many areas by the way are those and located where – what is happening in areas which are not protected but where poaching is nevertheless illegal and a serious worry about the viability of the species’ long term survival?’

 

Mr. Moses Mapesa:

‘As you would appreciate, there are no quick fix solutions to conservation

challenges. We believe the intervention will ultimately check poaching or

“illegal” hunting of Sitatunga and other wild animals. To the communities

there is nothing illegal about their traditional hunting expeditions. We are

now seeking cooperation on how best to utilize the resources. We want to be

partners and not “enemies” in conservation with the local communities and

private landowners.

We have noticed interest from land owners where we have not started the interventions.

Infact our pilot was around a few ranches near L. Mburo but

the demand to participate in the collaborative management of wildlife has

been overwhelming. So now we cover Kafu Basin, Aswa Lolim area, Karamoja

and Kalangala. We want to take advantage of the positive attitude where

communities and local government leaders now appreciate wildlife as a viable

economic investment.

We are picking lessons from Southern Africa, we have had a team of farmers

visit Zimbabwe early this year.

But I must emphasize that the outcomes of this intervention can only be

measured over a few years and if we can sustain the cooperation that we have

cultivated. At the same time we must all be aware that with competing

economic land use practices unless wildlife can be seen to contribute to the

local and national economy including individual livelihoods (the reason

people poach) we would be fighting a losing battle with the no touch policy

or with the so-called ban on hunting as experience and studies in many

places has shown.

A key issue of course is control. But the controls must evolve through a

system of mutual trust and dialogue not just policing per se. Policing can

only complement.

 

Adds this correspondent in closing: the ball is now in the public court where undoubtedly the debate will go on for some time and it can only be hoped that a mutually acceptable and all round beneficial solution will ultimately be agreed upon.

 

REPORTS ON SECURITY PRESENCE IN MURCHISONS ‘NOT CORRECT’ SAYS UWA

A report in last week’s edition (Oil companies come under scrutiny) has drawn a comment from UWA in regard of alleged comments made by some of their staff, and then reported in the local media and here, over the presence of security personnel inside protected areas, in particular in Murchisons Falls National Park. As was expected UWA welcomed the support the country’s security services offer UWA to keep parks safe and categorically denied that there was any rift or disagreement between the two bodies. UWA’s CEO Moses Mapesa also availed this response to a relevant question: …’on Murchison, the statement was very wrong. We

work with the UPDF very well. We only said we shall require additional security now that we have oil and may have to locate more security camps inside the park but keep all workers camps outside. It is the worker’s camps that are problematic.’

Duly noted and published!

 

EGYPT MAKES NEW WATER PACT OF RIPARIAN STATES A MATTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY

As it is becoming evident, that the ‘producer countries’ of the Nile waters are indeed intent to commence the signing of a new agreement by mid of May, Egypt has once more resorted to intimidation and thinly veiled threats, as information from sources close to the negotiating teams has now revealed.

Calling the intended pact now a ‘matter of national security’ has raised the stakes once again, although the Egyptian delegation has in the past been accused to use even more threatening words in private conversations to clearly bully the riparian states into giving in to the Egyptian demands based on the outdated and forced down the throat agreements of 1929 and 1959.

Alongside Egypt is also engaged in an economic aid and assistance roll out to ‘buy’ East Africa’s sympathy through bilateral and multilateral projects, as one more outspoken source in Nairobi put it, while a source in Kigali confirmed that while Rwanda is interested in good relations with Egypt and encouraged investments from there, this would not be at the price of foregoing their say over their water resources. Follow this story in coming weeks as the new treaty between Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo and Ethiopia is put up for signature from the 15th of May onwards.

 

NEW ROAD TO KISORO ALREADY BREAKING UP – BEFORE IT IS READY?

The long awaited new tarmac road connecting the two South-Western Ugandan towns of Kabale and Kisoro is reportedly already developing cracks before it is even handed over by the contractors to government. The recent very heavy rains across the country may well be a reason for the cracks which have in recent weeks become visible at the road shoulders, causing enough concern for government to bring in consultants, engineers and consultants for a full assessment of the damage, before deciding on what to do next along the affected sections of the road.

The consultants’ report will hopefully shed some light on the origin of the cracks and fissures, and establish if the rains alone were the cause of if poor materials were used in construction, or else earth tremors responsible for the problems.

Kisoro offers short access to Uganda’s two gorilla national parks of Mgahinga and Bwindi and is also close to the border to Rwanda and Congo. The town is surrounded by steep volcanic mountains and extensive tropical rain forests not to forget the various lakes, making it one of the most scenic locations in the country.

 

EAC INVESTMENT CONFERENCE OPENS IN MUNYONYO

The third East African Community Investment Conference opened earlier in the week in ‘Munyonyo’, the sprawling lakeside resort and conference complex comprising the Speke Resort and the Commonwealth Resort. The organizers expect about 2.000 participants to come to the event during which the region will showcase the many opportunities which exist across East Africa, from Uganda to Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. The latest field to be highlighted will be infrastructural developments like railways, bridges, toll roads but also investments in green energies like geothermal, solar and wind energies, which are both financially viable as well as environmentally friendly, two key elements to attract financing from bilateral and multilateral agencies and development banks.

Agriculture, agro processing, mining, manufacturing and the ICT sector will also feature high on the agenda of talks and in the efforts of the regional investment promotion bodies, all of which have prepared well for the event, trying to attract capital into the EAC.

Meanwhile though were some exhibitors expressing their disappointments and anger, if not worse, over the final run in of setting up their stands and getting their accreditation sorted out, a matter this correspondent too fell foul of, eventually giving up wandering from one part of the resort to the other in search of establishing press credentials, subsequently ending the reporting from the event with this one and only piece.

 

Kenya News

UNLICENSED MARA LODGES CLOSED

Further to recent reports here over allegations that a number of safari lodges and camps in the wider Masai Mara area were operating without licenses, it was learned last week that indeed government had made good of the promise to shut such facilities down upon establishing their status.

At least a dozen unlicensed camps and lodges were closed, with the ministry of tourism mulling over added action, like prosecution and fines, most of them found in the Siana Springs area adjoining the Masai Mara proper. More investigations are also underway into properties under construction to establish that they too have all relevant licenses, including clearance from NEMA and KWS and these findings are likely to produce more action against offenders in due course.

It was pointed out to this correspondent by a reliable source in Nairobi though, that a number of those alleged to operate without a license were ‘invisible’ at this time of the year, as they would only operate during the high season to cater for the increased demand and overflow from other lodges and camps while being overbooked. This, the source said, was :’a problem for the inspectors now, because these camps are now not there, but we will make sure that more inspections go there during high season to track down the culprits’.

The Masai Mara is one of Kenya’s best known tourism attractions and forms the extension into Kenya of the Tanzanian Serengeti National Park, and the annual migration of the wildebeest and zebras moves between the two parks every year, when the big herds follow the rains to find fresh pastures.

In comparison, taking geographical size into account, the wider Masai Mara is thought to be rather overpopulated with lodges, permanent and non permanent safari camps while in contrast the Serengeti has far fewer accommodation facilities, a situation appreciated by conservationists but contested by the developers of new lodge projects in Tanzania, who at present must either choose a site immediately outside of the park or else forego their plans. Watch this space.

 

MARASA ACQUIRES FIRST KENYAN PROPERTY

The company last weekend finally broke their silence and confirmed a ‘secret’ that for those in the know and with links to Kenya’s tourism industry was out of the bag way earlier. Marasa bought their first property in Kenya, expanding their operation from Uganda to East Africa’s (numberwise) most important tourist market, reversing the trend of Kenyan companies coming to Uganda so far. The ‘Mara Leisure Camp’ was taken over earlier in April by Marasa from the previous owners in a low key ceremony and besides the new general manager Kenneth Mugira – who is also doubling as country operations manager for Marasa in Kenya, all staff were retained and absorbed by the new owners.

Located along the Talek River, just outside the official park boundary, the Mara Leisure Camp is offering 29 accommodation units, comprising different sized tents and three cottages, suitable for families and a ‘honeymoon’ tent discreetly set aside from the other units, and of course a pool where visitors can take a refreshing dive in the mid day heat. Visit www.maraleisurecamp.co.ke for more information.

Meanwhile it was also learned from sources in Kenya that sections of the new draft management plan for the greater Masai Mara area projects an increase of 50 percent in fees for foreign non resident visitors to 60 US Dollars a person a day as well as putting a ceiling on balloon operations across the area to keep animal disturbance and off road driving (to retrieve the balloons after landing) to present levels. Both proposals have predictably already met with resistance from affected parties warning of overpricing as a result, but only time will tell how the consultations for the new plan will unfold and what the final results will be.

 

ACTING MINISTER DEFIES PARLIAMENT, APPOINTS NEW KAA CEO

In an act of outright defiance to a directive by the parliamentary committee on transport has the acting transport minister, within hours of receiving his letter confirming his acting capacity in the ministry, appointed a new CEO for the Kenya Airports Authority. The newly appointed Stephen Gichuki was reportedly the ‘wish man’ on former CEO George Muhoho’s list and while parliament had directed the KAA board to start a fresh recruitment exercise, claiming the whole affair was tilted in Gichuki’s favour, the minister has ignored, if not deliberately defied parliament with his action.

The acting minister may well need to prepare himself for another showdown with parliamentarians now in coming days. Parliament had already unanimously censured him two years ago over allegations of his involvement in the ‘give away’ of the Grand Regency Hotel in his then capacity as Finance Minister following which he was forced to resign at the time and he has now graced his political comeback promptly with more controversy it seems. Political patronage in this case was not ruled out by sources in Nairobi, in fact to the contrary rather suggested to this correspondent by usually well informed individuals ‘in the know’.

 

Tanzania News

RAILWAY REPAIRS ON COURSE

The main railway line from Dar es Salaam into the heart of the country, under water some months ago following torrential rains and eventually severely damaged, will be up and running again by late May, it was learned from a source in Tanzania.

Many spots where the rails had been dislodged have already been fixed up and the area of major damage is now the focus of the work teams dispatched there by the railway management.

Engineering personnel of the Tanzanian armed forces reportedly assisted in the repair of crucial sections an the opening up of stations, an effort train users will surely appreciate and thank their ‘men in green’ when opportunity arises.

Services will however only resume when a full inspection of the line has taken place, and on opening the rail will initially carry cargo trains only before passenger services would then follow some time later, when all safety aspects had been reviewed.

In a related development it was also learned that China was interested to participate in the building and modernization of railway lines in Tanzania, connecting Rwanda and Burundi in the future from Isaka. China did build the TAZARA railway between Zambia and Tanzania’s main port of Dar es Salaam and Chinese construction firms are expected to submit bids just as soon as the participating countries are ready to go ahead from the planning into the pre-construction phase.

 

Rwanda News

10 YEAR TOURISM MASTER PLAN LAUNCHED

Within days of the Rwandan cabinet approving the recently developed tourism master plan for Rwanda has the ground breaking document been launched to the tourism industry and society at large in Kigali last week. The document outlines on nearly 200 pages the various hubs of activity across the country, tailored along which the sector will further diversify to add new products alongside the all important gorilla tracking.

Kigali, where visitors to the country arrive by air, is the central ‘hub’ of the tourism industry, while upcountry the following areas have been mapped out for product innovation, the creation of new tourist attractions, the addition of cultural attractions, community based tourism activities and intensified marketing: Volcanoes area, Nyungwe area, Akagera area and the areas around Kibuye and Gisenyi in Western Rwanda.

The Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation, has already over the past year sped up their effort to diversify their marketing efforts, and had targeted successfully bird watching and forest walking, in particular at the Nyungwe National Park, where also a high elevation ‘tree top walk’ is to be established, permitting visitors to spend time high up in the foliage of the tropical rain forest and observe birds and insects directly ‘eye to eye’.

The new master plan also outlines plans for a greater involvement of the country in MICE traffic, by attracting meetings and conventions to Rwanda, now that new facilities have sprung up, are nearing completion or have broken ground in recent months. All the best to Rica and her team to implement all these plans in coming years and bring yet more success for the Rwandan tourism industry.

 

RWANDAIR FLEET DEVELOPMENT UPDATE

Following the announcement of signing for leases of two B737-500 from GECAS did questions arise over earlier statements made that the airline would in fact acquire the NG B737-800 types. It was confirmed that indeed two of these newer and larger aircraft are on order from Boeing and that delivery is due to commence by mid 2011. The leased B737-500’s will in the meantime be used to operate on the airline’s expanding route network, mainly to Johannesburg and Kinshasa, and will very likely be replaced by the newer and more fuel efficient -800’s as and when they are delivered.

The airline, according to sources normally well informed, is also studying the acquisition on lease of a wide body aircraft which could permit RwandAir to fly to new destinations like the Gulf, or even to Europe, where they presently codeshare with Brussels Airlines on the route to Belgium.

 

Southern Sudan News

ELECTION RESULTS CONFIRM WIN FOR SPLM

The President of the semi autonomous region of Southern Sudan, Gen. Salva Kiir, has reportedly won an overwhelming mandate in the South of the country, as has the ruling SPLM overall in the just concluded recent election. Salva Kiir, according to well informed sources in Juba, garnered 93 percent of the votes cast compared to 7 percent by his only serious rival and SPLM break away candidate Lam Akol.

The SPLM is expected to form the new government in the South, although no confirmation was received from Khartoum at the time of going to press if a renewed coalition government on national level would be formed as was the case before under the provisions of the CPA.

The SPLM in the South however has already indicated that they would try to form an inclusive government again, which for the next 9 months would be in charge of running the southern territories until the independence referendum will take place in January 2011.

Considering the margin of winning by the SPLM it now seems a foregone conclusion that a resounding YES vote will be separating the South from the North and make Southern Sudan, blessed with many natural resources and a fiercely proud population, Africa’s newest nation next year. Keep watching this space for news updates.

 

Seychelles News

TOURISM SECTOR PULLED TOGETHER OVER ASH CRISIS

The Director of Tourism Marketing at the Seychelles Tourist Board has commended the archipelago’s tourism sector for some extraordinary efforts taken when tourist visitors, due to leave for home, got ‘stuck’ on the islands in the absence of European airspace being open.

Hotels, resorts, guesthouses and bed and breakfast establishments all pulled together in a variety of ways to ensure such clients had a bed to sleep in and some square meals to keep them going, while Air Seychelles was one of the early ‘birds’ to attempt flying into the Southern European airspace to at least get their passengers back into Europe, even if only as far as Italy or eventually Southern France, before resuming their full flight schedule by Tuesday last week and adding ‘extra’ flights from Mahe to Europe to clear the backlog on both sides swiftly. The availability of a spare B767 helped the airline to achieve this, while other traffic started to arrive and leave again via Kenya Airways (twice a week NBO – SEZ), Emirates and Qatar Airways, the latter of which at last also saw connecting traffic again go underway via their hubs in Dubai and Doha. Flights to other Indian Ocean islands and South Africa had not been affected during the ‘ash crisis’ it was confirmed by a source in Mahe.

Mr. St. Ange was unable at the time of going to press to say exactly just how many visitors had been ‘marooned’ on the archipelago, or how many ultimately could not come for their planned holiday when flights from across Europe were halted, but the ‘dent’ made in arrival statistics will undoubtedly be made up over the course of the year, as the destination continues its aggressive and innovative marketing in the global market. The revenue loss for Air Seychelles and the archipelago’s tourism industry is thought to have run into a combined multi million Euros, similar to the East African tourist destinations too which lost major money through the grounding of aircraft. It was also reported that clients with prepaid holidays to the archipelago, who could not arrive due to the grounded flights, can utilise their accommodation over the next couple of months after coordinating a new date of their holiday with the respective hotels and resorts.

 

Meanwhile has the Seychelles President James Michel congratulated Air Seychelles for their efforts, as copied to this correspondent in a statement from State House in Victoria / Mahe:

 

“This week has proved that the management and staff of Air Seychelles are really flying the Creole spirit. They endured stressful circumstances and delivered a service very few airlines were willing to provide in this aviation crisis. The reputation of the airline and the country have been commended by many, and I join in this applause,” said President Michel.

 

President Michel said that the tourism industry needs to reinforce its capacity to act in a unified manner in times of airline-related crisis, and that destination management companies, hotels and airlines should worker in closer collaboration in the future, in order to lessen the impact of passenger stress and frustration.

“Air Seychelles has done a great job and in this instance has provided a model for others to follow; that in the tourism industry it is crucial to go ‘an extra mile’ to deliver a service that leaves the customer happy and with good memories of Seychelles.”

This correspondent can only agree with these sentiments, in particular as according to reports from Mahe other ‘big’ international airlines, like Emirates, came under sustained criticism of how they dealt with passengers ‘stuck’ on the Seychelles, and while they (Emirates) may have done a sterling job in Dubai, no such thing was evident in Mahe. It is in fact understood that passengers were getting angry and aggravated when their return journey home via Dubai got delayed even further after the European airspace had re-opened, with some passengers in fact told, according to reliable sources, they had to wait until early MAY … No wonder everyone was giving Air Seychelles rave reviews and comments as they repatriated their passengers within three days of the European airspace re-opening but putting on extra flights …

AIR SEYCHELLES MOVES TO NEW OFFICES AT MAHE INTERNATIONAL

   

 

The Seychelles national airline will this weekend move into their purpose built new and owned offices at the international airport on Mahe, bringing almost all departments under one roof, although a ticket and reservation office will remain open in Victoria’s city centre. Headoffice, Marketing, IT and the company secretariat will relocate together, but it is understood that for logistical reasons the airline’s call centre, finance department and corporate sales division will join their colleagues at a later date.

The move will complete another strategic goal set by the management and board of the airline, which will now save substantial lease costs, while at the same time making it easier to be ‘on site’ with the operations department, maintenance and other services previously already located at the airport. Congrats on this event.

At the same time has a new website been commissioned which incorporates state of the art features and a booking and payment engine for travellers wishing to securely book and pay online. The French language version will follow before the end of the month while a German and Italian language version, key markets for Air Seychelles, will be launched in due course.

 

ARRIVAL NUMBERS ‘ON COURSE’

The projections for the 2010 arrival numbers are still on course, inspite of the setback during the ‘ash crisis’ which also affected the Seychelles of course. In particular the markets outside Europe seem to be doing exceedingly well as figures availed to this correspondent from the Seychelles Tourist Board show: Chinese visitors numbers, compared to a year ago, are up by 35 percent, La Reunion – a market courted by STB, is up by 40 percent, South Africa too  responded to the added flights offered by Air Seychelles to Cape Town with a 35 percent arrival increase, East African arrivals rose by 26 percent, giving rise to hope for the third flight by Kenya Airways soon coming into play, but leader of the pack is the UAE, where Emirates has added more flights, leading to an increase of a staggering 136 percent in arrival numbers compared to a year ago.

In a related development it was also confirmed that Qatar Airways will change aircraft equipment from mid 2010 onwards, replacing their single aisle A 319 with A330 wide body equipment. This move is expected to add a further 300 seats on the route per week, supporting the growing appeal the Seychelles have across the Gulf countries but also across the Qatar Airways network, where many passengers now connect in Doha en route to Mahe. Cargo shipments will also benefit as the A330 can carry palletised cargo, unlike the smaller Airbus presently used on the route.

 

 

and today concludes the series of interviews taken with leading conservationists from the Seychelles islands, recorded while on a visit to the archipelago a few weeks ago, this one with the Acting CEO of the Island Conservation Society Mr. Riaz Aumeeruddy:

 

eTN Q1: What are the objectives, the briefs, the main activities of the Island Conservation Society, tell us a little about it.

 

Mr. Aumeeruddy: Our society is registered here as an NGO since 2001 and our main field of activity is conservation of course. One of our major projects is the management of Aride Island, which is about 9 kilometres off Praslin Island. The original owners had already given the island for conservation purposes to a UK based NGO, the Royal Society for Nature Protection, which later became the Royal Society for Wildlife Trust. In 2003, most likely because it was difficult for them to continue manage Aride from so far away, they accepted our offer to manage the island on their behalf, on a lease basis. Since then we have been managing Aride as a nature reserve and marine reserve. We do permit day visitors on the island, tourists mainly, who come in the morning and then leave again in the afternoon. There is no accommodation for tourists, although we have a team of rangers on the island who also live there.

These rangers also conduct the guided tours for visitors, how spend about 5 hours at most on Aride. The main attraction, besides the flora, are the sea birds on the island, of which there are very large numbers and a great variety. We also reintroduced rare birds, like the Seychelles Warbler and the Magpie Robin, which is only found on 5 of the 115 islands of the Seychelles.

Part of our work is monitoring of the habitat and it shows that for the past decades conservation was the main purpose on the island of course.

We do get researchers once in a while from abroad but our limitations are to accommodate them, as we only keep staff houses for our rangers, so that limits us to host more researchers and scientists from abroad. We do have plans to begin a major refurbishment soon, to improve the living conditions for our staff, that will also then offer better facilities for visiting scientists. Once completed this will solve the problem of shared accommodation for staff, giving each one their own privacy, which has been a challenge in regard of retaining staff on the island. In comparison, we receive a lot less visitors than for instance Cousin and Cousine, but offer a very personalised service during the tours across the island, which visitors really appreciate, this type of one on one contact with our guides and staff.

 

Besides managing Aride we also consult in regard of environmental issues on the islands, cooperate with the Island Development Company and give guidance and advice about eco tourism. We did sign an MoU with the IDC, which is a governmental body and oversees the outer islands. We act as conservation advisors and managers for IDC. Here we have capacity limits, we cannot work on all islands, on all possible projects, so we must always make a choice where we go and what we do there.

 

What is relatively new, is that when a developer comes to propose a project on one of these islands, they must commit an agreed amount towards conservation. This is done by forming a foundation for that island, which then manages the funds, and uses funds for conservation and restoration measures. In this foundation the developers are presented, IDC is represented, the Ministry of Environment is represented and we are represented to have a balance vis a vis interests, conservation must always be our top priority.

Our part is then to develop work plans, draw up project proposals, submit budgets for what has to be done or what should be done. We had a good start with this way of operating on the island of Alphonse, where we set up a conservation centre three years ago with permanent staff, just a few, and they look after turtles, plants and birds, coral, fish etc.

Tourism for Alphonse are mostly ‘fly fishermen’ who come normally for a week, and there in conjunction with the hotel our staff give talks to them, give them conservation overviews, do guided tours and explain the do’s and don’ts to visitors. The hotel there pays a royalty per guest into the conservation foundation, which helps to meet the expenses of the conservation work.

 

A similar project is now underway since about May last year on Desroches Island where like for Alphonse we produced a management plan to make sure conservation is always the main focus. These plans cover about 5 years and annual work plans are drawn up accordingly.

 

eTN Q2: Does every island have a separate foundation, is one being set up whenever development is approved somewhere?

 

Mr. Aumeeruddy: Yes, every island gets its own foundation responsible for that location and funded by developers, which is part of looking after the environment.

 

eTN Q3: Are you cooperating with other NGO’s

 

Mr. Aumeeruddy: Yes we do, we recently signed an agreement with the Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles, they are based on the island of Silhouette, and of course we exchange views and seek input from others where special advice is needed, special expertise required. This extends to Nature Seychelles, the Seychelles Island Foundation and others of course.

We did sign an MoU also with D’Arros Island in January to cooperate and share findings and pool resources for training for instance and maybe share logistical support. (eTN did report this at the time).

 

eTN Q4: Would you like to expand your scope, do more?

 

Mr. Aumeeruddy: Oh yes, of course we would like to do more, there is so much to be done, but we are limited by both budget and capacity of staff. For instance we would like to do more on habitat, vegetation restoration even on the islands we are active and have been active for a while, like bringing indigenous vegetation back where old coconut plantations presently exist, but this is a big challenge, financially and logistically. Manpower is a challenge, to find trained competent staff and retain them on these locations, but so is money of course, finding the funds.

One of our staff on Alphonse for instance left in December and I simply could not find a Seychellois with the required background, job competence and experience to replace him, so now we are looking internationally for such a person. This is a lengthy process though but almost inevitable right now.

 

eTN Q5: Where does the funding come from?

 

Mr. Aumeeruddy: Mainly from the foundations, but we also source funds from international bodies for specific projects for which we then write proposals towards that end. Right now we are doing some work for the Indian Ocean Commission like demarcations, so there is always some extra work and income.

 

eTN Q6: Does the piracy issue affect your work?

 

Mr. Aumeeruddy: We are not directly affected, had no direct encounters, but we are now much more careful in our operations to the outer islands, and we know that other projects, further out, are much more careful now in their movement, and of course supply shipments are now an issue, it is more dangerous. In fact some programmes were hindered, tuned down, deferred or delayed, halted, because of these issues and if it takes longer it will have an impact on some areas of research, demarcations, for sure it is not good that way but the scientists are of course careful now to come into areas where there is this type of danger.

 

eTN Q7: Talking of supplies, are you using diesel generators for your project work in Aride or solar panels

 

Mr. Aumeeruddy: We are using a generator on Aride to have electricity, we also got some solar installations but could in the future like to convert to solar exclusively as the operation would become more economical, we could use the funds for diesel and the transport for other activities. I am not too sure about this as the cost is also very high for the installation of solar equipment.

That is on Aride, which we manage but on other island were we work it is IDC supplying the logistics and infrastructure like water and electricity and we only ‘hook up.

On the island of Desroches I remember there were plans to install a heat exchanger for air conditioning. Half of the electrical power is needed to run air condition units. A heat exchanger would pump very cold water from deep ocean levels up to the surface which can then be used, at about 5 degrees, to run the a/c units, but I am not sure how far they have gone there, but as you can see, there are plans to use sustainable and renewable sources of energy by conservation groups working on the islands.

 

eTN Q8: how does your organization relate to tourism, are you broadly in support of tourism activities, what is your policy there, are you advising developers, are you cooperating with them, is there controversy?

 

Mr. Aumeeruddy: many of the smaller islands have small resorts which do not have a lot of impact, and in some cases owners are working towards a greener profile when they renovate and modernize. I think we can help developers in many ways. You see in the past there were many of the smaller outlying islands dedicated to produce copra from coconuts, but that has reduced now, and now these islands have a bit of a problem, their original economic activity has gone and they need something else to do. It is there we advise government and developers about new technologies, best practise.

 

eTN Q9: Does government, do developers actually listen and implement your advice on the ground

 

Mr. Aumeeruddy: we most of the time see good results, because we also discuss it together, and when developers don’t listen, there is not enough we can do really, but mostly they do comply. There is a mechanism when things are agreed and not done, to improve on what developers are doing.

 

eTN Q10: would you think of yourself as the ‘green conscience’ for the islands

 

Mr. Aumeeruddy: well, part of it, everyone of our colleagues is doing their bit, but it does take does take time to build consciousness, change mentality, change people’s thinking, to create awareness of best practise, new technologies, better ways of doing things, we are confident though.

 

eTN Q12: do you work with international development partners, do you get funding support

 

Mr. Aumeeruddy: there are some GEF projects which are being implemented right now across the country, and all the national ones are implemented with and by UNEP. I am sitting on the steering committee of one project, working with our partners, and we can of course bid for project management and implementation.

The problem we all have is the availability of enough local capacity, technical expertise, to do all those project which could be done, so there are manpower limitations for us, for our colleagues across the board, which is a big problem.

But the same problem you have in the hotel sector too, in constructions, in other sectors of the economy, it is a national issue to have enough trained staff, enough competent, experienced and motivated staff from within the Seychelles.

 

eTN Q13: what is your main message for our readers

 

Mr. Aumeeruddy: I think what we aim for is to assist the country to move towards sustainability, so that in 20 or 30 years they still have a good intact environment. We need to combat invasive species where they are found. We are also working with schools on the islands to have children understand our work, environmental issues, and that is going well. The schools have in their curriculum some elements which we can complement, they have eco clubs, wildlife clubs, we would like to do more but simply lack the staff to expand on that.

But we do once a week have a column in the national newspaper, which also gives exposure, widens our reach amongst the population.

We have produced a DVD / CD for use by teachers in school and that is also helping them to propagate this, and the Indian Ocean Commission has in fact given us some funding to produce the material for use in schools and education institutions.

 

Thank you Mr. Aumeeruddy for your time and all the best in the future for your organization.

 

Also see www.islandconservationsociety.com for more details and in particular a complete photo gallery of the ICS’s work on Aride Island.

 

 

Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean report Third Edition April 2010

News from ‘Uganda – Gifted by Nature’, the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Third edition April 2010

Uganda News

NEW BOSS FOR UGANDA TOURISM

Mr. Cuthbert Baguma has been appointed as the new General Manager / CEO of the Uganda Tourist Board, taking over from long serving James Bahinguza, who has retired from UTB after several terms of office.

Cuthbert has previously served in the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry as Assistant Commissioner in charge of licensing, in which capacity he also served as board member at the national Hotel and Tourism Training Institute for several years, where he made a name for himself as a calm and collected individual, knowledgeable and competent in everything he did.

His appointment comes at a time when the industry is struggling to obtain more support from government for the funding of the tourism board, which in the absence of implementing the provisions of the new Tourism Act about the introduction of a levy will remain a major challenge.

Thanks to James Bahinguza for years of faithful service, in the face of often very personal attacks by a very small minority of loudmouthed and divisive stakeholders, and all the best to Cuthbert Baguma for the months and years ahead in his task to attract more tourists to Uganda and showcase the country from its ‘Sunday best’.

NEMA’S CAPACITY QUESTIONED

An advert last week in one of the daily newspapers, where the National Environmental Management Authority has invited bids by consultants to write their annual ‘State of the Environment Report 2010’ has promptly raised queries over their internal capacity to write their annual show piece themselves.

NEMA has in the past been critizised over their alleged lack of impartiality, lack of comprehension about proposed projects, bias towards certain projects and leniency about other developments in progress, some of which was attributed to insufficient experience amongst their staff, besides submitting to ‘external’ pressures.

However, having to advertise for consultants from outside the organization to write their own annual report has only brought back some of the ill feelings towards NEMA and some of their critics now see themselves all but confirmed about their sentiments voiced in the past. Said one of the regular callers to this correspondent: ‘if they can’t write their own annual report, it tells me all I need to know about them, this sounds so pathetic that they need consultants and spend a fortune on them to do their own job for which they are employed to do, because they cannot apparently to in themselves. They should resign if they cannot do what they are paid for’. Matters were made even worse when one of the NEMA chiefs was quoted in the local media that a recently established environmental policing unit was not doing enough and that field inspectors deployed across the country were ‘not performing their duties’ (http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/17/716685) Oooops…

OIL COMPANIES COME UNDER SCRUTINY

Fresh allegations were made by some wildlife managers that the present oil exploration in areas both inside and outside national parks and game reserves was responsible for killing wildlife in the affected areas. The claims were made before the parliamentary committee on tourism where UWA officials made presentations and answered questions by members. No detailed figures were availed, a matter of concern to observers who had hoped for concrete evidence and not vague assertions, although one of the UWA staff did mention that ‘several small animals have died’ before adding that others had fallen victim to collisions with vehicles, again without specifically pinning this to specific oil company owned or operated cars.

Oil exploration and test drilling is subject to an agreed set of rules and regulations, including pre-agreed mitigation measures, between NEMA, UWA and the oil companies and those are by and large being observed and monitored, not just by these governmental agencies but also from civil society and NGO’s who are watching developments with hawk’s eyes.

Surprisingly the wildlife managers also took issue with the presence of security forces inside the park, in stark contradiction of past years when the presence of army units was in fact welcome to ensure the safety of visitors to the Murchisons Falls National Park. No clarification was received on this issue at the time of filing the report as UWA had not responded to prompt enquiries.

Meanwhile however have officials of the Ministry of Energy refuted the allegations that oil exploration was the cause of wildlife deaths, leaving lingering questions as to whom one can believe, considering the contradictions in their statements. The following article in The Monitor will also shed some more light on the issues at hand: www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/900556/-/wxuxmt/-/index.html

In a related development it was also learned that new amendments are being discussed for a law, which would allow government to cancel title deeds for plots located in wetlands, a move aimed to make it easier to evict squatters and ‘legal’ land owners from such properties, to then ensure proper drainage of rain water towards the lake is restored and to protect wetlands for further encroachment and bring them back to their original state. Especially in and around Kampala were wetlands and swamps massively encroached in recent years, at record pace, subsequently causing severe floodings in low lying areas after heavy and prolonged rains, a situation which surely led to this new approach. Never give up hope!

FLY 540 EXTENDS ALL INCLUSIVE FARES TO NAIROBI

An all inclusive airfare between Entebbe and Nairobi, return at US Dollars 250 per person, has been maintained by East Africa’s first true low cost airline Fly 540, in an effort to maintain and increase passenger loads during the present ‘low season’ on the tourist market. The fares will initially be available until the end of May but could be extended further at that time.

Fly 540 operates two daily flights between Kenya and Uganda, using their new CRJ 200 aircraft, which has reduced flying times between the two cities to under one hour. Visit www.fly540.com for more information and on line bookings.

In a move holding little surprise for aviation observers has Kenya Airways also put a US Dollars 255 offer on the market, again inclusive of all taxes and surcharges, for which, while terms and conditions apply, there will be demand in the market place, considering that the loyalty scheme of KQ earns points for travellers even when on these special fares. When point to point passengers now make their choices it will be largely influenced by punctuality, service on board, convenient departure / arrival times to suit them as all airlines on the route now use modern, state of the art jets, no longer bringing the question of ‘aged aircraft’ into play.

RIDICULOUS AIRLINE CHARGES RULED OUT IN EAST AFRICA, FOR NOW

The latest wave of fantasy charge introductions planned by airlines abroad continues to baffle and bemuse local aviation observers and management of leading airline companies in the region. News from the US, that passengers could soon face charges for carryon luggage, the renewed talk by Ryan Air considering charging for the use of a loo and a torrent of add on fees never heard of a few years ago may well be ‘en vogue’ amongst the cheapies in Europe and America, and spreading to the established airlines too, but here in Eastern Africa, where we – with the exception of Fly 540 – only have full service airlines, this is yet absent from the strategies of sourcing new revenue streams, at least from the public forum and if at all such considerations are taking place they are a tightly guarded secret.

Meanwhile, travel agents asked about their opinion of such developments in the aviation industry in other parts of the world did not mince their words and called the responsible airline executives ‘robber barons’, ‘extortionists’, ‘flying grifters’ and worse, hence not repeated here.

NILE WATER DEAL TURNING TO ‘TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT’

The talks over a new agreement on the use of the Nile waters last week in Egypt’s resort city of Sharm el Sheikh can best be described as a ‘qualified failure’ as the regimes in Khartoum and Egypt refused to accept the proposals of the 7 upstream water producer nations, demanding that the dictatorial and long outdated colonial treaties be maintained, while affirming their total opposition to a ‘new deal’. Egypt in fact has of late again mixed carrot with stick, by both offering economic assistance to Eastern African nations but also rattling the sabre by making regular and intensifying mention of war mongering talk uttered by former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali, when he was still a minister in the Egyptian government.

Eastern African nations though are unperturbed over this aggressive and almost hostile stand, as in particular Tanzania is already ignoring the 1929 and 1959 water treaties, which were shoved down their throats by their colonial master Britain as one of the conditions of granting independence in the early 60’s.

The water source countries of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi contribute through rivers into Lake Victoria, where one of the two branches of the Nile starts its journey downstream (Victoria Nile) while the Congo DR contributes river waters into Lake Albert, where the River Nile assumes the name ‘Albert Nile’ before turning into the ‘White Nile’ when entering the Southern Sudan.

The second main branch of ‘The Nile’ comes in the form of the ‘Blue Nile’ from Ethiopia, which joins the ‘White Nile’ in Khartoum.

With the independence referendum in Southern Sudan now looming large on the horizon, following the completion of the first national elections in that country for nearly 25 years, the seven ‘producer states’ are confident that they will gain a valuable ally when the Southern Sudan becomes an independent state next year, as is widely expected, joining the ‘producer’ alliance against the two ‘consumer states’ further downstream. Egypt has in past months repeatedly tried to interfere in the Southern Sudanese affairs, by sowing discord and doubts over the South being able or viable to be independent, ignoring the facts on the ground that not only most of the oil is in Southern territory, but also water and agriculture are ‘at home’ in the South, besides which the Eastern African states are also fully supportive of the South’s aspirations to become independent and then soon afterwards join the East African Community and enter into related treaties, including a mutual defence assistance.

The meeting in Sharm el Sheikh, ending in sharp differences, also prompted the 7 upstream countries to set their own date for signing the new treaty, a process due to commence in mid May this year and expected to immediately attract the signatures of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo DR and Ethiopia, while the two downstream countries, the presently still united Sudan and Egypt, are expected to stay outside the new treaty framework. Once the Southern Sudan, as is widely expected, becomes independent, they too are expected to join their neighbours in signing on to the new Nile Water Treaty, leaving the downstream ‘consumers’ to mull over their remaining options, while hanging on to the notion that the ‘forced’ 1929 and 1959 treaties are still relevant in today’s environment or in fact still legally binding on the ‘producer states’. Ratification of the new treaty is due to begin then a year later, giving the opponents one more chance to sign on or stay out.

It was also learned that there was some growing resentment and even anger developing within the ‘water producer states’ delegations, as they had to once again watch Egypt in particular throwing the proverbial ‘spanners into the works’ and wasting another opportunity, and everyone’s precious time, to fall in line with the generous proposals in the new draft treaty made by the upstream countries. Watch this space as Eastern African countries continue to assert their birth right to determine the use of their own natural resources.

KARUMA CONSTRUCTION TO START IN JULY

A new hydro electric plant, to be located at the Karuma falls of the Nile, just before the river enters the Murchisons Falls National Park, is according to sources in the Ministry of Energy set for construction start by July this year.

The project, on the drawing board for many years through a Norwegian company ‘Norpak’ kept lingering along, while Uganda’s electricity crisis worsened, and a former Minister of Energy in particular continues to be blamed for her intransigence and inaction in the face of a growing disparity between electricity consumption and production at the time. What her reasons were back then to delay giving Norpak the green light will probably remain a mystery, while in turn blaming all and sundry for the errors of judgement made then.

Norpak eventually abandoned the project and government then also re-designed the proposed power plant to increase electricity output from the initially envisaged 200 – 250 MW to a new target of 750 MW.

As a tunnel version is being used in this hydro electric plant, the environmental and social impact is considered much lower compared to a power plant using a dam, as recently described for the Bujagali venture, leaving some of the spectacular rapids ‘visible’ for tourists.

When finally on line in a few years time, the two new hydro electric power plants are hoped to produce some 1.000 MW of electricity, permitting the supply to be ahead of demand for the first time in over two decades, and will allow government to roll out affordable (i.e. subsidised) electricity usage to rural areas of the country, where presently the constant use of charcoal and firewood caused environmental degradation.

4G COMING TO UGANDA

Israeli communications firm ‘FORIS’ has announced in Kampala last week that they will roll out a 4G network for internet users with almost guaranteed constant speeds, unlike other networks which often show fluctuations when the ‘voice traffic’ suddenly peaks up. No formal launch date has been announced as yet but connections will be made via a USB modem, which – once plugged into the computer – will load up the programme and activate the service which has to be prepaid.

No information is available either at this stage what coverage the company will be aiming for after starting up in Kampala, nor which mast network they will ‘sub contract’ to put up their receivers and transmitters. However, the announcement has raised expectations and the other service providers will undoubtedly closely monitor the newcomer and react fast to both speed issues and pricing in order to protect their own turf and keep their own customers ‘on board’.

Caution however is counselled here as many of the promises made by the telecoms companies actually do not reflect the reality on the ground, as ‘internet everywhere’ is actually NOT available ‘everywhere’ in the country, nor do promised speeds often match the glossy brochures and creative language by PR mouthpieces and their advertising firms. Yet, generally, internet is available across MOST of the country, at least in key areas frequented by tourists or business visitors, even if often at slower speeds.

ICLANDIC ASH CLOUDS FALLOUT REACHES EAST AFRICA

The halt of air traffic in the UK, Scandinavia and much of Western and Eastern Europe has promptly caused a fallout for East African travellers too, as flights in and out of Europe from the main hubs in East Africa like Nairobi, Entebbe, Dar es Salaam and Addis Ababa were affected too, as either no aircraft arrived from Europe or no aircraft left for Europe to avoid the dangers posed by the ash clouds now covering much of the European skies. The situation also left large quantities of flowers, vegetables, fruits and chilled fish fillets in cold storage here in East Africa, as cargo charters too were immediately affected.

Airlines and agents promptly advised intending travellers from Entebbe to Europe to check with them before leaving for the airport to avoid disappointment and to keep monitoring the news broadcasts from Sky News, the BBC or CNN about regular updates, as to when flights would resume into the UK and other affected airports. eTN too will provide regular updates on their website via www.eturbonews.com

TRAVELLERS ‘STUCK’ AS FLIGHTS REMAIN ‘AWOL’

The Icelandic ash cloud, spewing out of a recently awakened volcano, continues to cause fallout even in East Africa, where a multitude of tourists and business visitors continue to be ‘stuck’ in the destination, in the face of no available flights home.

Here in Uganda the absence of Brussels Airlines, British Airways and KLM flights is reverberating across the entire economic spectrum. Inbound urgent air cargo remains waiting for flights to resume in Europe, the international courier services cannot receive nor deliver their shipments and passengers are compelled to remain in their hotels in Kampala and Entebbe, waiting for their chosen airlines to resume operations, and then clear the inevitable backlog, which will arguably see flights operate on full capacity for a while to come. Airlines coming to Entebbe through their own hubs, like Kenya Airways, Ethiopian and even Emirates all have presently lower loads on inbound flights to Entebbe, as their connecting traffic from Europe is halted for the time being, and these airlines have also advised their passengers NOT to come to Entebbe for their flights until such time, that their European connections from Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Dubai are ‘open’ again and formal announcements have been made.

Passengers are strongly advised to liaise closely and constantly with the airline offices, while Ugandan travellers are being kept informed by their travel agents about their booked flights.

Cargo is also piling up in Entebbe’s cold stores, i.e. fruits, vegetables, flowers and fresh chilled fish fillet, and it is understood that the fish processing plants have dialled down their production until  their ‘fresh’ product can leave once again by air the same day, with present stocks now being frozen to avoid too much of an economic loss. [it is the fresh deep chilled fish fillets however which fetch the best prices in Europe and markets beyond while frozen products are in less demand there and attract substantially lower prices].

Across the region a similar pictures emerged from Nairobi, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, and even the Brussels Airlines destinations of Kigali and Bujumbura, where travellers trying to leave after their business or holiday visit are ‘stuck’ while the inbound passengers, due to commence their safaris or attend conferences and business meetings cannot make it in time, leading in many cases to total cancellations of arrangements.

This is particularly painful for the safari lodges and safari operators during the present low season, as the tourists booked were hoped to bring about some much needed revenue during these months of lower occupancy.

Reports from Nairobi confirmed that besides the airlines already mentioned earlier carriers flying there from Europe like Virgin, Air France or Swiss are all affected, and that the Gulf carriers bring in much less traffic, missing their ‘European’ connecting passengers dearly. To compound matters, as and when the situation returns to normal, both crews and aircraft will initially be in the ‘wrong’ places, needed another day or two to adjust back to a ‘regular’ schedule once again. Meanwhile many airlines are incurring added expenses, besides a massive loss in revenue, for having to accommodate passengers whose flights were cancelled.

Airline contacts in Kampala, Entebbe, Nairobi and Dar all expressed their hope that flight restrictions in Europe may be lifted or partially lifted over the weekend, but other information from Iceland also indicates that the eruption seems to continue unabated, spewing more ash into the atmosphere, where only prevailing wind direction changes could eventually blow the ash cloud away from the main air traffic routes across the Atlantic and Europe, then of course affecting other areas.

It is also worth to give our readers the opportunity to see what the local media are writing about the situation, and how it affects local business in Uganda and Kenya, with articles available via the following web links: www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/902006/-/wxw88g/-/index.html and

www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/902538/-/wxwc8g/-/index.html from the Ugandan Daily Monitor,

this article from the Kenyan Daily Nation

www.nation.co.ke/News/Cloud%20of%20ash%20costs%20Kenya%20Sh300m%20a%20day%20/-/1056/902042/-/nwc7b1z/-/index.html and from the East African Standard come these added links:

www.standardmedia.co.ke/InsidePage.php?id=2000008000&cid=14&j=&m=&d=  and

www.standardmedia.co.ke/business/InsidePage.php?id=2000008067&cid=14&story=Cargo%20plane%20takeoff%20sparks%20hope%20as%20losses%20top%20Sh912m

Initial estimates of economic losses in Kenya alone now exceed the 2 billion Kenya Shillings mark while across the entire region the impact on export industries (flowers, fish, vegetables and fruits) and tourism are estimated to be in excess of 3.5 billion Kenya Shillings, dealing a heavy blow to the regional economies still suffering of the fallout of the world’s worst economic and financial crisis for since the 1930’s.

In closing it is worth drawing the attention of readers to the National Geographic Channel’s series on volcanoes and in particular of ‘super volcanoes’ and the anticipated impact on life across the entire planet within days of such an eruption, and the present situation of a single volcanic eruption in Iceland may be a harbinger of things to come at some time in the future when one of the volcanic ‘giants’ may erupt again. And has anyone even started to think about potential crop failures in Europe when the rich in sulphur ash eventually settles on the ground and acid rain is causing added problems? Fodder for thought!

EAC CLARIFIES ON PASSPORTS

Following reports, that immigration officials in particular in one country of the East African Community – not named to spare the perennial break shoe the added embarrassment – has the Secretariat of the EAC in Arusha issued an urgent statement about the use of the regional travel documents. It was clearly pointed out that all issued passports remained valid for the duration they were issued for, normally five years, while it was also mentioned that no new passports were presently being produced until a technological upgrade was put into effect. This measure was aimed to introduce state of the art features like containing biometric data of the passport holders and maybe even the latest ‘chip’ technology, and that once those issues have been resolved the EAC member states would once more begin to issue the regional passports. Seems some anti EAC immigration staff took advantage to bully travellers and in the process more likely than not extract ‘something small’ from them, instead of simply doing their jobs according to EAC guidelines and regulations. Adds this correspondent: ‘find those responsible and sack them’ as East Africans have had enough of corrupt officials undermining the EAC and inconveniencing the travelling public.

Confirmation was received from Rwanda, that this exemplary country continues to accept the EAC passports without any restrictions, and first indication from Entebbe also confirms that immigration there has also no problems with the use of the EAC travel document, while others clearly have. Oooops…

Kenya News

FLASH NEWS – CARGO CHARTER LEAVES NAIROBI FOR AMSTERDAM

It was just learned, ahead of going to press today, that a KLM operated cargo B747 has left Nairobi last night with a full load, bringing flowers and other Kenyan produce to the European markets. The flight is also being used to establish any possible impact on the aircraft’s engines and cockpit windows, and will be inspected after landing in the early hours of Tuesday morning at Schipol / Amsterdam. Once findings have been established this may be the trigger to permit more flights to in particular begin flying passengers back home who have in recent days been ‘stuck’ in Nairobi. Watch this space for the most up to date information about the East African aviation situation.

KENYA AIRWAYS SPREADS THEIR WINGS YET MORE

It was recently announced that Kenya Airways will from the beginning of May start operations to Muscat / Oman with initially three flights a week, leaving Nairobi every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. This is adding another crucial destination in the Middle East / Gulf area to the airline’s growing network. Trade links with Oman have been close for many generations, initially by the traditional dhow, before larger ships took over much of the cargo traffic. The new route will undoubtedly also attract tourist visitors from the Oman to East Africa besides facilitating business traffic. Further expansion, in Africa and elsewhere, however now depends largely on the arrival or more aircraft presently under order from Boeing.

Meanwhile it was also learned that, following internal reviews triggered by premium passengers complaints about having to fly ‘Y’ on the airline’s Embraer 170 aircraft, a cabin reconfiguration has now been effected. The new layout is offering 8 business class seats in a dedicated cabin with the same service levels as normally experienced on KQ’s B737 services on domestic and regional routes. The overall number of seats on the Embraer was subsequently slightly reduced in favour of having both ‘C’ and ‘Y’ cabins across the entire fleet. Well done!

NEW GUIDE BOOKLET AWAITS TOURISTS AT MOMBASA AIRPORT

A joint initiative by the Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association and Leisure and Travel Guides (EA) has now resulted in a new colourful tourist guide booklet to be availed to arriving tourists at the Moi International Airport in Mombasa. The new guide will be giving them an immediate insight into the restaurant scene along the coast, details of car hire, excursions and safaris available on the ‘open’ market and not just those ‘pushed’ by their tour company representatives, addresses and contacts of airlines, consulates, clinics and doctors, all much important information for visitors to make their stay successful and complete in every aspect and way. It is understood that the publishing company has also set up a web portal but these details were omitted by the source giving the information to this correspondent.

PARLIAMENT PUTS DOWN FOOT ON KAA

It was learned last week that the Kenya Airports Authority was again ordered to obey the instructions of the parliamentary committee to halt the recruitment decision for a new CEO. KAA and parliament have locked horns in recent weeks over this issue, with the greater powers obviously resting with the parliamentary committee, which could in the extreme cite the KAA management and board for contempt if not following instructions. The situation will be closely monitored, as it also appears that the ‘instructions’ and ‘directives’ include that the recruitment firm used by KAA be disqualified and a completely new recruitment be started from scratch.

The present situation is thought to be one of the many problems left behind by former CEO George Muhoho who finally left the organization into retirement early in April and was alleged to have been ‘engineering’ his very own choice succession, which also brought him into conflict with the chairman of the board of the KAA at the time just ahead of his own departure. Watch this space.

GREEN ENERGY THE WAY FORWARD

Usually well informed sources in Kenya have informed this correspondent that there is now a growing trend underway in Kenya, to tap into geothermal energy sources and add more wind propelled power plants in areas of the country where ‘harvesting wind power’ is viable. Only recently did the Kenyan national forest authority advertise for expression of interest to put up more such ‘wind mills’ on the Ngong Hills outside Nairobi, while it is understood that two major wind power plants are in an advance planning stage with financial commitments now also flowing in. This will permit Kenya to gradually wean off from their diesel and heavy fuel oil powered stand by units, which were needed during the height of the drought experienced across the region but may also in the future allow Kenya to opt out of the controversial Ethiopian plans to build a massive dam, said to risk the very survival of Lake Turkana, from where power was to be exported to Kenya. Wind power is estimated to produce several hundred MW in coming years, if and when the construction is going ahead, as seems now increasingly more likely. Major multilateral development partners like the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the African Development Bank are reportedly impressed by the prospects of introducing ‘green power’ into East Africa’s most potent economy, which itself would get a huge boost by having not just more electricity but very affordable electricity available in coming years, boosting the use of electricity across the nation and reducing the use of firewood and charcoal in the process.

NO VAT ON CRUISE SHIP SERVICES

The Kenyan tourism minister has last week announced that cruise ships on port call in Mombasa will in the future not have to pay value added tax on services received while in port, although it was not immediately clear if this announcement would require a change of legislation or a vote in parliament, or could be implemented through a ‘simple’ directive from the Ministry of Finance. When going to ‘press’ it was also still unconfirmed what exact services for cruise ships were to be VAT free, and if those were restricted to handling charges in port or even for the delivery of food and drinks to replenish supplies.

The announcement appears to have been made at the launch of a Mombasa based cruiseliner, which will operated scheduled trips between Mombasa, Pemba and Zanzibar.

WORLD BANK TO PAY FOR CONSERVATION PROJECT FALLOUT

Failure to respond to courts summons earlier this now cost the World Bank and the Global Environmental Facility dearly, as the High Court in Mombasa has reportedly awarded the plaintiffs damages of nearly 700 million Kenya Shillings. Over 200 families in the Tana River delta had joined hands to sue the World Bank and GEF over failure to give them their compensation packages in return for vacating, or rather being pushed to vacate their ancestral land along the river to establish a sanctuary for the endangered red colobus monkey and the even rarer crested mangabey. The  families had patiently waited for nearly 10 years before being compelled to sue, after it became evident to them that they ‘have been had’, and the High Court agreed with them, also ordering the World Bank and GEF to pay the entire cost of the suit.

The co-defendants, the Kenyan Attorney General on behalf of the Kenya government and the Kenya Wildlife Service has entered appearances.

The initial agreement was to give each family new land over about 15 acres and build schools, health centres and other facilities for them, besides a cash compensation of 50.000 Kenya Shillings, but nothing was done after the families had left their original villages. Barbs for the moneybags therefore and good luck to the plaintiffs to actually now get paid…

Tanzania News

MORE TREMORS AS ‘OL DONYO LENGAI’ STIRS AGAIN

A series of earth tremors, i.e. light earthquakes, was felt last week in the region between the restless volcanic mountain near the Ngorongoro conservation area, the Lake Manyara area and Arusha. Three years ago a series of tremors and quakes was experienced then the volcano had a minor eruption, at times felt as far as Kenya and even Kampala. The great African rift valley is a zone of intense seismic activity, and was born out of major quakes it is thought by scholars of the subject.

After a period of intermittent calm since the last major quake three years ago, the mountain, which has been spewing ashes and smoke since then, appears on the way to some more activity and seismologists and volcano experts are monitoring these events trying to get some information to the general public in order to help them understand better what is presently going on again, in particular in view of the present going on’s in Iceland.

TANZANIA ELECTION DATE SET

General elections will be held in Tanzania on the 31st October this year, and the announcement of the date has also rang in the preparations by prospective candidates and those defending their seats in parliament. President Kikwete’s ruling CCM party, which has had a grip on the country’s government since independence, is widely expected to win the elections in view of the often dismal performance by the opposition parties and the president too is expected to be returned to power with a comfortable majority.

Some regular sources in Tanzania of this correspondent have pointed out ‘newspaper polls’ showing a different picture, forgetting of course that only those with access to the internet have the opportunity to ‘click’ the button, which – considering the vast majority of Tanzanians lives in rural areas with little or no access to such technology, of course is a very distorted picture created by a very few and without scientific basis normally applied to conventional polling.

Intending visitors to Tanzania over the period of campaigning and elections can be reassured that they do not need to change their travel plans, as elections in Tanzania in particular have always been overwhelmingly peaceful and tourists are not thought to be affected while on safari to the country’s game parks or the Indian Ocean beaches by the political activity now unfolding, before reaching election day at the end of October.

Rwanda News

RWANDAIR ADDS TWO B737-500 TO FLEET

The Rwandan national airline has put pen to paper with General Electric Capital Aviation Services yesterday for the long term lease of two B737-500’s, which are due for delivery in May and July this year to join the growing RwandAir fleet. Acting CEO and Chairman of the Board Mr. John Mirenge signed on behalf of the airline while Ryan Barret, Vice President of GECAS signed the lease documents on behalf of the lessor. The two aircraft are expected to be deployed on the Kigali to Johannesburg route as well as on the new Kigali to Kinshasa route, where traffic is thought to be growing strongly once flights to Congo’s capital commence in a few weeks time.

For some time there was talk about RwandAir acquiring the newer B737-800 type but this may ultimately have been too expensive at this stage, as these aircraft are relatively new and in fact not easy to find ‘off the shelve’. There is however the option to upgrade the aircraft at a later stage to the newer N737NG models, once utilisation of the two additional jets has been raised to such levels as to move in that direction.

KIGALI TO HOST CONTINENTAL INVESTMENT MEETING

This week a meeting of experts will take place in Kigali, discussing major investments in the infrastructure sector of the Eastern African countries and Africa at large. The conference is aimed to showcase such opportunities, in the power, road, bridge, tunnel, railway and telecom areas where a deficit exists on the continent thought to hamper economic growth which is needed to cater for more jobs for rapidly growing populations. Special emphasis will be paid to rail and road links between the economic powerhouses of the continent and their neighbours but also linking the various regions together. Notably, Citadel of Egypt is the main corporate sponsor and also keen to take over the Rift Valley Railways after buying into that company’s biggest shareholder, a journey littered with many obstacles and reportedly only recently resolved when other shareholders in RVR indicated their withdrawal from the venture.

Other global equity firms and financial institutions are expected to be ‘on site’ in Kigali to observe and strike alliances and business deals, as Africa marches on to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of infrastructure and investments.

In a related development will a dedicated East African Community Investment Conference be held at the Commonwealth Resort in Munyonyo / Kampala between the 28th and 30th of April for which over 1.000 delegates are expected from the 5 sister states, the continent and beyond, also discussing opportunities and financing of infrastructure and other ventures in manufacturing, processing and related fields.

Southern Sudan News

RAILWAY COMING BETWEEN UGANDA AND SOUTHERN SUDAN

Reports emerged in the local media last week that the government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) and the government of Uganda have signed a major agreement aimed at establishing added infrastructure between Uganda and the presently still semi-autonomous region of the Southern Sudan, which is however thought to vote for independence in the upcoming referendum in January 2011.

One of the key ingredients of the agreement is the establishment of a new railway line, which will run from Tororo – at the border with Kenya – via Gulu and Nimule to Juba, before the Southern Sudanese will then extend it internally. The new proposed railway will be of international ‘standard gauge’, setting the stage for fast train connections for both passenger but importantly also cargo trains.

The present railway linking Uganda with the Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa continues to restrict such fast movements due to its ‘narrow gauge’ line, which embattled RVR, the operator of the railways of Kenya and Uganda, has failed to upgrade any section of that railway.

The road works projected are also on course, as seven bridges along the Juba to Nimule road have already been completed and upgrading to a major highway status is soon to commence on both the Ugandan side between Gulu and Nimule while work is progressing well on the section between Juba and Nimule in Southern Sudan. Closer ties made possible through new roads and rails, can’t wait to see all this completed in a couple of years’ time.

VOTING ENDS IN SOUTHERN SUDAN

Following an extension by two days until Thursday evening last week have the first elections in a generation come to an end. Initial results put the SPLM firmly ahead of its rivals, and participation in the elective process also give rise to expectations, that the required quorum for the independence vote in January 2011 will be reached with ease. In fact it was confirmed that a number of SPLM candidates were declared elected ‘unopposed’ as no challengers had put themselves forward to the electorate.

Inspite of doomsayers trying to scare the population and visitors to the Southern Sudan, the elections went largely without incidents and while logistical problems in the vast country occurred, with election materials arriving late and at times in wrong places, there were no known acts of violence at any of the polling stations reported.

Expect more details results in due course, which will then also confirm the new government in waiting to emerge in coming days. Congratulations to all Southern Sudanese people for the maturity shown and all the best from here on towards the independence vote in less than 9 months time.

Seychelles News

NATIONAL HERITAGE WEEK IN PROGRESS

The 100th anniversary of the official completion and opening in 1910 of the Carnegie Building in Victoria, which now houses the Natural History Museum was also the chosen date to launch the annual ‘national heritage week’ across the archipelago. The Carnegie building is one of the showcases of historical preservation and a sight to behold of course, but more important is the present work to create a full inventory of buildings and site worth to be preserved for future generations and for the visitors to the islands to see and appreciate, while learning something about the varied past of the Seychelles. Reportedly over 300 sites are presently ‘protected’ under the respective laws and regulations, a credit to the country of course and an added attraction for the tourist undoubtedly.

Most notably however was the opportunity used to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the Seychelles Tourism Academy and the national monuments board, to incorporate the materials kept there, and the findings of studies into the curriculum of STA students training to become qualified tourism personnel.

AIR SEYCHELLES FLEET UPDATE

The Seychellois national airline has last week sold one of their Short 360 aircraft to an Israeli aviation company, and the aircraft has already been flown to Israel and taken off the Seychelles registry. It is understood that alongside the sale a maintenance support agreement has also been signed between the buyers and Air Seychelles.

A brand new Twin Otter DHC 6-400 will join the Air Seychelles fleet next month, as already reported a few weeks ago, when the airline had confirmed the purchase of an additional state of art turboprop, which will join existing Twin Otters on the fleet.

The airline’s turboprop aircrafts are the backbone of the domestic services from the Mahe International Airport to outlying aerodromes and airfields like Praslin and others, and much in demand to transport tourists on arrival directly to their final island destination, if they are not staying on Mahe.

Meanwhile had the closure of the European airspaces also affected Air Seychelles, as flights in and out of the UK were halted. Passengers already enroute from Mahe to London were accommodated in Zurich, where the flight has made a scheduled stop, as it could then not proceed to London while the atmosphere was still full of the ash. By the time of going to press all scheduled flights has resumed and ‘normality’ had been restored. Well done Air Seychelles for not stranding the passengers, or ‘dumping’ them as has been reported from other affected airlines which were inflight to the UK and then had to land at European mainland airports before those also closed.

ANTI PIRACY SURVEILLANCE TO MOVE CLOSER TO SOMALIAN SHORES

Unmanned aerial vehicles, aka ‘drones’ are increasingly playing a more important role in surveillance activities to guard shipping traffic against attacks by ocean terrorists, and many of them have been launched in the past by a US forces contingent operating out of the Seychelles, where the government has granted them a base. New reports however suggest that some of these drones, maybe additional such assets, may in the future also move closer to the Somali territorial waters and shores and Djibouti, already home to a naval and air assets by the coalition forces, has been named as a possible future base.

The thinking about the mandate of the naval coalition is ever so slightly changing, and a more robust forward defence, like the imposition of a naval blockade just outside Somali waters is one option. However, there has also been growing speculation about arming aerial assets to not just survey but to also defend cargo ships from the air against attacks, after spotting ‘motherships’ and ‘skiffs’ near the shipping routes or when leaving Somali territorial waters with intent.

Information from the Seychelles would indicate that the number of drones has been reduced from previously 5 to now only 3, thought enough to patrol the skies over the Seychelles waters, while the remaining two may now already operate out of Djibouti with added responsibilities to also provide intelligence about ground movement of the various militant Islamic militias which continue to control large swathes of territory.

Meanwhile has the Seychelles President James Michel asked for more resources to be availed to the country by friendly member nations of the naval coalition, to increase training and add more material assets to patrol the national waters and secure the shipping lanes leading through the economic exclusion zone. More funding was also requested to add more facilities in prisons, where ocean terrorists on trial are on remand and after conviction are incarcerated, as well as technical assistance in the public prosecution department and the judiciary.

CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ELECTIONS CHALLENGED

Several regular sources from the Seychelles have reported that the elections for the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry were ‘bodged’, while others claim that the results were ‘engineered’ or as one put it ‘pre-determined’. This expanding scandal is now very likely threatening the holding of the regional Indian Ocean Chambers of Commerce and Industry meeting later in the year in the Seychelles, as, should the allegations be either proven or not conclusively disproven, members may abandon the business organization and in fact begin the formation of a rival body, which would tear the business community apart in the middle while giving their invited colleagues a poor picture of being able to hold the congress under such clouded circumstances.
The allegations were strengthened by apparently a number of members present, who claim that there were more ballots counted than members entitled to vote were present and had cast their votes, leading to immediate outcries over ‘ballot stuffing’ and ‘rigging’ and discrediting the newly elected chairman and executive. Specifically it was alleged that while there should have been 413 votes of members present in the end the tally was 465 without any explanation. The long serving SCCI Secretary General also reportedly resigned in the aftermath of the meeting.

Added doubts were raised when further allegations were made that recent admissions of ‘new members’ were made without the usual vetting and clearance process just in time for the elections and that their annual dues and joining fees were paid by one contestant for chairmanship, while that the same candidate also allegedly printed the election ballots in his own printing shop.  The Seychelles Chamber of Commerce & Industries is now made up primarily of small retailers and this may ultimately embarrass the president of the country who has worked hard with the support from the IMF and the World Bank to try to place the island nation on a new economic route. Observers are therefore waiting to see if the president will continue to include the discredited chairman of the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce & Industries as a delegate on his overseas missions.
A campaign is now underway to compel the ‘winner’ to voluntarily stand down and agree to new elections, to save the reputation of the chamber, as otherwise the action could be taken to the international scene to apply pressure on the SCCI to correct these anomalies and address the complains.

It was not ruled out that court action may follow but the biggest threat would immediately be the formation of a rival chamber or alternate business association to the detriment of the original body, which could lead to a split of the business community and a lesser status in their representative powers vis a vis government, NGO’s and the global business community, where the Chamber of Commerce and Industry is normally associated with high moral and ethical standards.

The entire charade made high waves across the business community and in civil society in the Seychelles, especially as most newspapers reportedly refused to print their reporter’s details or publish letters to the editor about this nebulous elections, not a resounding vote of confidence for the local media and being ‘free and fair’.

The matter was of interest to this correspondent as Mr. Louis D’ Offay, the chairman of the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association was the other candidate who, when coming to realise the alleged malpractices, walked out of the meeting with his supporters. Watch this space.

AIR SEYCHELLES PROVIDES EXEMPLARY SERVICE OVER ‘ASH DISRUPTIONS’

In view of the ongoing restrictions of European aviation bodies has Air Seychelles now decided to operate their Rome – London flight with a turnaround in Rome, i.e. passengers to London would have to make their onward journey by road or rail, while at the same time also announcing that they will operate their regular Paris service into an airport near Marseille by the names of Nimes, which is just under 600 KM by road or rail from Paris. This will at least assist travellers ‘stranded’ on the Seychelles, who – inspite of the archipelago being one of the most attractive places in the world to be marooned on – need to get back to work or to attend business meetings. Passengers destined for the Seychelles can also board their flight in Nimes where Air Seychelles staff will be positioned to attend to any queries arriving or departing passengers do have.

This extraordinary effort makes Air Seychelles a shining example how a little creative thinking and ‘thinking on one’s feet’ can actually help to solve the problems created by the Icelandic volcano eruption, which has for the past few days grounded almost all air traffic in, out and across Europe. Bouquets for those who thought this up, well done and congrats to Capt. Savy and his entire team.

And in closing today again some material, courtesy of Gill Staden, taken from The Livingstone Weekly, one being an article and the other being a series of pictures documenting the massive destruction heavy rains can wreak in the tropics, hard to believe but true and also seen right across Eastern Africa:

Sun International Zambia scoops

Best Hotel Stand at ZITE

Produced by Sun International Zambia April, 2010

The Falls Resort was recently awarded The Best Hotel Stand Award at the Zambia International Travel Expo (ZITE) that took place in Lusaka in March 2010. The award was in recognition of the hotel’s high standard of presentation of its products and services in line with the expo’s theme.

The travel show brought together more than a hundred companies with a diverse range of products including hotels, lodges, camps, tour operators, airlines and many more. The event took place under the theme “crossing boundaries – within and beyond”.

ZITE is the only tourism marketing event in Zambia that brings together the best of local and regional tourism products whilst attracting international visitors and buyers.

Now in its third year running, the ZITE has registered improved success in getting tourism products to potential buyers both locally and abroad while setting the benchmark in terms of quality and standard. The expo also invites foreign

companies and embassies to take part. This has greatly helped to raise the benchmark and provide necessary competition on an international level. In fact the presence of foreign countries and companies has made the expo an emerging event on the tourism scene.

Stella Mulala, Sun International Zambia’s Public Relations Manager, said that supporting ZITE was key in ensuring its ongoing growth and success; and tied in well with the resort’s community and touring development initiatives.

The expo was officiated by the Zambian Acting Minister of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources, Michael Kaingu, MP.

The Sinazongwe Road

I was sent some photos of the roads on the way to Sinazonge.

News from ‘Uganda – Gifted by Nature’, the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Third edition April 2010

Uganda News

NEW BOSS FOR UGANDA TOURISM

Mr. Cuthbert Baguma has been appointed as the new General Manager / CEO of the Uganda Tourist Board, taking over from long serving James Bahinguza, who has retired from UTB after several terms of office.

Cuthbert has previously served in the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry as Assistant Commissioner in charge of licensing, in which capacity he also served as board member at the national Hotel and Tourism Training Institute for several years, where he made a name for himself as a calm and collected individual, knowledgeable and competent in everything he did.

His appointment comes at a time when the industry is struggling to obtain more support from government for the funding of the tourism board, which in the absence of implementing the provisions of the new Tourism Act about the introduction of a levy will remain a major challenge.

Thanks to James Bahinguza for years of faithful service, in the face of often very personal attacks by a very small minority of loudmouthed and divisive stakeholders, and all the best to Cuthbert Baguma for the months and years ahead in his task to attract more tourists to Uganda and showcase the country from its ‘Sunday best’.

NEMA’S CAPACITY QUESTIONED

An advert last week in one of the daily newspapers, where the National Environmental Management Authority has invited bids by consultants to write their annual ‘State of the Environment Report 2010’ has promptly raised queries over their internal capacity to write their annual show piece themselves.

NEMA has in the past been critizised over their alleged lack of impartiality, lack of comprehension about proposed projects, bias towards certain projects and leniency about other developments in progress, some of which was attributed to insufficient experience amongst their staff, besides submitting to ‘external’ pressures.

However, having to advertise for consultants from outside the organization to write their own annual report has only brought back some of the ill feelings towards NEMA and some of their critics now see themselves all but confirmed about their sentiments voiced in the past. Said one of the regular callers to this correspondent: ‘if they can’t write their own annual report, it tells me all I need to know about them, this sounds so pathetic that they need consultants and spend a fortune on them to do their own job for which they are employed to do, because they cannot apparently to in themselves. They should resign if they cannot do what they are paid for’. Matters were made even worse when one of the NEMA chiefs was quoted in the local media that a recently established environmental policing unit was not doing enough and that field inspectors deployed across the country were ‘not performing their duties’ (http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/17/716685) Oooops…

OIL COMPANIES COME UNDER SCRUTINY

Fresh allegations were made by some wildlife managers that the present oil exploration in areas both inside and outside national parks and game reserves was responsible for killing wildlife in the affected areas. The claims were made before the parliamentary committee on tourism where UWA officials made presentations and answered questions by members. No detailed figures were availed, a matter of concern to observers who had hoped for concrete evidence and not vague assertions, although one of the UWA staff did mention that ‘several small animals have died’ before adding that others had fallen victim to collisions with vehicles, again without specifically pinning this to specific oil company owned or operated cars.

Oil exploration and test drilling is subject to an agreed set of rules and regulations, including pre-agreed mitigation measures, between NEMA, UWA and the oil companies and those are by and large being observed and monitored, not just by these governmental agencies but also from civil society and NGO’s who are watching developments with hawk’s eyes.

Surprisingly the wildlife managers also took issue with the presence of security forces inside the park, in stark contradiction of past years when the presence of army units was in fact welcome to ensure the safety of visitors to the Murchisons Falls National Park. No clarification was received on this issue at the time of filing the report as UWA had not responded to prompt enquiries.

Meanwhile however have officials of the Ministry of Energy refuted the allegations that oil exploration was the cause of wildlife deaths, leaving lingering questions as to whom one can believe, considering the contradictions in their statements. The following article in The Monitor will also shed some more light on the issues at hand: www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/900556/-/wxuxmt/-/index.html

In a related development it was also learned that new amendments are being discussed for a law, which would allow government to cancel title deeds for plots located in wetlands, a move aimed to make it easier to evict squatters and ‘legal’ land owners from such properties, to then ensure proper drainage of rain water towards the lake is restored and to protect wetlands for further encroachment and bring them back to their original state. Especially in and around Kampala were wetlands and swamps massively encroached in recent years, at record pace, subsequently causing severe floodings in low lying areas after heavy and prolonged rains, a situation which surely led to this new approach. Never give up hope!

FLY 540 EXTENDS ALL INCLUSIVE FARES TO NAIROBI

An all inclusive airfare between Entebbe and Nairobi, return at US Dollars 250 per person, has been maintained by East Africa’s first true low cost airline Fly 540, in an effort to maintain and increase passenger loads during the present ‘low season’ on the tourist market. The fares will initially be available until the end of May but could be extended further at that time.

Fly 540 operates two daily flights between Kenya and Uganda, using their new CRJ 200 aircraft, which has reduced flying times between the two cities to under one hour. Visit www.fly540.com for more information and on line bookings.

In a move holding little surprise for aviation observers has Kenya Airways also put a US Dollars 255 offer on the market, again inclusive of all taxes and surcharges, for which, while terms and conditions apply, there will be demand in the market place, considering that the loyalty scheme of KQ earns points for travellers even when on these special fares. When point to point passengers now make their choices it will be largely influenced by punctuality, service on board, convenient departure / arrival times to suit them as all airlines on the route now use modern, state of the art jets, no longer bringing the question of ‘aged aircraft’ into play.

RIDICULOUS AIRLINE CHARGES RULED OUT IN EAST AFRICA, FOR NOW

The latest wave of fantasy charge introductions planned by airlines abroad continues to baffle and bemuse local aviation observers and management of leading airline companies in the region. News from the US, that passengers could soon face charges for carryon luggage, the renewed talk by Ryan Air considering charging for the use of a loo and a torrent of add on fees never heard of a few years ago may well be ‘en vogue’ amongst the cheapies in Europe and America, and spreading to the established airlines too, but here in Eastern Africa, where we – with the exception of Fly 540 – only have full service airlines, this is yet absent from the strategies of sourcing new revenue streams, at least from the public forum and if at all such considerations are taking place they are a tightly guarded secret.

Meanwhile, travel agents asked about their opinion of such developments in the aviation industry in other parts of the world did not mince their words and called the responsible airline executives ‘robber barons’, ‘extortionists’, ‘flying grifters’ and worse, hence not repeated here.

NILE WATER DEAL TURNING TO ‘TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT’

The talks over a new agreement on the use of the Nile waters last week in Egypt’s resort city of Sharm el Sheikh can best be described as a ‘qualified failure’ as the regimes in Khartoum and Egypt refused to accept the proposals of the 7 upstream water producer nations, demanding that the dictatorial and long outdated colonial treaties be maintained, while affirming their total opposition to a ‘new deal’. Egypt in fact has of late again mixed carrot with stick, by both offering economic assistance to Eastern African nations but also rattling the sabre by making regular and intensifying mention of war mongering talk uttered by former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali, when he was still a minister in the Egyptian government.

Eastern African nations though are unperturbed over this aggressive and almost hostile stand, as in particular Tanzania is already ignoring the 1929 and 1959 water treaties, which were shoved down their throats by their colonial master Britain as one of the conditions of granting independence in the early 60’s.

The water source countries of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi contribute through rivers into Lake Victoria, where one of the two branches of the Nile starts its journey downstream (Victoria Nile) while the Congo DR contributes river waters into Lake Albert, where the River Nile assumes the name ‘Albert Nile’ before turning into the ‘White Nile’ when entering the Southern Sudan.

The second main branch of ‘The Nile’ comes in the form of the ‘Blue Nile’ from Ethiopia, which joins the ‘White Nile’ in Khartoum.

With the independence referendum in Southern Sudan now looming large on the horizon, following the completion of the first national elections in that country for nearly 25 years, the seven ‘producer states’ are confident that they will gain a valuable ally when the Southern Sudan becomes an independent state next year, as is widely expected, joining the ‘producer’ alliance against the two ‘consumer states’ further downstream. Egypt has in past months repeatedly tried to interfere in the Southern Sudanese affairs, by sowing discord and doubts over the South being able or viable to be independent, ignoring the facts on the ground that not only most of the oil is in Southern territory, but also water and agriculture are ‘at home’ in the South, besides which the Eastern African states are also fully supportive of the South’s aspirations to become independent and then soon afterwards join the East African Community and enter into related treaties, including a mutual defence assistance.

The meeting in Sharm el Sheikh, ending in sharp differences, also prompted the 7 upstream countries to set their own date for signing the new treaty, a process due to commence in mid May this year and expected to immediately attract the signatures of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo DR and Ethiopia, while the two downstream countries, the presently still united Sudan and Egypt, are expected to stay outside the new treaty framework. Once the Southern Sudan, as is widely expected, becomes independent, they too are expected to join their neighbours in signing on to the new Nile Water Treaty, leaving the downstream ‘consumers’ to mull over their remaining options, while hanging on to the notion that the ‘forced’ 1929 and 1959 treaties are still relevant in today’s environment or in fact still legally binding on the ‘producer states’. Ratification of the new treaty is due to begin then a year later, giving the opponents one more chance to sign on or stay out.

It was also learned that there was some growing resentment and even anger developing within the ‘water producer states’ delegations, as they had to once again watch Egypt in particular throwing the proverbial ‘spanners into the works’ and wasting another opportunity, and everyone’s precious time, to fall in line with the generous proposals in the new draft treaty made by the upstream countries. Watch this space as Eastern African countries continue to assert their birth right to determine the use of their own natural resources.

KARUMA CONSTRUCTION TO START IN JULY

A new hydro electric plant, to be located at the Karuma falls of the Nile, just before the river enters the Murchisons Falls National Park, is according to sources in the Ministry of Energy set for construction start by July this year.

The project, on the drawing board for many years through a Norwegian company ‘Norpak’ kept lingering along, while Uganda’s electricity crisis worsened, and a former Minister of Energy in particular continues to be blamed for her intransigence and inaction in the face of a growing disparity between electricity consumption and production at the time. What her reasons were back then to delay giving Norpak the green light will probably remain a mystery, while in turn blaming all and sundry for the errors of judgement made then.

Norpak eventually abandoned the project and government then also re-designed the proposed power plant to increase electricity output from the initially envisaged 200 – 250 MW to a new target of 750 MW.

As a tunnel version is being used in this hydro electric plant, the environmental and social impact is considered much lower compared to a power plant using a dam, as recently described for the Bujagali venture, leaving some of the spectacular rapids ‘visible’ for tourists.

When finally on line in a few years time, the two new hydro electric power plants are hoped to produce some 1.000 MW of electricity, permitting the supply to be ahead of demand for the first time in over two decades, and will allow government to roll out affordable (i.e. subsidised) electricity usage to rural areas of the country, where presently the constant use of charcoal and firewood caused environmental degradation.

4G COMING TO UGANDA

Israeli communications firm ‘FORIS’ has announced in Kampala last week that they will roll out a 4G network for internet users with almost guaranteed constant speeds, unlike other networks which often show fluctuations when the ‘voice traffic’ suddenly peaks up. No formal launch date has been announced as yet but connections will be made via a USB modem, which – once plugged into the computer – will load up the programme and activate the service which has to be prepaid.

No information is available either at this stage what coverage the company will be aiming for after starting up in Kampala, nor which mast network they will ‘sub contract’ to put up their receivers and transmitters. However, the announcement has raised expectations and the other service providers will undoubtedly closely monitor the newcomer and react fast to both speed issues and pricing in order to protect their own turf and keep their own customers ‘on board’.

Caution however is counselled here as many of the promises made by the telecoms companies actually do not reflect the reality on the ground, as ‘internet everywhere’ is actually NOT available ‘everywhere’ in the country, nor do promised speeds often match the glossy brochures and creative language by PR mouthpieces and their advertising firms. Yet, generally, internet is available across MOST of the country, at least in key areas frequented by tourists or business visitors, even if often at slower speeds.

ICLANDIC ASH CLOUDS FALLOUT REACHES EAST AFRICA

The halt of air traffic in the UK, Scandinavia and much of Western and Eastern Europe has promptly caused a fallout for East African travellers too, as flights in and out of Europe from the main hubs in East Africa like Nairobi, Entebbe, Dar es Salaam and Addis Ababa were affected too, as either no aircraft arrived from Europe or no aircraft left for Europe to avoid the dangers posed by the ash clouds now covering much of the European skies. The situation also left large quantities of flowers, vegetables, fruits and chilled fish fillets in cold storage here in East Africa, as cargo charters too were immediately affected.

Airlines and agents promptly advised intending travellers from Entebbe to Europe to check with them before leaving for the airport to avoid disappointment and to keep monitoring the news broadcasts from Sky News, the BBC or CNN about regular updates, as to when flights would resume into the UK and other affected airports. eTN too will provide regular updates on their website via www.eturbonews.com

TRAVELLERS ‘STUCK’ AS FLIGHTS REMAIN ‘AWOL’

The Icelandic ash cloud, spewing out of a recently awakened volcano, continues to cause fallout even in East Africa, where a multitude of tourists and business visitors continue to be ‘stuck’ in the destination, in the face of no available flights home.

Here in Uganda the absence of Brussels Airlines, British Airways and KLM flights is reverberating across the entire economic spectrum. Inbound urgent air cargo remains waiting for flights to resume in Europe, the international courier services cannot receive nor deliver their shipments and passengers are compelled to remain in their hotels in Kampala and Entebbe, waiting for their chosen airlines to resume operations, and then clear the inevitable backlog, which will arguably see flights operate on full capacity for a while to come. Airlines coming to Entebbe through their own hubs, like Kenya Airways, Ethiopian and even Emirates all have presently lower loads on inbound flights to Entebbe, as their connecting traffic from Europe is halted for the time being, and these airlines have also advised their passengers NOT to come to Entebbe for their flights until such time, that their European connections from Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Dubai are ‘open’ again and formal announcements have been made.

Passengers are strongly advised to liaise closely and constantly with the airline offices, while Ugandan travellers are being kept informed by their travel agents about their booked flights.

Cargo is also piling up in Entebbe’s cold stores, i.e. fruits, vegetables, flowers and fresh chilled fish fillet, and it is understood that the fish processing plants have dialled down their production until  their ‘fresh’ product can leave once again by air the same day, with present stocks now being frozen to avoid too much of an economic loss. [it is the fresh deep chilled fish fillets however which fetch the best prices in Europe and markets beyond while frozen products are in less demand there and attract substantially lower prices].

Across the region a similar pictures emerged from Nairobi, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, and even the Brussels Airlines destinations of Kigali and Bujumbura, where travellers trying to leave after their business or holiday visit are ‘stuck’ while the inbound passengers, due to commence their safaris or attend conferences and business meetings cannot make it in time, leading in many cases to total cancellations of arrangements.

This is particularly painful for the safari lodges and safari operators during the present low season, as the tourists booked were hoped to bring about some much needed revenue during these months of lower occupancy.

Reports from Nairobi confirmed that besides the airlines already mentioned earlier carriers flying there from Europe like Virgin, Air France or Swiss are all affected, and that the Gulf carriers bring in much less traffic, missing their ‘European’ connecting passengers dearly. To compound matters, as and when the situation returns to normal, both crews and aircraft will initially be in the ‘wrong’ places, needed another day or two to adjust back to a ‘regular’ schedule once again. Meanwhile many airlines are incurring added expenses, besides a massive loss in revenue, for having to accommodate passengers whose flights were cancelled.

Airline contacts in Kampala, Entebbe, Nairobi and Dar all expressed their hope that flight restrictions in Europe may be lifted or partially lifted over the weekend, but other information from Iceland also indicates that the eruption seems to continue unabated, spewing more ash into the atmosphere, where only prevailing wind direction changes could eventually blow the ash cloud away from the main air traffic routes across the Atlantic and Europe, then of course affecting other areas.

It is also worth to give our readers the opportunity to see what the local media are writing about the situation, and how it affects local business in Uganda and Kenya, with articles available via the following web links: www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/902006/-/wxw88g/-/index.html and

www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/902538/-/wxwc8g/-/index.html from the Ugandan Daily Monitor,

this article from the Kenyan Daily Nation

www.nation.co.ke/News/Cloud%20of%20ash%20costs%20Kenya%20Sh300m%20a%20day%20/-/1056/902042/-/nwc7b1z/-/index.html and from the East African Standard come these added links:

www.standardmedia.co.ke/InsidePage.php?id=2000008000&cid=14&j=&m=&d=  and

www.standardmedia.co.ke/business/InsidePage.php?id=2000008067&cid=14&story=Cargo%20plane%20takeoff%20sparks%20hope%20as%20losses%20top%20Sh912m

Initial estimates of economic losses in Kenya alone now exceed the 2 billion Kenya Shillings mark while across the entire region the impact on export industries (flowers, fish, vegetables and fruits) and tourism are estimated to be in excess of 3.5 billion Kenya Shillings, dealing a heavy blow to the regional economies still suffering of the fallout of the world’s worst economic and financial crisis for since the 1930’s.

In closing it is worth drawing the attention of readers to the National Geographic Channel’s series on volcanoes and in particular of ‘super volcanoes’ and the anticipated impact on life across the entire planet within days of such an eruption, and the present situation of a single volcanic eruption in Iceland may be a harbinger of things to come at some time in the future when one of the volcanic ‘giants’ may erupt again. And has anyone even started to think about potential crop failures in Europe when the rich in sulphur ash eventually settles on the ground and acid rain is causing added problems? Fodder for thought!

EAC CLARIFIES ON PASSPORTS

Following reports, that immigration officials in particular in one country of the East African Community – not named to spare the perennial break shoe the added embarrassment – has the Secretariat of the EAC in Arusha issued an urgent statement about the use of the regional travel documents. It was clearly pointed out that all issued passports remained valid for the duration they were issued for, normally five years, while it was also mentioned that no new passports were presently being produced until a technological upgrade was put into effect. This measure was aimed to introduce state of the art features like containing biometric data of the passport holders and maybe even the latest ‘chip’ technology, and that once those issues have been resolved the EAC member states would once more begin to issue the regional passports. Seems some anti EAC immigration staff took advantage to bully travellers and in the process more likely than not extract ‘something small’ from them, instead of simply doing their jobs according to EAC guidelines and regulations. Adds this correspondent: ‘find those responsible and sack them’ as East Africans have had enough of corrupt officials undermining the EAC and inconveniencing the travelling public.

Confirmation was received from Rwanda, that this exemplary country continues to accept the EAC passports without any restrictions, and first indication from Entebbe also confirms that immigration there has also no problems with the use of the EAC travel document, while others clearly have. Oooops…

Kenya News

FLASH NEWS – CARGO CHARTER LEAVES NAIROBI FOR AMSTERDAM

It was just learned, ahead of going to press today, that a KLM operated cargo B747 has left Nairobi last night with a full load, bringing flowers and other Kenyan produce to the European markets. The flight is also being used to establish any possible impact on the aircraft’s engines and cockpit windows, and will be inspected after landing in the early hours of Tuesday morning at Schipol / Amsterdam. Once findings have been established this may be the trigger to permit more flights to in particular begin flying passengers back home who have in recent days been ‘stuck’ in Nairobi. Watch this space for the most up to date information about the East African aviation situation.

KENYA AIRWAYS SPREADS THEIR WINGS YET MORE

It was recently announced that Kenya Airways will from the beginning of May start operations to Muscat / Oman with initially three flights a week, leaving Nairobi every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. This is adding another crucial destination in the Middle East / Gulf area to the airline’s growing network. Trade links with Oman have been close for many generations, initially by the traditional dhow, before larger ships took over much of the cargo traffic. The new route will undoubtedly also attract tourist visitors from the Oman to East Africa besides facilitating business traffic. Further expansion, in Africa and elsewhere, however now depends largely on the arrival or more aircraft presently under order from Boeing.

Meanwhile it was also learned that, following internal reviews triggered by premium passengers complaints about having to fly ‘Y’ on the airline’s Embraer 170 aircraft, a cabin reconfiguration has now been effected. The new layout is offering 8 business class seats in a dedicated cabin with the same service levels as normally experienced on KQ’s B737 services on domestic and regional routes. The overall number of seats on the Embraer was subsequently slightly reduced in favour of having both ‘C’ and ‘Y’ cabins across the entire fleet. Well done!

NEW GUIDE BOOKLET AWAITS TOURISTS AT MOMBASA AIRPORT

A joint initiative by the Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association and Leisure and Travel Guides (EA) has now resulted in a new colourful tourist guide booklet to be availed to arriving tourists at the Moi International Airport in Mombasa. The new guide will be giving them an immediate insight into the restaurant scene along the coast, details of car hire, excursions and safaris available on the ‘open’ market and not just those ‘pushed’ by their tour company representatives, addresses and contacts of airlines, consulates, clinics and doctors, all much important information for visitors to make their stay successful and complete in every aspect and way. It is understood that the publishing company has also set up a web portal but these details were omitted by the source giving the information to this correspondent.

PARLIAMENT PUTS DOWN FOOT ON KAA

It was learned last week that the Kenya Airports Authority was again ordered to obey the instructions of the parliamentary committee to halt the recruitment decision for a new CEO. KAA and parliament have locked horns in recent weeks over this issue, with the greater powers obviously resting with the parliamentary committee, which could in the extreme cite the KAA management and board for contempt if not following instructions. The situation will be closely monitored, as it also appears that the ‘instructions’ and ‘directives’ include that the recruitment firm used by KAA be disqualified and a completely new recruitment be started from scratch.

The present situation is thought to be one of the many problems left behind by former CEO George Muhoho who finally left the organization into retirement early in April and was alleged to have been ‘engineering’ his very own choice succession, which also brought him into conflict with the chairman of the board of the KAA at the time just ahead of his own departure. Watch this space.

GREEN ENERGY THE WAY FORWARD

Usually well informed sources in Kenya have informed this correspondent that there is now a growing trend underway in Kenya, to tap into geothermal energy sources and add more wind propelled power plants in areas of the country where ‘harvesting wind power’ is viable. Only recently did the Kenyan national forest authority advertise for expression of interest to put up more such ‘wind mills’ on the Ngong Hills outside Nairobi, while it is understood that two major wind power plants are in an advance planning stage with financial commitments now also flowing in. This will permit Kenya to gradually wean off from their diesel and heavy fuel oil powered stand by units, which were needed during the height of the drought experienced across the region but may also in the future allow Kenya to opt out of the controversial Ethiopian plans to build a massive dam, said to risk the very survival of Lake Turkana, from where power was to be exported to Kenya. Wind power is estimated to produce several hundred MW in coming years, if and when the construction is going ahead, as seems now increasingly more likely. Major multilateral development partners like the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the African Development Bank are reportedly impressed by the prospects of introducing ‘green power’ into East Africa’s most potent economy, which itself would get a huge boost by having not just more electricity but very affordable electricity available in coming years, boosting the use of electricity across the nation and reducing the use of firewood and charcoal in the process.

NO VAT ON CRUISE SHIP SERVICES

The Kenyan tourism minister has last week announced that cruise ships on port call in Mombasa will in the future not have to pay value added tax on services received while in port, although it was not immediately clear if this announcement would require a change of legislation or a vote in parliament, or could be implemented through a ‘simple’ directive from the Ministry of Finance. When going to ‘press’ it was also still unconfirmed what exact services for cruise ships were to be VAT free, and if those were restricted to handling charges in port or even for the delivery of food and drinks to replenish supplies.

The announcement appears to have been made at the launch of a Mombasa based cruiseliner, which will operated scheduled trips between Mombasa, Pemba and Zanzibar.

WORLD BANK TO PAY FOR CONSERVATION PROJECT FALLOUT

Failure to respond to courts summons earlier this now cost the World Bank and the Global Environmental Facility dearly, as the High Court in Mombasa has reportedly awarded the plaintiffs damages of nearly 700 million Kenya Shillings. Over 200 families in the Tana River delta had joined hands to sue the World Bank and GEF over failure to give them their compensation packages in return for vacating, or rather being pushed to vacate their ancestral land along the river to establish a sanctuary for the endangered red colobus monkey and the even rarer crested mangabey. The  families had patiently waited for nearly 10 years before being compelled to sue, after it became evident to them that they ‘have been had’, and the High Court agreed with them, also ordering the World Bank and GEF to pay the entire cost of the suit.

The co-defendants, the Kenyan Attorney General on behalf of the Kenya government and the Kenya Wildlife Service has entered appearances.

The initial agreement was to give each family new land over about 15 acres and build schools, health centres and other facilities for them, besides a cash compensation of 50.000 Kenya Shillings, but nothing was done after the families had left their original villages. Barbs for the moneybags therefore and good luck to the plaintiffs to actually now get paid…

Tanzania News

MORE TREMORS AS ‘OL DONYO LENGAI’ STIRS AGAIN

A series of earth tremors, i.e. light earthquakes, was felt last week in the region between the restless volcanic mountain near the Ngorongoro conservation area, the Lake Manyara area and Arusha. Three years ago a series of tremors and quakes was experienced then the volcano had a minor eruption, at times felt as far as Kenya and even Kampala. The great African rift valley is a zone of intense seismic activity, and was born out of major quakes it is thought by scholars of the subject.

After a period of intermittent calm since the last major quake three years ago, the mountain, which has been spewing ashes and smoke since then, appears on the way to some more activity and seismologists and volcano experts are monitoring these events trying to get some information to the general public in order to help them understand better what is presently going on again, in particular in view of the present going on’s in Iceland.

TANZANIA ELECTION DATE SET

General elections will be held in Tanzania on the 31st October this year, and the announcement of the date has also rang in the preparations by prospective candidates and those defending their seats in parliament. President Kikwete’s ruling CCM party, which has had a grip on the country’s government since independence, is widely expected to win the elections in view of the often dismal performance by the opposition parties and the president too is expected to be returned to power with a comfortable majority.

Some regular sources in Tanzania of this correspondent have pointed out ‘newspaper polls’ showing a different picture, forgetting of course that only those with access to the internet have the opportunity to ‘click’ the button, which – considering the vast majority of Tanzanians lives in rural areas with little or no access to such technology, of course is a very distorted picture created by a very few and without scientific basis normally applied to conventional polling.

Intending visitors to Tanzania over the period of campaigning and elections can be reassured that they do not need to change their travel plans, as elections in Tanzania in particular have always been overwhelmingly peaceful and tourists are not thought to be affected while on safari to the country’s game parks or the Indian Ocean beaches by the political activity now unfolding, before reaching election day at the end of October.

Rwanda News

RWANDAIR ADDS TWO B737-500 TO FLEET

The Rwandan national airline has put pen to paper with General Electric Capital Aviation Services yesterday for the long term lease of two B737-500’s, which are due for delivery in May and July this year to join the growing RwandAir fleet. Acting CEO and Chairman of the Board Mr. John Mirenge signed on behalf of the airline while Ryan Barret, Vice President of GECAS signed the lease documents on behalf of the lessor. The two aircraft are expected to be deployed on the Kigali to Johannesburg route as well as on the new Kigali to Kinshasa route, where traffic is thought to be growing strongly once flights to Congo’s capital commence in a few weeks time.

For some time there was talk about RwandAir acquiring the newer B737-800 type but this may ultimately have been too expensive at this stage, as these aircraft are relatively new and in fact not easy to find ‘off the shelve’. There is however the option to upgrade the aircraft at a later stage to the newer N737NG models, once utilisation of the two additional jets has been raised to such levels as to move in that direction.

KIGALI TO HOST CONTINENTAL INVESTMENT MEETING

This week a meeting of experts will take place in Kigali, discussing major investments in the infrastructure sector of the Eastern African countries and Africa at large. The conference is aimed to showcase such opportunities, in the power, road, bridge, tunnel, railway and telecom areas where a deficit exists on the continent thought to hamper economic growth which is needed to cater for more jobs for rapidly growing populations. Special emphasis will be paid to rail and road links between the economic powerhouses of the continent and their neighbours but also linking the various regions together. Notably, Citadel of Egypt is the main corporate sponsor and also keen to take over the Rift Valley Railways after buying into that company’s biggest shareholder, a journey littered with many obstacles and reportedly only recently resolved when other shareholders in RVR indicated their withdrawal from the venture.

Other global equity firms and financial institutions are expected to be ‘on site’ in Kigali to observe and strike alliances and business deals, as Africa marches on to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of infrastructure and investments.

In a related development will a dedicated East African Community Investment Conference be held at the Commonwealth Resort in Munyonyo / Kampala between the 28th and 30th of April for which over 1.000 delegates are expected from the 5 sister states, the continent and beyond, also discussing opportunities and financing of infrastructure and other ventures in manufacturing, processing and related fields.

Southern Sudan News

RAILWAY COMING BETWEEN UGANDA AND SOUTHERN SUDAN

Reports emerged in the local media last week that the government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) and the government of Uganda have signed a major agreement aimed at establishing added infrastructure between Uganda and the presently still semi-autonomous region of the Southern Sudan, which is however thought to vote for independence in the upcoming referendum in January 2011.

One of the key ingredients of the agreement is the establishment of a new railway line, which will run from Tororo – at the border with Kenya – via Gulu and Nimule to Juba, before the Southern Sudanese will then extend it internally. The new proposed railway will be of international ‘standard gauge’, setting the stage for fast train connections for both passenger but importantly also cargo trains.

The present railway linking Uganda with the Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa continues to restrict such fast movements due to its ‘narrow gauge’ line, which embattled RVR, the operator of the railways of Kenya and Uganda, has failed to upgrade any section of that railway.

The road works projected are also on course, as seven bridges along the Juba to Nimule road have already been completed and upgrading to a major highway status is soon to commence on both the Ugandan side between Gulu and Nimule while work is progressing well on the section between Juba and Nimule in Southern Sudan. Closer ties made possible through new roads and rails, can’t wait to see all this completed in a couple of years’ time.

VOTING ENDS IN SOUTHERN SUDAN

Following an extension by two days until Thursday evening last week have the first elections in a generation come to an end. Initial results put the SPLM firmly ahead of its rivals, and participation in the elective process also give rise to expectations, that the required quorum for the independence vote in January 2011 will be reached with ease. In fact it was confirmed that a number of SPLM candidates were declared elected ‘unopposed’ as no challengers had put themselves forward to the electorate.

Inspite of doomsayers trying to scare the population and visitors to the Southern Sudan, the elections went largely without incidents and while logistical problems in the vast country occurred, with election materials arriving late and at times in wrong places, there were no known acts of violence at any of the polling stations reported.

Expect more details results in due course, which will then also confirm the new government in waiting to emerge in coming days. Congratulations to all Southern Sudanese people for the maturity shown and all the best from here on towards the independence vote in less than 9 months time.

Seychelles News

NATIONAL HERITAGE WEEK IN PROGRESS

The 100th anniversary of the official completion and opening in 1910 of the Carnegie Building in Victoria, which now houses the Natural History Museum was also the chosen date to launch the annual ‘national heritage week’ across the archipelago. The Carnegie building is one of the showcases of historical preservation and a sight to behold of course, but more important is the present work to create a full inventory of buildings and site worth to be preserved for future generations and for the visitors to the islands to see and appreciate, while learning something about the varied past of the Seychelles. Reportedly over 300 sites are presently ‘protected’ under the respective laws and regulations, a credit to the country of course and an added attraction for the tourist undoubtedly.

Most notably however was the opportunity used to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the Seychelles Tourism Academy and the national monuments board, to incorporate the materials kept there, and the findings of studies into the curriculum of STA students training to become qualified tourism personnel.

AIR SEYCHELLES FLEET UPDATE

The Seychellois national airline has last week sold one of their Short 360 aircraft to an Israeli aviation company, and the aircraft has already been flown to Israel and taken off the Seychelles registry. It is understood that alongside the sale a maintenance support agreement has also been signed between the buyers and Air Seychelles.

A brand new Twin Otter DHC 6-400 will join the Air Seychelles fleet next month, as already reported a few weeks ago, when the airline had confirmed the purchase of an additional state of art turboprop, which will join existing Twin Otters on the fleet.

The airline’s turboprop aircrafts are the backbone of the domestic services from the Mahe International Airport to outlying aerodromes and airfields like Praslin and others, and much in demand to transport tourists on arrival directly to their final island destination, if they are not staying on Mahe.

Meanwhile had the closure of the European airspaces also affected Air Seychelles, as flights in and out of the UK were halted. Passengers already enroute from Mahe to London were accommodated in Zurich, where the flight has made a scheduled stop, as it could then not proceed to London while the atmosphere was still full of the ash. By the time of going to press all scheduled flights has resumed and ‘normality’ had been restored. Well done Air Seychelles for not stranding the passengers, or ‘dumping’ them as has been reported from other affected airlines which were inflight to the UK and then had to land at European mainland airports before those also closed.

ANTI PIRACY SURVEILLANCE TO MOVE CLOSER TO SOMALIAN SHORES

Unmanned aerial vehicles, aka ‘drones’ are increasingly playing a more important role in surveillance activities to guard shipping traffic against attacks by ocean terrorists, and many of them have been launched in the past by a US forces contingent operating out of the Seychelles, where the government has granted them a base. New reports however suggest that some of these drones, maybe additional such assets, may in the future also move closer to the Somali territorial waters and shores and Djibouti, already home to a naval and air assets by the coalition forces, has been named as a possible future base.

The thinking about the mandate of the naval coalition is ever so slightly changing, and a more robust forward defence, like the imposition of a naval blockade just outside Somali waters is one option. However, there has also been growing speculation about arming aerial assets to not just survey but to also defend cargo ships from the air against attacks, after spotting ‘motherships’ and ‘skiffs’ near the shipping routes or when leaving Somali territorial waters with intent.

Information from the Seychelles would indicate that the number of drones has been reduced from previously 5 to now only 3, thought enough to patrol the skies over the Seychelles waters, while the remaining two may now already operate out of Djibouti with added responsibilities to also provide intelligence about ground movement of the various militant Islamic militias which continue to control large swathes of territory.

Meanwhile has the Seychelles President James Michel asked for more resources to be availed to the country by friendly member nations of the naval coalition, to increase training and add more material assets to patrol the national waters and secure the shipping lanes leading through the economic exclusion zone. More funding was also requested to add more facilities in prisons, where ocean terrorists on trial are on remand and after conviction are incarcerated, as well as technical assistance in the public prosecution department and the judiciary.

CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ELECTIONS CHALLENGED

Several regular sources from the Seychelles have reported that the elections for the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry were ‘bodged’, while others claim that the results were ‘engineered’ or as one put it ‘pre-determined’. This expanding scandal is now very likely threatening the holding of the regional Indian Ocean Chambers of Commerce and Industry meeting later in the year in the Seychelles, as, should the allegations be either proven or not conclusively disproven, members may abandon the business organization and in fact begin the formation of a rival body, which would tear the business community apart in the middle while giving their invited colleagues a poor picture of being able to hold the congress under such clouded circumstances.
The allegations were strengthened by apparently a number of members present, who claim that there were more ballots counted than members entitled to vote were present and had cast their votes, leading to immediate outcries over ‘ballot stuffing’ and ‘rigging’ and discrediting the newly elected chairman and executive. Specifically it was alleged that while there should have been 413 votes of members present in the end the tally was 465 without any explanation. The long serving SCCI Secretary General also reportedly resigned in the aftermath of the meeting.

Added doubts were raised when further allegations were made that recent admissions of ‘new members’ were made without the usual vetting and clearance process just in time for the elections and that their annual dues and joining fees were paid by one contestant for chairmanship, while that the same candidate also allegedly printed the election ballots in his own printing shop.  The Seychelles Chamber of Commerce & Industries is now made up primarily of small retailers and this may ultimately embarrass the president of the country who has worked hard with the support from the IMF and the World Bank to try to place the island nation on a new economic route. Observers are therefore waiting to see if the president will continue to include the discredited chairman of the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce & Industries as a delegate on his overseas missions.
A campaign is now underway to compel the ‘winner’ to voluntarily stand down and agree to new elections, to save the reputation of the chamber, as otherwise the action could be taken to the international scene to apply pressure on the SCCI to correct these anomalies and address the complains.

It was not ruled out that court action may follow but the biggest threat would immediately be the formation of a rival chamber or alternate business association to the detriment of the original body, which could lead to a split of the business community and a lesser status in their representative powers vis a vis government, NGO’s and the global business community, where the Chamber of Commerce and Industry is normally associated with high moral and ethical standards.

The entire charade made high waves across the business community and in civil society in the Seychelles, especially as most newspapers reportedly refused to print their reporter’s details or publish letters to the editor about this nebulous elections, not a resounding vote of confidence for the local media and being ‘free and fair’.

The matter was of interest to this correspondent as Mr. Louis D’ Offay, the chairman of the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association was the other candidate who, when coming to realise the alleged malpractices, walked out of the meeting with his supporters. Watch this space.

AIR SEYCHELLES PROVIDES EXEMPLARY SERVICE OVER ‘ASH DISRUPTIONS’

In view of the ongoing restrictions of European aviation bodies has Air Seychelles now decided to operate their Rome – London flight with a turnaround in Rome, i.e. passengers to London would have to make their onward journey by road or rail, while at the same time also announcing that they will operate their regular Paris service into an airport near Marseille by the names of Nimes, which is just under 600 KM by road or rail from Paris. This will at least assist travellers ‘stranded’ on the Seychelles, who – inspite of the archipelago being one of the most attractive places in the world to be marooned on – need to get back to work or to attend business meetings. Passengers destined for the Seychelles can also board their flight in Nimes where Air Seychelles staff will be positioned to attend to any queries arriving or departing passengers do have.

This extraordinary effort makes Air Seychelles a shining example how a little creative thinking and ‘thinking on one’s feet’ can actually help to solve the problems created by the Icelandic volcano eruption, which has for the past few days grounded almost all air traffic in, out and across Europe. Bouquets for those who thought this up, well done and congrats to Capt. Savy and his entire team.

And in closing today again some material, courtesy of Gill Staden, taken from The Livingstone Weekly, one being an article and the other being a series of pictures documenting the massive destruction heavy rains can wreak in the tropics, hard to believe but true and also seen right across Eastern Africa:

Sun International Zambia scoops

Best Hotel Stand at ZITE

Produced by Sun International Zambia April, 2010

The Falls Resort was recently awarded The Best Hotel Stand Award at the Zambia International Travel Expo (ZITE) that took place in Lusaka in March 2010. The award was in recognition of the hotel’s high standard of presentation of its products and services in line with the expo’s theme.

The travel show brought together more than a hundred companies with a diverse range of products including hotels, lodges, camps, tour operators, airlines and many more. The event took place under the theme “crossing boundaries – within and beyond”.

ZITE is the only tourism marketing event in Zambia that brings together the best of local and regional tourism products whilst attracting international visitors and buyers.

Now in its third year running, the ZITE has registered improved success in getting tourism products to potential buyers both locally and abroad while setting the benchmark in terms of quality and standard. The expo also invites foreign

companies and embassies to take part. This has greatly helped to raise the benchmark and provide necessary competition on an international level. In fact the presence of foreign countries and companies has made the expo an emerging event on the tourism scene.

Stella Mulala, Sun International Zambia’s Public Relations Manager, said that supporting ZITE was key in ensuring its ongoing growth and success; and tied in well with the resort’s community and touring development initiatives.

The expo was officiated by the Zambian Acting Minister of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources, Michael Kaingu, MP.

The Sinazongwe Road

I was sent some photos of the roads on the way to Sinazonge.

Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean report Second Edition April 2010

News from ‘Uganda – Gifted by Nature’, the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Second edition April 2010

Uganda News

BUJAGALI FALLS ‘TO DROWN’ NEXT YEAR

The famous Bujagali waterfalls of the River Nile, just below the original Owens Falls dam, will fall victim to the advance of construction of the new hydro electric dam and power plant a few kilometres down the river, and as early already as January or February next year, according to reports coming from Jinja. In fact it is expected that in a year’s time two turbines will be operational and feed as much as 50 MW into the national grid, with a gradual addition of more turbines until the full capacity of 250 MW is reached.

The present falls are a popular hot spot for tourists and locals alike and hundreds, on long weekends thousands throng the site to see the water gush over the rocks and watch rafters and kayakers negotiate the rapids, applauding those brave enough to attempt it and cheer on those whose rafts flipped, throwing the daring rafters into the clear warm waters of the Nile. Accommodation and restaurant facilities have been erected on site since tourism began its revival in Jinja in the mid 1990’s and ‘Bujagali’ has become as famous a name for white water rafting as the Zambezi and other challenging rivers.

Former power plant promoters AES of Virginia in the US still stand exposed as either fools or peddlers of ill intent, as their ‘studies’ for the power plant in the 1990’s projected tourism levels, both in terms of numbers and in terms of income, which were far from the truth then and have in fact been massively overtaken by reality since then, and it is therefore no wonder, that when AES fell upon hard times, following the ENRON collapse, few shed a tear when their project collapsed and they left Uganda with the proverbial tail between their legs.

Years later the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development came on the scene to revive the project, following hard years for Ugandans when the hydroelectric plant at Owen Falls had to reduce output after lake levels has sunk to record lows following prolonged draughts and increased use of water from source rivers for domestic, agricultural and industrial uses, leaving less and less reaching the lake in the end. With the new power plant on a sounder financial footing, and following extensive stakeholder consultations across the board, construction eventually went underway three years ago and by early next year the dam will be closed, leading to the flooding of all  up river rapids and falls, rendering them unusable for rafting activities.

However, it is understood that the rafting companies will relocate to new ‘entry points’ below the new dam, while a whole range of other water and sports based activities may spring up on the new ‘lake’ forming behind the dam, affording other opportunities to utilise the river’s waters.

One of the big disappointments however was the location and route of the new high voltage power lines right along the path of the river, causing a distinct ‘visual pollution’ and remaining a source of irritation for those who had built houses and planned to put up facilities to promote a new ‘weekend hub’ for Kampaleans, the area being less than 100 KM from the capital and therefore within easy reach of large numbers of affluent citizens wanting to own weekend homes – not under high voltage power lines though, as is now being realised. It is also understood that not all property owners have been compensated as yet with some of those affected arguing that the money offered as ‘compensation’ is a far cry from the real market value of what once was and with some adjustments to the power line route could have been prime real estate along the Nile’s banks.

Some staff of rafting companies have confirmed to this correspondent that while they are willing to relocate, a number of logistical issues remain unresolved, such as opening up of new access roads to the river and improving existing ones to the new starting points for rafting, and finding suitable land to build new facilities on river islands or along the shores, all issues addressed by stakeholders during the consultative exercises years ago but with little done so far amidst high expectations and equally high cost for the affected companies in the face of vague ‘promises’ by the developers none of which, it turns out now, are legally enforceable and depend entirely on good will …

While the name ‘Bujagali’ will undoubtedly remain, in guide books and memories of tens if not hundreds of thousands of tourist visitors over the years, the attraction of the site will change and it is hard to foresee at this stage, how existing businesses like camps, restaurants and lodges will make do in the future, when the real ‘action’ is several kilometres downriver, once the water levels will begin to rise above the new dam.

Meanwhile though, as the countdown continues, this is the opportunity now to visit Jinja on last time, or many times as opportunity allows, and raft or kayak the original stretch of river for as long as is possible, as afterwards all which remains will be memories of Bujagali, joining those memories of old of Rippon Falls and only then found in old guide books and the work of historians.

TELECOM COMPANIES RESPOND TO CHANGING INTERNET MARKET

The leading Ugandan mobile phone companies have now started to respond to the availability in the market of added, if not excess capacities, since the connections to the various fibre optic networks have taken place last year. One of the market leaders, Uganda Telecom, has progressively reduced their monthly access charge to connect to the internet on their 3G network from initially a US Dollar pegged figure payable in Shillings to a fixed Shilling rate now standing at 80.000 UShs per month with unlimited access. The necessary gadget, a USB modem, presently sells for a mere 150.000 UShs, compared to 300.000 UShs at the launch of the product two years ago.

Other providers like Zain, formerly known as Celtel and soon to be part of the Indian Bharti Group with yet another name change in the pipeline, have made their USB modems the most affordable in the market at 53.000 UShs, and now also offer daily and weekly access rates, an important feature for visitors to the country from abroad, who want to or need to stay connected but do not require a full monthly subscription. MTN, Uganda’s largest mobile network, has reportedly not yet changed their pricing structure but is according to usually well informed sources actively considering a market move in the light of what their competitors are doing. They are reportedly also looking into higher connection speeds and ‘pro rata’ tariffs on a daily or weekly basis, as presently they also only offer monthly access packages.

All this is of course good news for tourists and business visitors to Uganda, who can already at the International Airport in Entebbe pick up a Sim card to enjoy local tariffs when making calls while in Uganda or else buy a USB modem and connect to the internet ‘on the go’, wherever they move in the country.

These efforts must be seen as providing very important ‘flanking measures’ for in particular tourist visitors to Uganda, who come for the country’s biodiversity, intact ecosystems (by and large anyway) and to see the fabled wildlife, raft the Nile, do horseback safaris long the Nile and at Lake Mburo National Park or climb the Mountains of the Moon. For them, these ‘extras’ available in Uganda like affordable communication services, do make a difference and the local Telecoms companies ought to be thanked for that effort, on behalf of us Ugandans but also on behalf of our growing numbers of visitors.

TURKISH CONFIRMS A/C TYPE AND ROUTING

Turkish Airlines has belatedly given confirmation that they intend to use an Airbus A340 aircraft on the route between Istanbul and Entebbe, which is due to be launched towards the middle of 2010. It was also mentioned that at that stage most likely the new Entebbe flights will be linked with Dar es Salaam, although it is unlikely that THY would get any traffic rights to uplift passengers and cargo between the two airports in the absence of 5th freedom rights, and in the face of more than likely objections from local and regional airlines like Kenya Airways, Precision Air or Air Uganda, all of which fly either nonstop or directly on the route. Details on flight times are also not available as yet but it is expected that the new flights from Eastern Africa, i.e. Entebbe and Dar es Salaam, will arrive in Istanbul at such times to allow for convenient onward connections into the THY network to Europe.

AFRAA PROTESTS EU AVIATION BANS

The African Airlines Association has not taken kindly to the recent ban of airlines from the continent and the blanket ban on airlines registered in certain countries in Africa, claiming that 13 of the ‘banned’ countries are from Africa, out of a total of 17 ‘banned’ countries worldwide.

Sources in Brussels promptly rejected the suggestion of the AFRAA Secretary General that the regularly updated ‘black list’ is driven by motivations like undermining confidence in the continent’s airlines. The source strongly suggested that the only motive the EU’s ‘black list’ has is to improve aviation safety and let the rest of the world know where serious breaches in aviation regulatory oversight and enforcement of ICAO mandates exist, so that consumers, least of all in Africa, can make informed choices when booking an airline ticket. The source further reacted to suggestions by AFRAA that ‘black lists’ should only be published by ICAO directly. ‘This is within our mandate and obligation for freedom of information towards a wider public, in the EU first and foremost and then for everyone else to see’ before adding ‘other regulatory bodies like the FAA also ban airlines from flying into their airspace, and that is also published, maybe with less fanfare but it is on their information base’.

AFRAA however also pointed out that several of the airlines ‘black listed’ in the latest publication from Brussels are not even operational or lack a current AOC [air operators certificate], nor do others on the list presently fly to Europe or intend to fly to Europe but operate domestic flights or regional flights only.

However, all that said, there are a sizeable number of properly regulated and well managed airlines on the continent with full certification to fly to Europe from all corners of Africa. They fly under the auspices and oversight of Civil Aviation Authorities which have passed the audits of ICAO, the FAA and the EU time and again and are generally positive examples that African aviation is not ‘dangerous’ per se while of course a number of airlines operating on the continent definitely are, as the many reports here on aviation accidents also confirm.

What is needed is that the most affected countries be given logistical support by ICAO and the EU to improve and strengthen their regulatory functions, train their staff and provide them with competence, so that they in turn can sort out ‘their own rotten apples’ and shut down airlines which do not comply with maintenance directives, ignore airworthiness directives and flout other regulations including those regarding crew training and working hours.

AFRAA undoubtedly has a role to play here but confrontational broadsides over the issue will not exactly be helpful to achieve what should be a common, global goal: making air transport safer and reducing the far above average of air accidents in Africa to at least global averages.

GATELY ON NILE TURNS 10

A decade ago this correspondent sat on the terrace of the just opened Gately on Nile with proprietor Merryde Loosemore, enjoying their ‘signature dish’ Quiche de Maison and preparing to write an article for what was then East Africa’s leading leisure magazine, Travel News of Nairobi / Kenya. Merryde had a few months earlier taken out a long term lease on a dilapidated residential property overlooking the part of Lake Victoria where it begins to turn into the River Nile, just a few hundred metres away from the erstwhile ‘Rippon Falls’ where the river initially started its long journey to the Mediterranean Sea. Construction of the Owen Falls dam in the 1950’s then submerged these spectacular falls (as seen on archived pictures) and moved ‘the spot’ further down to the current location of the ‘source of the Nile’.

Intense renovations took place during those weeks, with Merryde by her own admission working around the clock, to meet her target opening date in April 2000 and to stay on top of the work to ensure the project was delivered on budget.

Jinja was beginning to emerge as ‘the adventure capital of East Africa’, courtesy of several rafting and adventure companies drawing in the crowds for rafting, kayaking, quad biking, bungee jumping and horseback riding and more quality accommodation was required to meet the growing demand. The nearby golf club and sailing club offer added attractions of course for visitors’ intent to ‘work out’ a little more.

The Gately on Nile, named after Merryde’s adventurous auntie she told me, became an instant ‘hit’, for guest staying in the homely atmosphere – including being able to go downstairs to the restaurant at night and fetch drinks before telling the bar staff in the morning to put it on the bill – but also for the restaurant which soon made it to the top of the list for eating out in Jinja.

Some years ago Merryde then managed to obtain a lease for the building and large plot next door and incorporated a second property into the Gately, now offering more rooms, more facilities but still the very same warm hospitality, good ‘home cooked’ food and most important, the owners attention to detail.

Last Saturday evening a large crowd assembled at the Gately in Jinja to help Merryde and her staff celebrate the achievement of turning ‘10’ and a very hearty ‘happy birthday’ it was for them all. For more information visit www.gately-on-nile.com or write to gately@utlonline.co.ug

KASUBI TOMBS TO BE REBUILT

UNESCO officials were in Kampala last week to assess the situation surrounding the city’s only World Heritage Site, which burned down a few weeks ago, as immediately reported by eTN. The officials were meeting with government officials from the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry and with officials of the Buganda Kingdom, to which the ancient burial site of former kings belongs.

The main structures were burnt to ashes and many of the artefacts and priceless and irreplaceable mementos and collections of ancient tools, weapons and exhibits also fell victim to the flames, making it a difficult challenge, even after rebuilding, to restore the exhibition to its former glory.

It is understood that UNESCO will support the rebuilding of the tombs, while the Ugandan government too is set to contribute to the restoration of this national treasure and a major fundraising drive is currently also underway across Uganda and abroad to secure sufficient funds for the task ahead.

The Kasubi Tombs, where four of the former kings were buried, was an essential part of any city tour for visitors from abroad and many dignitaries and visiting VIP’s too in the past were taken there as part of an arranged cultural programme. Watch this space for updates and details of time frames towards a re-opening.

Uganda’s two other UNESCO World Heritage Sites are actually national parks and include Bwindi and the Rwenzori Mountains, although applications for more recognitions’ are pending. Once granted the coveted status any such attraction is bound to draw in extra visitor numbers and add to the global appeal of a destination, something Uganda much needs in her efforts to promote tourism.

ONE KING TO CELEBRATE, ANOTHER ONE ONLY TO ‘MARK’ BIRTHDAY

King Oyo of the Tooro Kingdom in Western Uganda will celebrate his 18th birthday this week and formally ascend to the throne, which he inherited as a very young child when his father passed away unexpectedly. Since then his mother, Queen Kemigisa, held ‘fort’ for her son as regent, but the full responsibility of the kingship will now pass to the young king as he turns 18 and formally becomes of age. He will be ruling his kingdom under the name of King Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV. The ceremony will also be attended by President Museveni who has always maintained close ties with the Tooro Kingdom and in particular with the royal family since the passing of King Oyo’s father, but other cultural rulers, both kings and chiefs, are expected to come to Fort Portal from across Uganda and the wider African region to witness the event. Foreign delegations from kingdoms and royal families are also expected to visit for the coronation, as are governmental representatives of many friendly nations. The long awaited coronation will be covered by major international TV networks many of which have in the past taken a keen interest in the young king’s upbringing, and it is generally thought that broadcasting these news around the world will raise interest levels for tourism to Uganda, of which the kingdoms and their culture are an integral part. Tourism operators asked about the impact of the event however had mixed ideas, with only some of the leading firms intensifying the promotional aspects alongside the event to add extra focus on future tours covering the Fort Portal area, which is at the centre of four major tourism attractions, the Kibale Forest National Park, the Semliki Game Reserve [formerly Tooro Game Reserve], the Rwenzori Mountain National Park and a little further away the Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Meanwhile have the birthday celebrations for the King of Buganda, Kabaka Ronald Mutebi been toned down as the kingdom is still in mourning over the fire at the Kasubi Tombs, where the last four kings are buried and which had been raised to UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The main structure and priceless artefacts were burned to ashes some weeks ago, dealing a major blow to the Buganda culture and depriving visitors to Uganda of the unique opportunity to gain an insight into the kingdom’s ancient traditions. Kabaka Mutebi is turning 55 this 13th of April and is considered the 36th King of Buganda

Happy Birthday to both King Oyo and Kabaka Mutebi and sincere congratulations and best wishes on the coronation of King Oyo later this week, may he be blessed with a long and wise rule and bring prosperity to his subjects.

VITAL CROSS BORDER BRIDGE SWEPT AWAY BY YET MORE RAINS

The bridge connecting Uganda and the Congo DR near Ishasha border post has reportedly been washed away last week, grounding traffic and causing a major backlog of trucks normally using the bridge to delivery their cargos to the Eastern Congo. It is one of the available routes into Congo and important for local trade between the border communities. No information was available when the bridge would be repaired, one of many across the country and in fact the entire region now destroyed following rains of biblical proportions in recent weeks.

Ishasha is also known as an area of the Queen Elizabeth National Park, where tree climbing lions are regularly observed and which is located enroute from the main areas of QENP to the gorilla parks of Bwindi and Mgahinga.  Added attractions are sightings of chimpanzees, a large number of mammals including predators and over 250 bird species resident in the immediate area of the park. Lodging facilities inside the park are available and the Ishasha Wilderness Camp is operated by Wild Frontiers’ Ugandan operation. Visit www.ugandaexclusivecamps.com for more information or otherwise write to them for bookings or rate details via reservations@wildfrontiers.co.ug or reservations@ugandaexclusivecamps.com.

LAKE VICTORIA ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT PROJECT ENTERS PHASE TWO

The Entebbe based secretariat dealing with environmental and economic issues of Lake Victoria has announced that phase two, valued at 65 million US Dollars, is now set to commence, and that the two newly joined EAC members Rwanda and Burundi are now also taking full part in the project. The lake is a source of livelihood for millions of people of Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya living along its shores, and fishing has become a key industry, however also poses a big threat as overfishing and the use of illegal small sized nets by fishermen and trawlers often catches undersized fish in their development stages, preventing them from growing to adulthood size. It is in this area, but also in tackling pollution, that the secretariat has been active in recent years. Pollution threatens the water quality and is often caused, or so it is alleged, by the run off waters of flower farms and agricultural developments along rivers leading to the lake or the lake shores directly, when the fertilizers are being washed into the lake, causing algae to develop which then smother, together with the notorious water hyacinth, the breeding grounds of lake fish, besides driving the cost of water purification up by as much as four fold (see related previous stories on the challenges of the Kampala Water Company). Reversing environmental degradation will be the challenge of phase two and the secretariat also called upon the media to highlight poor farming and other environmental practises to help achieve these goals.

However, flower farms have often proved obstinate and ‘anti’ best environmental practise introductions ‘for cost reasons’ as often told in private to this correspondent, claiming ‘until our competitors in Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia too adhere to those measures, we will not take the lead, our cost base is already massive because of high electricity cost, high tariffs for the air cargo, so here we shall just wait’ – obviously not as long it is hoped until our entire environment is wrecked adds this correspondent. Watch this space.

NEW ‘EYE’ ON THE WEB

The latest, and 10th anniversary edition of The Eye is now available on the web via www.theeye.co.ug and contains a bumper ‘harvest’ of information about Uganda, where to eat, where to go, addresses, contact details, airline information, national park information, an almost complete listing of hotels, apartments resorts, lodges and safari camps and much more.

Across the border www.KenyaBuzz.com is also changing its format soon, so keep looking in at their website to get the most comprehensive information about ‘what’s on’ in Nairobi and the rest of our sister country. Essential literature for intending visitors!

BRUSSELS AIRLINES TO CODESHARE WITH US AIRWAYS

Information was received from a regular SN source, that an agreement has been reached with Star Alliance partner US Airways to code share on the Brussels – Philadelphia route, with those flights being operated by US Airways on behalf of SN. Domestic onwards flights out of the Philadelphia hub are also being added to expand choices for passengers from both sides of the Atlantic. In turn it is understood that US Airways will place their code on a number of Brussels Airlines destinations out of their hub in Brussels to a range of European and most important also their African destinations, including Entebbe, all subject of course to regulatory approvals, which are however expected to be granted without much ado.

Kenya News

ITS A HUNDRED RHINOS ON OL PEJETA

Last weekend good news arrived in this correspondent’s email inbox, when the Ol Pejeta Conservancy announced that with the recent birth of another Southern White the total rhino population on the estate is now standing at a proud 100, of which four are of the rarest kind, the Northern White, 12 of the Southern White variety and 84 of the endangered Eastern Black kind.

Ol Pejeta, visited in February by this correspondent, is one of the main ‘breeding grounds’ for rhinos in Kenya and has enjoyed great successes inspite of challenges which need to be dealt with.

The conservancy has now also started a naming contest on their Facebook Fan Page

http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Ol-Pejeta-Conservancy/238056550323 and encourage readers to visit the site and give suggestions for names. A small committee on Ol Pejeta will review all the proposed names and will announce the winners as early next week.

The survival of the rhinos, both the black and white species, stands on knife’s edge as poaching has in recent years once again increased, in particular in Southern Africa, which makes for an alarming trend for the conservation fraternity, considering the ever growing hunger for their horns in parts of Arabia and the Far East, there mainly China and Japan.

Elsewhere in East Africa, Uganda had lost her entire population of rhinos in the early 1980’s, when dictatorships turned a blind eye to poaching, or when allegedly regime members were part and parcel of the poaching rings, and only a few years ago did the Rhino Fund Uganda bring the Southern White species back into the country and started a breeding programme on the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, where the three females have since given birth to three healthy young males. Six more Southern White are expected later in the year from South Africa and will help to accelerate the breeding programme, which is aimed to eventually restore rhinos to the wild, starting with Kidepo Valley and Murchisons Falls national parks.

Meanwhile in Kenya breeding programmes are much more advanced already, having commenced two and a half decades earlier, when the Lewa Down Conservancy and the equally private Solio Game Reserve were joined by the first two ‘official’ rhino reserves in Lake Nakuru National Park and in Tsavo West National Park below the Ngulia escarpment. Relative ‘newcomer’ Ol Pejeta however turned the tables on the more established breeding programmes when it became the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa and their ‘latest arrival’ was surely worth popping a few champagne corks in celebrations. Congrats to Ol Pejeta for this extraordinary achievement and all the best in the future for yet more success. For more information, also how to financially support Ol Pejeta, write to info@olpejetaconservancy.org or visit their website via www.olpejetaconservancy.org

SAFARILINK TO OFFER NEW DESTINATIONS

From the 01st of July will SafariLink offer added services to tourists and residents of Kenya, when they will launch an afternoon flight to Amboseli, the Chyulu Hills and Tsavo East, allowing passengers from the morning flights coming from the Masai Mara or from the Nanyuki / Samburu flights to connect with ease to their next safari destination in other parts of Kenya. Lunch as witnessed a few weeks ago is not a problem, since Wilson Airport now has several restaurant facilities available for passengers, from the venerable Aero Club of East Africa to several others, including snack bars and even a duty free shop for overseas tourists. The new scheduled service will run during the high season from 01st of July until 31st of October and then again from 16th December until 31st of March following. SafariLink operates a fleet of Cessna Caravans, Twin Otters and other turboprop aircraft, and more details are available via www.safarilink-kenya.com

QATARI AIRPORT PROJECTS COME BACK TO HAUNT KAA

The Kenya Airport Authority, from which controversial former CEO George Muhoho has finally retired in early April, is now faced with the fallout of one of the decisions he has personally pushed for during his reign of office, the ‘airport city’ due to be constructed on 90+ acres of KAA land allegedly leased to the Qatari group. However, the current chairman of the board has some time ago publicly announced that this project is on hold and will be subjected to additional scrutiny, before any construction for a hotel, conference centre and other facilities can go ahead. It appears that the land in question has not been surveyed as yet nor has it been marked or fenced off, a prerequisite for any project to commence. Yet a Qatari fact finding mission descended on Nairobi last weekend to establish if their 350 + million US Dollars project was still on and going ahead, and undoubtedly trying to find a way forward with the board of the KAA so as to ‘rescue’ the deal. The formal ‘ground breaking’ was delayed in March owing to these circumstances and no new date has been set as yet, so watch this space for new announcements as and when they happen.

THAI CRISIS ‘NOT REALLY GOING TO BENEFIT EAST AFRICA’

According to regular sources in Kenya and Zanzibar, the current political crisis unfolding in the streets of Bangkok is not likely to fill many more beds along the Kenyan beaches or in Zanzibar during the present low season. Speaking on condition of anonymity both sources did say that as the main showdown was taking place in the Thai capital, and most sun seekers were flying more or less directly to the Thai resort areas without transiting in Bangkok, there were few travellers now diverting from their holiday plans, while tour operators in Europe were of course carefully monitoring events and only keeping Bangkok red flagged. However, in view of the ongoing low season in Eastern Africa, which lasts traditionally until the end of June, added business, should it come, could be accommodated without problems. Said one: ‘we are not going to de-campaign Thailand, but our European tour operators know that should it become necessary to rebook larger numbers of people, we are ready to help them, accommodation is available, but the feelers we got from Germany, Italy or the UK are still very low key. If the situation in Thailand goes from bad to worse it may be different, then the travel advisories kick in, insurance issues arise, but right now we just have sympathy for our colleagues in Thailand; they must be tearing their hair out over the situation, again, not too long ago they had the troubles when the airport was being occupied by those now in government, then there were the rackets at the airport we read about, and when they are just getting back on track this happens. I hope our people in Kenya learn a lesson from that and we never have a repeat of the 2007/8 situation ever again.’

Tanzania News

MT. MERU HOTEL TO REOPEN IN LATE 2010

Once Arusha’s foremost hotel, the Mt. Meru then went into decline in the late 70’s and into the 80’s before Accor’s Novotel brand took over the management and refurbished the property in the mid / late 80’s. The Tanzania Tourist Corporation, to which the Mt. Meru belonged, then however changed hands when government divested from the company and the hotel has since been lingering along before being closed last year for a major refurbishment and renovations.

While owners representatives announced last week that the hotel will re-open as a 5 star property, such claims have in the past often failed to meet the expected standards and it will be seen at the time of re-opening if indeed the new owners can live up to this billing. The Mt. Meru Hotel, when reopening, will offer about 180 rooms and suites and a fully fledged new conference centre, trying to rival the Arusha International Conference Centre, which is home at present to the UN’s tribunal on the Rwanda genocide and seat of the East African Community head quarters, and overall also in need of a major refurbishment and modernization.

IT KEEPS GETTING WORSE FOR ATCL

Following a series of damaging revelations about Air Tanzania in recent weeks, and in the wake of the crash landing of their remaining B737-200, things could not really get much worse, or could they? Now the staff were taking their grievances to parliament it is understood, complaining that their pay is bad and that their working conditions are poor. Consider this however, the airline now has ONE turboprop plane remaining according to sources in Dar es Salaam, continues however to support more than 180 staff on their payroll, with no significant revenue coming in, while they owe mega money to travel agents (see story of last week), the Tanzania CAA and other suppliers and appear to be between 40 and 50 billion Tanzania Shillings in the red…

The parliamentary committee on infrastructure looking into the cash starved erstwhile national airline also appears bewildered when the fact became known, and predictably asked for yet another report from the board of directors, whose mandate however also appears to have expired some time ago, adding more questions than answers.

Should no financial investor be found very soon, and with the circumstances mentioned above this is less and less likely now, government will face a stark choice, to either throw more good money after the bad one of before or else finally pull the plug on ATCL, painful as it may be, and leave the aviation sector to the private sector players like Precision Air, Fly 540 Tanzania and a range of other airlines, all of whom now in any case ARE the mail players and stakeholders in the Tanzanian skies, leaving ATCL almost as bystanders on the ground. Watch this space.

ZANZIBAR CRUISE VISIT CANCELLED

The ‘problem from hell’ continues to inflict economic damage to the harbour cities traditionally on the annual schedule of port calls as Zanzibar now once again came to realise. The activities of the ocean terrorists, aka Somali pirates, have driven away a significant portion of cruise tourism to safer waters and the latest such ‘victim’ is the Seven Seas Voyager, which has been diverted to another destination out of safety concerns for both ship and passengers, instead of making the scheduled visit to Zanzibar.

While the recent more robust responses to the problem, most notably the decisive action by the Seychelles coast guard – which could serve as an example to other naval coalition vessels – is encouraging, there is still no naval blockade in place keeping the terrorists marooned in their land bases, nor have more robust rules of engagement been practised to ‘show flag’ and deal with motherships and skiffs where and when spotted from the air and from the sea and prevent them from reaching their targets.

Meanwhile will be hundreds of thousands of US Dollars in revenue lost through this cancelled cruise ship visit in Zanzibar alone, while millions are at stake for tourism businesses in Kenya, the Seychelles, Tanzania and Zanzibar and other Indian Ocean islands as long as the ocean terror is allowed to continue.

It is understood from impeccable sources that some cruise lines are now placing added security on board during their voyages through potential danger areas, while others like Star and Olsen have withdrawn their vessels altogether and relocated them to the safe waters of the Caribbean and other cruise destinations.

Rwanda News

GENOCIDE REMEMBERED – ‘NEVER AGAIN’ THE UNDERLYING MESSAGE AFTER 16 YEARS

Last week the whole of Rwanda and millions of her friends around the world paid tribute to the victims of the 1994 genocide, which was perpetrated against the population by murderous militias and former government hardliners, costing the lives of anywhere between 800.000 to 1.000.000 innocent people.

Communities around the country were busy in preparing the various memorial sites where victims have been buried for the various commemorative services to be held during last week, for which many visitors from the region and further abroad are expected in country. An international Genocide Symposium also took place last week in Kigali, which brought together experts and researchers from around the world discussing how to treat trauma, heal suffering and most important to promote reconciliation between the affected communities and finally how to stop genocide from happening elsewhere in the future. Rwandan diplomatic missions around the world also held memorial services, one most notably at The Hague. At the same time reports emerged from Stockholm, where former Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson, who was in charge of the UN’s commission of enquiry, apparently heaped blame on the UN for betraying the Rwandan people in 1994, saying it was simply not possible to exonerate the international community nor the UN for their abandonment of those subsequently killed in a murderous spree of 100 days of madness.

Meanwhile, there are still cases of absolute denial that the genocide ever happened becoming public, perpetrated by the same quarters which initially sparked the killings, an absurd idea of course in particular for someone like this correspondent who was in Rwanda with a humanitarian relief mission from Uganda not long after the mass murders had been committed. Our all thoughts and prayers should be with the entire Rwanda this week, the survivors and the victims alike while maintaining vigilance that such crimes against humanity are never seen again, not in Rwanda nor anywhere else around the world.

Thankfully though Rwanda has risen from the ashes of the genocide like the proverbial Phoenix and has once more become a major tourism and investment destination in Eastern Africa.

NEW DICTIONARY WILL HELP VISITORS

Information was received last week from Kigali, that a new dictionary has been launched in Rwanda, offering translations between English and Kinyarwanda, the main vernacular language spoken in the ‘land of a thousand hills’. Tourist visitors, but also business visitors, now have a chance to pick up a few words in the local language and in fact make sure they correctly pronounce the words with the help of the new dictionary. Well done Fountain Publishers for this extraordinary effort to promote the local language and help it be understood by visitors.

SUCCESSOR FOR ROSETTE RUGAMBA NAMED

The Rwanda Development Board has now named the successor for the long serving Rosette Rugamba, who after 7 years at the helm of first ORTPN as Director General and then as Deputy CEO in charge of Tourism and Conservation under the newly formed RDB left a few weeks ago to enter a career in the private sector.

Mr. Rica Rwigamba was appointed as the new head of the tourism and conservation department, and will report – as will others in the economics cluster – to the Chief Operating Officer, a new position directly answerable in turn to the CEO Mr. John Gara. Said John in a press release sent to this correspondent: “All these changes will enable the RDB to better strategise and attract more investments into the country and to maximise the potential of its existing staff. We are dedicated to serving the best interests of our clients, and we remain focused on fast tracking development in a way that is profitable and sustainable for the country.”

It was pointed out that all staff presently working for RDB in the various national parks, were retained in the restructuring of RDB although it has not been ruled out that should similar agreements be struck as recently for the Akagera National Park, they could be transferred to the payroll of a new concessionaire. It is also understood that some positions remain yet to be filled as suitable candidates are being sourced but that by and large the restructuring goals have been achieved and the process is now completed. Congratulations to the new appointees, especially Rica and all the best in the future to keep tourism and conservation in the limelight and on track to yet greater things to come.

RWANDA APPROVES EAC COMMON MARKET PROTOCOL

Rwanda has taken a decisive step to fully implement the latest protocol of the East African Community, which will allow freedom of movement of labour, persons, services, goods and capital across the national borders within the 5 EAC member states. Rwanda has been at the forefront of implementing certain provisions ahead of time, including waiving work permit requirements for EAC citizens where reciprocity has been established, and is again expected to take the lead in ringing in the other required changes ahead of their partners. After the approval and ratification by both chambers of parliament President Kagame is now expected to sign the documents within days.

It seems that the latest entrant into the EAC is now taking the leadership in driving the Community into the 21st century and bringing back the hopes of a borderless region as it was before the breakdown of the ‘old’ EAC in 1977 – and fond memories those are.

Southern Sudan News

ELECTIONS HELD, DOOMSAYERS EXPOSED

The Southern Sudan over the weekend joined the rest of the country in the first national elections in nearly a quarter of a century, a precursor of things to come in January 2011, when the South will vote on Independence – overwhelmingly expected to be in favour through a YES vote – or to remain as part of the Republic of the Sudan – less and less likely considering the conduct of the regime in the run up of the elections.

The voting across the 10 Southern states went by and large without major incidents although scores of Ugandan and Kenyan traders left for home just ahead of the election weekend to monitor events from back home. Airlines were predictably fully booked out of Juba to Nairobi and Entebbe while busses too were full on their return journeys from Juba. This situation will likely prevail until after election results have been announced and new leaders been installed in their respective offices, before those jittery travellers will return to their business stations in Juba and across the other towns in the Southern Sudan.

The start of the election process was marred by logistical issues, when in a number of rural constituencies the ballots arrived late or names were found missing from voters’ registers, but that did not deter the Southern population to exercise their democratic rights for the first time in nearly a generation, and they rather patiently queued and waited until everything was ready than abandon their opportunity to cast their votes for candidates of their choice. Even Southern Sudan’s President Gen. Salva Kiir reportedly had to wait to cast his vote when ‘his’ polling station in Juba opened late, and the Southern Sudanese Vice President Dr. Riek Machar voted on Sunday in Unity State, according to a Facebook message received from him. The Southern leadership, in view of these problematic logistics, also called for an extension of the voting across the entire week, instead of closing the polls on Tuesday evening, and by the time of going to press the country’s electoral commission had already responded and added an extra two days of voting until Thursday evening. Watch this space for election updates in the next edition.

Seychelles News

AMAZING RACE SEYCHELLES EPISODE SCREENED BY CBS

Reportedly some 14 million viewers had the chance last year to capture a bit of the Seychellois spirit when watching the latest episode of the ‘amazing race’ series. A few weeks earlier the entire production team had descended on the Seychelles to prepare for and then film the participants being put through their challenges, which extended across the main islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue, amongst other venues. Much of these challenges had to do with swimming in the crystal clear waters the archipelago is renowned for, but also the carrying of coconuts – though not the fabled ‘coco de mer’ – and bananas, a staple food on the islands.

The Seychelles Tourist Board extended all the help and assistance they were able to muster to make the production of the island episode a success and considering the extraordinary fares on the US market now by Emirates it can only be expected that the sharply risen interest in this particular location will bring many more American visitors to the Seychelles in coming months.

Only recently did STB participate in the New York Times travel show and a delegation has also been to Miami to promote the Seychelles as a cruise destination.

REUNION – HERE WE COME AGAIN

A strong tourism delegation has flown to the island of La Reunion last weekend to further promote and strengthen ties between the two islands, which had increased sharply following the addition of a second flight by Air Austral between the Seychelles and La Reunion last year. The promotional tour, a repeat of last year’s successful visit, is supported this time by accompanying musicians and artists helping STB to showcase the islands’ many attractions for visitors, while also underscoring trade, sporting, economic, political and other links between two.

UPCOMING COMPLETION OF ROUND ISLAND RESORT EXCITES MARKET

It was learned last week that the construction of the Round Island Resort is advancing very well and that completion of this new luxury resort is set for later this year with 10 top of the range private villas along the secluded beach on which the new property sits. The new development has caught this correspondent’s eye as in a remarkable approach to landscaping the owners and managers have set up a tree and plant nursery on Mahe Island, where the plants, ferns and trees found on the island were nurtured and matured, ready for bringing back to Round Island and enhancing the already lush tropical flora found there. This is almost unique, and although similar ‘nurseries’ are part of almost every resort development now, here the plants were carefully collected, relocated to the dedicated nursery on the archipelago’s main island and will all return to their ‘original island world’ ahead of the opening. This sort of costly dedication and focused conservation efforts can still not to be taken for granted and the owners of the resort ought to be commended for this unilateral approach to enhance ‘their’ island, which is surrounded by one of the marine national parks.

All villas do have their own infiniti pools to provide maximum privacy for the guests choosing to stay on Round Island and a luxurious Spa will round up the range of facilities available. Transfer by speed boat from the Mahe pier is expected to take not more than about 15 minutes but helicopter transfers from the international airport are also on offer for those who want to spend every possible minute on Round Island … Visit www.enchantedseychelles.com for more information.

ALDABRA ATOLL ADDS ‘RAMSAR’ TO THEIR WORLD HERITAGE SITE STATUS

It was confirmed recently to this correspondent that the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the Aldabra atoll, which is managed by the Seychelles Island Foundation (see recent interview with their CEO Dr. Frauke Fleischer – Dogley) will now also be recognized as a Ramsar site, adding global recognition to the extraordinary conservation work done on the atoll by its ‘keepers’. This will be the third Ramsar site on the archipelago, after the original mangrove forest at Port Launay (recognised in 2005 as the Seychelles first), as Mare aux Cochon was equally recognised by the Ramsar secretariat at the same time. Three more applications are pending for further inclusion as Ramsar sites, it is understood, but no imminent announcements are expected at this time until further reviews have taken place.

COUSINE ISLAND BOOK NOW ON THE MARKET

A full documentation and pictorial book has just been launched about the conservation efforts made on Cousine Island, which besides the detailed illustrations also serves almost as a handbook for how island conservation should be approached, what challenges arose and how they were dealt with and what steps have to be taken to ensure success. The new book covers the entire period of work between the early 1990’s until very recently, when the book’s manuscript was handed over to the publishers.

Interested readers can find our more information about this highly recommended book by visiting the following site: http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1444333097,descCd-description.html – available through Amazon Books worldwide. Incidentally, there is one little resort on the Cousine Island, according to a source in Mahe, offering 4 private villas for a maximum of 10 guests, who will be able to enjoy the unique flora of the island almost for themselves, even when the resort is booked up. Visit their site at www.cousineisland.com for all you need to know about the history of the island, the present ownership, their conservation credo and of course rates and booking details for intending guests.

ISLAND CONSERVATION SOCIETY WARNS OF CORAL DISEASES

The renowned Seychellois NGO ‘Island Conservation Society’ has last week given an overview of present coral diseases threatening the underwater biosphere around the reefs of the various islands across the archipelago. Studies earlier in the decade already pointed to some of the causes and the potential spread of the problem, but a more recent study by the ICS has ‘dug deeper’ to identify the root causes for disease, whether water based or originating from land through for instance building activities like dredging, reclamation of land, settling of sediments and of course warmer waters due to the ongoing climate change. This study was funded by GEF and UNEP to provide harder facts than previously available in this regard.

Information availed speaks of three main diseases, the ‘Orange Patch’, ‘Brown Patch’ and ‘Black Patch’ but little is known what causes the discoloration and disease, although bacteria are suspected to play a major role without however being able at this time to offer scientific proof. A full presentation of the facts gathered from the latest studies will be presented next month in Victoria, on the island of Mahe, to other scientists, NGO’s, governmental departments and the interested public. Visit www.islandconservationsociety.com for added information and details of where and when this presentation will take place.

And in closing again some material taken from the Livingstone Weekly, courtesy of Gill Staden reporting from Livingstone / Zambia, as always with sincere thanks, for content, variety and effort, effort and more effort!

First there is a piece on the flood levels of the Zambezi River, as the current rainy season affects both Eastern and Southern Africa alike with swollen rivers bursting their banks. Also included today is a response to an article by Gill recently published about her comparison of tourism in Botswana and Zambia, and a rebuttal against Protea Hotels’ well crafted recent statement about their intent to build a massive lodge a couple of hundred metres across the Zambezi from one of Zimbabwe’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Oooops comes to mind when you read that piece below:

UPDATE DAILY FLOOD REPORT 31 MARCH 2010

Zambezi River at Katima Mulilo:        7.11 m (-3 cm since this morning)

The Zambezi River is further subsiding at Katima Mulilo. ZRA readings indicate the development of a new flood in the upper catchment. At Chavuma the flow levels reached the highest for this year and are higher than for the earlier flood that has just passed Katima Mulilo. This new floodwave may attenuate but will still affect Caprivi by the middle of next week by keeping waterlevels high or pushing them up again.

Site Reading 31 March 2010 (TODAY) Change since yesterday Maximum reached in 2010 31 March 2009 (ONE YEAR AGO) Maximum reached in 2009
Chavuma (near Angola border) 9.10 m 41 cm up 9.09 m on 04 March

9.10 m today

8.35 m 9.71 m
Lukulu (upper Barotse floodplains) 6.17 m 8 cm up 6.73 m on 08 March 6.76 m 6.89 m
Matongo (central Barotse floodplains) 6.95 m 3 cm down 7.21 m on 20 March 7.27 m 7.35 m
Kalabo (western tributary of Zambezi) 4.22 m 1 cm down 4.57 m on 10 March 4.53 m 5.05 m
Senanga (lower Barotse floodplains) 5.41 m 3 cm down 5.57 m on 21 March 5.70 m 5.79 m
Ngonye (upstream Katima Mulilo) 5.25 m 2 cm down 5.38 m on 22 March 5.55 m 5.62 m
for comparison

Katima Mulilo (Namibia) 7.14 m 4 cm down 7.37 m on 21/22 March 7.82 m 7.71 m

Kavango River at Rundu:                   7.38 m (+ 3 cm since this morning)

Catchment area for the Zambezi

Some Photos of Kariba Dam

A Response to my Article on Zambia/Botswana tourism

From Kaingu Lodge, Kafue

First and foremost Botswana has a much longer history as a tourist destination than Zambia and has a very good national PR policy to get tourists into the country. Furthermore:

1)  Concessions for lodge or camp sites in the Zambian Parks are for new-comers very expensive : up to $ 20.000.- to be paid from as the first day. Building a lodge takes about two years and you have to pay the fees without having had ONE single guest. It takes another 5 years to get to “cruising speed” and hopefully break even. During all these years you have to keep pumping money into the operation for maintenance, staff, PR and marketing.

It would help if one had to start paying concessions only from as the 3rd or 4th year. We know at least of one Operator in the Central part of the KNP who has given up. Not to mention the catastrophe for Kafue Horses who had a concession near lake ITT, built a lodge and stables only to find out that their concession was no longer valid (signed by the CEO of Zawa) and left with all their horses to the Shiwa N’gandu. Literally $ 100’000.-s spent for nothing and a lot of bad feelings left behind and the big question for the other operators if signatures of ZAWA officials are really worth something. There are judical proceedings going on for the moment regarding Kafue Horses.

2)  Unfortunately distances are tremendous in Zambia (and some roads are just unbelievably bad) unless you fly and thus make destinations quite expensive if you do not have the chance of having scheduled flights which is the case for the South Kafue.

3) We do wonder whether in the North Kafue the lodges, including Wilderness Safaris break even. They are all consolidating which means breaking even or losing money. We will tell you one day under “four eyes” how much we are losing every year to keep this adventure named KaingU Lodge alive. As for the “lifestyles” : Please do not use this word anymore. It has a definitely negative connotation and is denigrating for those who want to live in the bush and do something for wildlife and the communities. We are absolutely conscious of the fact that “nothing” might help. Nevertheless, KaingU is for instance building a school in the nearby villages with the help of a Dutch Trust which was formed after a lady had visited KaingU.

4) As to only “one lodge” in the South Kafue : There are at least 4 middle to up-market lodges in the South Kafue : Mukambi, KaingU, Konkamoya and Nanzhila, apart from further community lodges and middle-market lodges at Lake Itezhi-Tezhi.  See also out www.kushiyana.com website.

Protea Hotels’ defence of Zambezi River Hotel Project slammed

The Protea Hotels group in South Africa appears to be disregarding concerns raised by communities near the site of the group’s proposed 72-room hotel on the Zambezi River, the location of which has been opposed by tourism operators and conservationists, both in Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Operators in the area say community representatives have said, in writing, they would not object to the development if it took place outside the eastern Chiawa Game Management Area (GMA) and closer to the Chiawa community bordering the GMA. Protea, however, claims the community has approved the current site inside the GMA.

The community’s letter includes signatures of the Community Resources Board Chairman and the Royal Establishment’s representative to the Board. The CRB is empowered by the Wildlife Act of Zambia to manage land use in Zambia’s game management areas.

The proposal by the Zambian franchise owner of the Protea Hotel brand, Union Gold, to build the hotel and conference centre in a wilderness area has raised a storm of protest from operators in the area, Lower Zambezi, and the general public.

The double-storey hotel, if built on the site currently proposed, would compromise the unspoiled wilderness appeal of the Chiawa GMA and the adjoining Lower Zambezi National Park. The site is just 500m across the river from the Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe, a World Heritage Site.

Currently there are 136 commercial beds available in the GMA provided by 12 camps and lodges along the river. The biggest lodge in the area has 28 beds, the maximum the management plan for the area allows. The new 144-bed hotel will double this overnight, changing the high-value, low-impact tourism the Lower Zambezi is popular for.

Protea Hotels head office in South Africa issued a statement this week defending its actions. An abbreviated version of the response to it by lodge and safari operators in the GMA is carried below.

Protea says a recent media article stating that 12 out of 15 traditional leaders in the Chiawa Region have signed a petition against the development is not true. It further states these traditional leaders do not exist in the Chiyaba Chiefdom in Chiawa, which is ruled by Chieftanness Chiyaba who has supported the hotel project..

Safari operators agree that Chieftainness Chiyaba is the one traditional ruler of the area although they are concerned that Protea Hotels’ avoidance of the relocation request by the Community Resource Board may be viewed as an attempt to undermine the board’s, and hence the Wildlife Act’s, authority and purpose to protect and sustain Zambia’s GMAs and National Parks.

Whilst the Chieftainness and operators continue to show support for economic development in the Chiawa area, community leaders say they will not object to the project provided it is located on an alternative site outside the protected area, a view widely shared by operators.

Protea says the development site is outside the Lower Zambezi National Park.

The impacts of the development will inevitably include the park itself, as well as the GMA and Mana Pools World Heritage Site in Zimbabwe. This statement only highlights the seemingly scant regard for the extent of the proposal’s impact.

These impacts will include: additional settlement within the protected GMA; light and noise pollution in the wilderness area; a significant increase in road and river traffic; and an estimated 30 000 additional visitors annually to an area that is already stressed.

Protea says written submissions on the project were made 18 months ago and Protea Hotels has consulted with all stakeholders.

Apparently no submissions were ever received by any of the interested and affected parties in Zimbabwe, whilst many Zambian stakeholders were given just two days notice of the Protea Scoping Meeting on 19 April 2009 and were not able to attend.

Protea says the Zambian government has been involved at every stage of planning.

Lodge operators say Protea’s environmental impact study (EIS) ignores the Zambia Wildlife Authority’s General Management Plan for the Chiawa GMA and Lower Zambezi National Park, ratified by the Minister of Tourism in 2001. This imposes a moratorium on all new tourist developments within the area.

Protea says the ecologically sensitive Mana Pools area is in Zimbabwe and the proposed hotel development in Zambia.

Lodge operators say the hotel site is located less than 500m from the Zimbabwe bank of the river in a shared eco-system.  Protea’s response also implies insufficient due regard for initiatives planned for the area such as the proposed Transfrontier Park linking national parks on both sides of the river, suggesting Protea’s interests transcend global conservation initiatives.

Protea says it is the only operator in the Lower Zambezi doing a full EIS and it is lobbying Zambia’s government to ensure all developments in the area comply with the same requirements to comprehensively understand the environmental impact there.

Lodge operators say this development is five times larger than any other establishment in the area and will require permanent infrastructure in the form of all-weather roads, electric power and telecommunications to facilitate construction in an area with no other permanent human settlement. Therefore Protea is creating the environmental concerns it claims to be trying to address in its EIS.

Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean report First Edition April 2010

News from ‘Uganda – Gifted by Nature’, the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

First edition April 2010

Uganda News

AVIATION FUEL SHORTAGE NOW SPREADS TO PETROL

The shortages experienced with AVGAS in recent weeks have now spread to ordinary petrol, diesel and even kerosene used in many households, all commodities needed to keep the country running. Enquiries about the national fuel reserves in Jinja, or a release of these reserves into the market to cushion off the effects of absent deliveries for the time being, have been met with stony silence by those asked, while one fuel company executive dismissed the question by saying: ‘why don’t you go to Jinja and check what government has in stock there’ before hanging up the phone, without answering even the question why his own market leader company once again let the country down by failing to bring in enough supplies. Government has meanwhile also confirmed that the national fuel reserves were ‘dry’ as the facility ‘was being refurbished’, leaving the entire nation reeling from the fallout of yet another fuel crisis.

The cost of petrol continued to rise, in stations which still had supplies as this report was being filed, and a litre of petrol was then going for an equivalent of 1.65 US Dollars per litre, on occasions up to 2 US Dollars while upcountry the prices were reported to be rising even higher.

Two of the leading safari companies confirmed to this correspondent that they were keeping enough diesel and petrol in stock, to run the generators in their camps and keep the ‘wheels’ of their safari vehicles turning, while others were reportedly frantic to secure fuel supplies, being unprepared as usual for such eventualities.

The development is thought to have its root causes in Kenya’s recent decision to outsource the ‘inspection’ of fuels released from bond into the market or for export, with a private company now in charge and raising the fees by reportedly 28.000 percent (twenty eight thousand), leading to a storm of outrage in Kenya which has since seen the contract being suspended, while fuels however remain slow in coming to the market and in particular reaching the hinterland countries of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Southern Sudan and Eastern Congo. The planned pipeline extension between Eldoret in Western Kenya and Uganda is also far from ready and presently subject to heated arguments between the Libyan company Tamoil and the Ugandan government, and therefore only trucks are presently ferrying the precious liquids into the country, some of which reportedly now fetch the commodity in Mombasa directly due to insufficient supplies at the pipeline head and depot in Eldoret, adding however further transportation costs to the already burdened consumers.

This situation is particularly worrying for many Ugandans planning to travel to their rural homes for the long Easter holiday weekend, and the many Kampaleans simply wanting to get out of the city to the national parks or the islands in Lake Victoria, as there is absolutely no indication at all, as is the case with AVGAS for the aviation sector, if and when fuels will become easily available again, at affordable prices.

Meanwhile strong indications have emerged that Shell may sell many of their African distribution businesses as ‘going concerns’, which would include their East African operations too. Industry observers are speculating over the reasons but claim that shrinking margins were the major cause for this development, leaving the question open if, after ‘sucking the pockets of consumers dry’ the company is now discarding the ‘empty fruit’. Shell has in particular in Uganda been under fire over their handling of the aviation fuel AVGAS crisis, one of many in recent years, from which the company does not seem to have learned to institute lasting logistics to ensure constant supplies for the aviation industry.

‘Suitors’ are said to be already lining up, including local bidders, but this will be more than likely a drawn out process while Shell will try to make ‘one last killing’ by getting maximum proceeds.

Meanwhile has the Ugandan government also expressed their concerns over the lack of free flow of fuels from neighbouring Kenya and has served notice of kinds, that within 5 years a refinery will be operational in Uganda, processing crude oil pumped in-country from oil wells now being developed, at which stage the importation of fuels, unless specialised ‘stuff’ would be coming to an end. Fuel ‘exports’, much of which of course is rather fuel ‘transit’ constitutes a major portion of Kenya’s export revenues and questions now are being asked there already what indeed will happen once Uganda becomes self sufficient through internal production of petrol, diesel, heavy fuel oil, jet fuel and lubricants.

A Happy Easter it was therefore only for those with sufficient fuel supplies while many others were marooned in the city due to lack of enough petrol to commence their upcountry journeys, reach their planned destinations and in fact then get back to the city to resume work after the long holiday weekend. The situation is expected to continue for another few days before fresh supplies reach Uganda from Mombasa and Dar es Salaam.

WORK ADVANCES TOWARDS NEW NILE BRIDGE

The preparation for the construction work for the new, second bridge over the rive Nile in Jinja is now advancing with the national road authority organizing meetings in early April for affected property owners to discuss compensation and relocation with those affected by the new ramps and road accesses to the proposed bridge. Law requires government to pay fair compensation in case land is required for roads, bridges or other infrastructure but those affected often complain that the money they get is a far cry from the true market value and that in case of resettlements the locations of plots are inferior to what they used to own. Meanwhile, the public notice by UNRA has raised some eyebrows as they appear to restrict attendance of the April 08th and 09th meetings to affected individuals only, leaving open questions if not the general public and the media too have a right to attend a public meeting, or else why they should be shut out.

EMIRATES TO ADD MANCHESTER TO THEIR A380 DESTINATIONS

A regular source from the Emirates Kampala office has now confirmed, that the airline is intent to use their giant A380 aircraft on the route between Dubai and Manchester from late this year onwards, replacing one of the two present daily B777 operations. This will give passengers travelling from Uganda, and the rest of Eastern Africa, the opportunity to sample the aircraft in flight and enjoy the many features Emirates has installed on the A380. When raising the question of ground facilities at Manchester’s airport the source promptly added that all required installations would be ready by the end of August, when the A380 is expected to make its maiden commercial flight to MAN on 01st of September.

Some travel agents, when contacted over this development, as after all the UK is a prime destination for travellers from Uganda, and vice versa of course, vowed to book more passengers on EK, while using the opportunity to again condemn British Airways’ over the recent strikes, all of them incidentally expressing sympathy for the striking crew and in strong terms denouncing the leadership of BA’s CEO Walsh. It was clear from the comments that in this case one airlines’ misery is another’s opportunity.

UWA FACED WITH FRESH ENCROACHMENT AT MT. ELGON

Information was received last week that while people are still being evacuated from inside the national park, where they are presently threatened by landslides in the wake of torrential rains sweeping the region, others continue to attempt enter park land. Unscrupulous political aspirants – Uganda is due for elections in less than a year’s time – continue apparently to incite villagers to uproot park demarcations and grow crops in the park, alongside which the felling of trees has been witnessed too, one of the major causes for the recent landslides, which have claimed hundreds of lives in the Bududa area of the mountain. UWA has in the immediate aftermath of the massive landslide there again advocated the removal of illegal squatters for their own safety, but this latest development seems to be pouring cold water on common sense to stay away from parts of the park where fresh landslides could occur once trees are felled and the top soil exposed for cultivation on steep terrain. Government at large has also committed to removing illegal squatters following the tragedy and it now remains to be seen how strong that commitment is when UWA calls in support to enforce boundaries and evacuate more of the illegal settlements threatened by new landslides as a result of the ongoing torrential rainstorms lashing the mountain side.

EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY PASSPORTS TO BE UPGRADED

The issue of new passports for citizens of the East African Community has been temporarily suspended to allow new state of the art features to be incorporated in the next edition. Presently the passports are not machine readable nor carry biometric data in inserted computer chips, and in order to make them more widely acceptable these new additions must first be sorted out.

The passports were popular in Uganda and Kenya, where travellers only needed to have their passports stamped once in every six months if moving across the national borders to one of the EAC member states, but allegations have also emerged that immigration officials at land borders and airports just ignored these rules and kept stamping them anyway like national passports. Burundi and Rwanda had, after joining the EAC last year, not yet implemented the issue of these travel documents.

The EAC passports were also not commonly accepted beyond the region, having many regular travellers carry both national and EAC passports, as situation the secretariat of the East African Community in Arusha also promised to address in time for the start of issuing the next generation EAC passports. Meanwhile will citizens of the five member states use their own national passports for travel across the region

Kenya News

KENYA WILDLIFE SERVICE DUE FOR RESTRUCTURING

The new proposed wildlife bill, presently pending before parliament in Nairobi, seems to suggest a split of the organization into at least three main functions: policy, regulatory and management.

It is understood, that if the new bill is passed into law, that the Ministry of Wildlife would become home of the policy unit, while a separate body is due to be created which will regulate both the revamped and restructured KWS but also oversee and most likely license conservancies and private game reserves. The ‘new’ KWS would then be responsible for the management of parks and reserves under their jurisdiction, engage in monitoring, research and enforcement.

The new bill will also update a range of details like fines and prison terms for poachers and other offenders, some of which are still pegged to the 1970’s values of the Kenya Shilling then, making current fines ‘a joke’ as one source from Nairobi put it.

KWS is also set to launch a permanent fund later in the year, which aims to secure over 100 million US Dollars in core funding, due to be invested long term to benefit KWS from the annual proceeds while leaving the principal sums untouched. Such an added source of income would boost KWS’ capacity to carry out their mandate even in years when tourism declines, for whatever reason, being global or local.

In a related development has the returning delegation from the CITES conference in Doha expressed quiet satisfaction for their successful fight against ivory trading, and without being boastful or triumphant it was said by a source in Nairobi, that this matter must now be discussed amongst the East African member states to find a long term solution to poaching prevention and joint policies for all member states to adhere to. While a 9 year moratorium is now confirmed in regard of trade in ivory and other elephant products, reflecting Kenya’s position, this period in the greater perspective of things is short and must be used to forge a wider coalition between all elephant range countries to see eye to eye on conservation issues, and hopefully bring the Eastern African and Southern African positions closer together.

LEWA DOWNS ‘SAFARICOM MARATHON’ DETAILS

June 26th will see the Safaricom sponsored Lewa Marathon being run on the conservancy in Northern Kenya, and he deadline for registration is the 14th of May. The event is restricted to 1.000 runners only, and as it leads over a 21 KM circuit on ‘dirt roads’, to be run twice, it is in fact almost a cross country over the 42+ KM distance. Should the number of 1.000 registered participants be reached before the deadline in May, the entries will be closed earlier, just as soon as that mark has been reached. Participants should be fit runners, as much of the run is at a 5.500+ feet elevation. First aid points are available at every ‘watering hole’, which are about 2.5 KM apart and a major first aid centre will be set up at the start / finish line. AMREF, better known as the Flying Doctors, will provide emergency response and a helicopter will be on standby, just in case. This is a promising sporting event and participation, even from further abroad, is welcome, BUT, the registrations are on a ‘first come, first served’ basis, so interested parties should promptly sign up to avoid disappointment.

The entry forms are available via:  http://www.lewa.org/support-lewa/safaricom-marathon/

MORE GREEN ELECTRICITY FOR KENYA

The Kenya Forest Service has last week advertised for expression of interest to put up more wind powered turbines in a designated area of the Ngong Hills under a concession agreement with the dual aim to raise revenue for the organization and to feed ‘green’ electricity into the national grid. The 26th of April has been set as a deadline for the submissions and high levels of mitigation proposals may be the key to be successful with the bids. Other similar plans exist for the Turkana area, where two proposed wind powered plants would generate 300 MW each, if and when the project materialises. ‘Green’ electricity from renewable energy sources is crucial to reduce Kenya’s carbon footprint, as presently emission heavy thermal power plants are used to generate much of the country’s electricity by burning diesel or heavy fuel oil.

KENYA TO WAIVE WORKPERMITS FOR UGANDANS

Following the agreement last year between Rwanda and Kenya, to remove the requirements for work permits for the citizens of each country to work and reside in the other, Kenya is now also moving towards the same agreement with Uganda, which will the movement of labour an early reality, even before the respective East African Community protocol is fully implemented. Until now, many Kenyans lived and worked in Uganda, and vice versa Ugandans lived and worked in Kenya, most of them going through the process of first obtaining the cumbersome work permits but many also just ignoring the bureaucratic requirements of residence and work. The development will come as a relief therefore to the citizens of each country and also of many employers who had to pay for the fees and were burdened with the paperwork.

Many hotels in Uganda are run by Kenyan general and senior managers and generally the tourism industry can benefit in Uganda from these waivers as the employment of well trained, competent and experienced staff is now possible without any restrictions over nationality.

There has been no confirmation if Burundians too will be included, and when Tanzania is entering into a similar agreement with the sister states in the EAC.

KENYA COAST FULLY BOOKED OVER EASTER

The resorts and hotels along the Kenyan coast were laughing all the way to the bank after the Easter weekend turned out to be another ‘fully booked’ affair, with remaining spaces being taken up by travellers from upcountry or further inland seeking to take a break at the ocean for the long weekend.

Visitors arrived by road in their own cars, came by busses from upcountry or flew into the Moi International Airport in Mombasa or directly to Malindi or the Ukunda airfield at the South Coast, also filling up the available seats airlines had put on the market to be ready for the travel boom.

In Uganda it was a bit of a mixed picture, as the biting fuel shortages reportedly had booked visitors to lodges in the parks and upcountry hotels cancel at the last minute due to lack of sufficient fuel to reach their destinations, leading to last ditch efforts by the affected properties to re-sell the sudden vacancies, at times however without success.

One caller, who reads eTN and occasionally comments about articles to this correspondent said: ‘we had booked and prepaid our rooms for some time. Now we could not find enough fuel to take us there and back again, and because we were not sure if we find enough fuel on the way we decided to stay at home. At least the lodge was understanding when we told them. They permitted us to come at a later date and keep our prepayment until then and did not charge us in full for not coming. Others I hear were not so lucky and lost their deposit money because of no fuel. Now we hear Shell is pulling out of Uganda, maybe that is why they are no longer bothered to keep reserves for holiday weekends’. Oooops…

Tanzania News

MORE FINANCIAL TROUBLES FOR AIR TANZANIA

Complaints were received from travel agents in South Africa about the apparent nonchalant way how Air Tanzania’s top management is dealing with their claims for refunds. These claims originate from the time the airline was still flying to Johannesburg, then a ‘bread and butter’ route for the Tanzanian national airline. When ATCL had to suspend their flights to South Africa in late 2008, agents and clients who had already paid for their tickets to fly for a holiday, or on business to Dar es Salaam, were expecting a swift refund, as would be expected of a national airline, being a member of IATA at the time and under the usual BSP rules, but alas, several years later the claimants are still owed at least 3 million South African Rand while the airline is using one excuse after the other to evade payment if not weasel out of it altogether, given half a chance.  This deplorable situation also brought the Association of South African Travel Agents, in short ASATA, into the picture as many of their members have complained to them and asked them to support their claims and use their influence to make ATCL pay up at last, in particular where payments via credit or debit cards were concerned. ASATA in turn did not make any friends amongst their membership when in a mid February communication to members they basically washed their hands of the matter and recommended that claimants be directed to the Head of Revenue Accounting of Air Tanzania in Dar es Salaam, a near hopeless effort as it is in evidence for the past one and a half years and perceived by those affected as a transparent effort to ‘fob them off’ as one source put it.

This matter is now going public following some detailed investigations by this correspondent, and is expected to become a matter of national shame for Tanzania and more than likely another nail in the coffin of both airline and management responsible for this inexcusable situation, which threatens the very core of some agents in South Africa who depend financially to have these debts settled.

The Government of Tanzania has in the past been bailing out ATCL from time to time, mostly with funding for pending salaries, aviation fuel and ground handling charges, but only a week ago did this correspondent report that the Tanzania CAA is owed about a year’s worth of landing, navigation and parking fees by the airline, impeding the work of the TCAA severely due to the lack of payment by ATCL. With their B737 recently involved in an accident in Mwanza (and to be written off), also reported immediately by this correspondent, another income earner is now missing for the airline and their financial situation is expected to deteriorate even further from here on. Unless that is, that either government once more bails them out with a major cash injection or directly pays creditors their long overdue funds, or a possible suitor, i.e. an strategic investor puts in major money, as has long been floated by the government in Tanzania to an increasingly doubtful public.

However, in the course of the investigation it was also learned that the Chinese ‘Sonagol’ consortium, which has for several years now ‘considered’ acquiring a major stake in ATCL, is growing more and more distant and is apparently getting the proverbial ‘cold feet’, as they did not see an immediate and substantial return on their proposed investment vis a vis other deals they tried to secure from the Tanzanian government, such as mining rights, oil exploration rights and other ‘sweeteners’.

To compound matters, a car deal struck by the management of ATCL soon after the ‘divorce’ from South African Airways, is now also coming home to roost. A whole lot of 4×4 vehicles were purchased at the time from Dubai, some of them for senior staff under a favourable car purchase arrangement funded by the airline, while many of the other cars were meant for senior management as ‘official’ cars, a perk common for state corporations and other big companies. A number of those cars ended up remaining in ‘customs bond’ as the airline failed to raise the money to pay for duties and taxes, and it now appears according to a source in Dar es Salaam, that these vehicles will be swapped over to Galileo Tanzania, which will clear the duties, pay the taxes and then use the vehicles under their ownership while reimbursing ATCL, less any other pending claims there may be between Galileo and ATCL.

Overall, the future of ATCL, once considered bright even in the face of growing competition, is now more doubtful than ever before and as done in other African countries the government will have to answer the key question soon: is there enough money available to turn the airline financially around and install sound and competent management, or if not, is it not better the pull the plug and end the misery once and for all. Should this happen, Precision Air will undoubtedly step up fast, bring forward aircraft deliveries and add frequencies, capacity and routes, while other privately owned airlines too may then finally step into the breach and begin offer services on domestic and regional routes. Fly 540 (Tanzania) certainly is a key contender for such an opening, and like Precision Air they too would be swift to take advantage of the demise of the erstwhile national airline, now a mere shadow of its former self.

IVORY DECISION TURNS TO SOUR GRAPES

The squabbling in Tanzanian government and wildlife management circles over the CITES decision to turn down their application for the sale of ivory has turned sour grapes, as culprits are being sought for the failed effort. The Environmental Investigation Agency’s report of March 2010, delivered on the bidding of the CITES Secretariat, painted a damning picture of Tanzania’s capabilities and efforts to stop poaching and bring to an end the organized smuggling of ivory to the most notorious consumer states in the Far East. The report claims that Tanzania’s ‘portion’ of ivory in worldwide seizures, determined by state of the art DNA analysis, is now reaching as much as 50 percent. Most of the ivory seized in transit shipment points appeared destined for China, Hong Kong, Taiwan but also to Japan and Vietnam. The hunger for the ‘white gold’ in these countries seems to grow year after year, fuelling in turn increased poaching and trafficking. The report also highlighted that between 1989 and 2010 over a third of all global seizures were traced back to Tanzania, but the figure has risen to half in more recent years. In addition, the country has been marked as a major conduit for trafficking, which includes smuggled ivory from neighbouring countries.

Government in Dar es Salaam has already announced that they will re-submit their application at the next CITES meeting and prepare a counter report, while rubbishing the EIA’s findings and conclusions. The minister responsible in the Tanzanian government has also added to the confusion, when on one hand admitting that poaching has assumed alarming proportions and that sophisticated gangs were involved in the illicit trade, while on other occasions claiming that government was doing enough to bring the situation under control. The minister could also not dispel allegations that – had the sale gone ahead – only a fraction would have been given to TANAPA for anti poaching measures and would neither answer where the balance of the funds would have been allocated to.

There is now much lamentation in Tanzania, over the cost of having to store the ivory and the ‘loss’ of funds for added anti poaching measures, while other officials are busy analysing who supported the opponents of the sale proposal which was led by Kenya, in order to seek to change their stands before the next CITES conference.

It was however almost certainly ruled out that Tanzania’s ivory would be burned too, similar to a landmark case of defiance some time ago, when Kenya – instead of selling their stocks – actually destroyed them. No comments or feedback could be received as yet from Zambia but as and when information from there is available it will be published here.

NEW UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE FOR TANZANIA?

It is understood from sources in Dar es Salaam, that an application has been made to UNESCO to declare the Udzungwa Mountain National Park a world heritage site, as the biodiversity of the park made it a prime site for such recognition. The park is reportedly a ‘gem’ waiting to be discovered, featuring the red colobus monkeys and other species of primates, a range of other mammals as well as over 400 species of birds, many species of butterflies and insects not easily found elsewhere. The park is also home to one of the highest waterfalls in Tanzania, the 170 metres high Sanjes Falls. Inspite of all these attractions however visitor numbers have remained well below those of the better known parks on the Northern circuit like Manyara, Tarangire, Ngorongoro and Serengeti, a situation the recognition, if granted, would surely remedy. Unlike those parks however the Udzungwa park is less for driving about but more for extended walks and hikes through the primeval rain forest, which covers much of the park.

Visitors either use a mobile camp of their safari operator or bring their own camping equipment and food. Water and firewood are being provided by staff allocated to the available camp sites by the park.

UNESCO’s ‘stamp of approval’, when declaring new sites, always leads to added interest from tourists, besides the recognition (and often extra funding) for the conservation work done by local NGO’s and wildlife managers and is therefore an invaluable marketing aid when promoting the country in key tourist source markets. Visit the TANAPA website via www.tanzaniaparks.com, where links can be found to all the national parks and major game reserves in Tanzania.

MKOMA BAY RESORT SET FOR YOGA MEET

The Indian Ocean beach resort of Mkoma Bay / Pangani has just announced that they will host a Yoga meeting between April 16th and 20th under the theme ‘unite the mind, body and soul’.

Said to be the first of its kind along Tanzania’s coast the seminar will be led by a qualified Yoga instructor. Packages are available from / to Dar es Salaam (collection and drop off) but participants can also individually fly to the Pangani airfield with one of the scheduled flights, or else fly to the Tanga airfield. For more information contact mkomabay@gmail.com or visit www.mkomabay.com or else befriend them on Facebook for regular updates under: Mkoma Bay.

Rwanda News

NYUNGWE POACHERS TURN ‘GAME KEEPERS’

A group of former poachers from the Nyungwe National Park have now formed a ‘Flora and Fauna Association’ under which they intend to pursue revenue generating projects and make a sustainable living from, it was learned last week. The group was assured by the staff of the national park that they can qualify for a portion of the projected revenue sharing programme set up by the Rwanda Development Board – Tourism & Conservation (formerly ORTPN) and encouraged others to equally join hands to benefit from wildlife and nature based tourism.

It is thought that several of the former poachers will now aim to become local tour guides to take visitors into the park and show them the bird and wildlife, they so intimately know from their ‘former’ profession.

KWITA IZINA PROGRAMME SHAPING UP

The Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation, has last week given more public information about the planned activities and programmes for the annual Kwita Izina festival, when the young gorillas born during the past year will be named.

The festival this year will coincide with the World Environment Day, for which Rwanda was selected by the UN as the venue to launch and hold the global celebrations on the 05th of June.

The activities for the week will go underway by 28th of May this year with a joint press conference in Kigali and will eventually span the entire country, from Kigali where workshops will focus on conservation and related issues to the various venue site on the foot of the volcanic mountains, where the gorillas have their habitat.

The combination of the two events will add to the attraction for many conservationists and friends of Rwanda to come to the country over that period of time and anyone considering travelling to the ‘land of a thousand hills’ is best advised to secure airline bookings right away and book hotel space as soon as possible.

Visit www.rwandatourism.com for more information or write to public_relations@rwandatourism.com for more details and to get the draft programme by email.

MORE TOUR GUIDES GRADUATE IN KIGALI

Following an intensive training course, lasting three weeks, have 46 newly qualified guides graduated, amongst them 6 ladies. The Rwanda Development Board – Tourism & Conservation, have supported this session and will continue to help with funding in order to equip more guides with skills which are expected by tourist visitors in regard of competence and conduct of their guides. Improved customer care is a key objective for the Rwandan tourism industry and both private and public sector are committed to play their part in achieving these goals.

Manzi Kayihura, former CEO of RwandAir and now in the safari operations sector and current Chairman of the Rwanda Association of Tour and Travel Agents, has hailed the achievement and will undoubtedly play his role in the tourism industry towards increased skills transfer and training opportunities for Rwandan staff.

RWANDA DEVELOPMENT BOARD RESTRUCTURES

Only weeks after ‘old hand’ Rosette Rugamba – jubilant with bringing one last trophy as ‘best African stand’ home from the annual ITB in Berlin – had announced her retirement after 7 years at the helm of first ORTPN and then as Deputy CEO of RDB in charge of tourism and conservation, were the expected organizational changes being announced in Kigali early this week. The new CEO John Gara, who took over last year from Mr. Ritchie, will have two new positions reporting to him, that of a Chief Operations Officer and of a Chief Financial Officer, whose appointments were approved by cabinet in Kigali last week. They are Ms. Clare Akamanzi, who is the new COO and Mr. James Kamanzi, the new CFO. It is understood that under the now set up, the legal, communications and PR and a new strategy and competitiveness unit will report directly to the CEO, as will the COO and CFO.

All other heads of departments, including tourism and conservation, will report through the newly created position of the COO. No immediate comments were received from RDB as to who will head the tourism and conservation department, or if the management of national parks would be ‘privatised’ as recently already done with the Akagera National Park, in order to ‘outsource’ such functions and move park staff to the payrolls of private concessionaires.

Ethiopia News

ETHIOPIAN GETTING READY TO JOIN STAR ALLIANCE?

The Ethiopian national airline is seemingly getting ready to finish discussions and negotiations with Star Alliance later this year, likely to coincide with the upswing in traffic carried via Addis Ababa to South Africa for the FIFA World Cup. These suggestions and rumours are now rekindled that the airline has confirmed added aircraft orders and is aggressively renewing its fleet in preparation of things obviously to come yet.

The airline’s Fokker 50 fleet is being replaced with more modern and larger Bombardier Q400’s, with delivery of the first such aircraft reported here last week, and an extra B737-800’s are due to join the fleet from middle of 2011 onwards.

More wide bodies too are on order, such as the Airbus A350 – 12 on order – the B 777-200LR 5 on order – and the long delayed but now back on track B787 ‘Dreamliner’ – 10 on order. The new aircraft, when delivered, will allow ET to retire their ageing fleet of B767, which have been a workhorse on the long distance network.

Star Alliance will be getting a ‘shot in the arm’ for their global traffic into Africa, and the geographical position of ET’s home hub of Addis Ababa will further strengthen Star’s competitive efforts to grab the lion’s share of traffic in, out and across Africa, considering that they already have Egypt Air and South African Airways flying under their banner and covering the different regions of the continent. In fact, ET will be bringing an added component into play, considering that they manage an airline in Togo (also reported here at the time) in which they hold a 25 percent stake and which could be very useful in capturing yet more traffic from West Africa into the Star Alliance network. Since the collapse of Air Afrique, in which almost a dozen countries from West Africa were involved, there has been a vacuum in that part of Africa and the absence of a dominant and strong carrier will only aid ET’s efforts to give their new West African ‘baby’ added wings.

Meanwhile will the KLM / Air France led ‘Skyteam’ undoubtedly hold more strategy sessions with Kenya Airways of how to counter these developments, for ET and Star, and develop their own ballgame via Kenya Airways, which presently is an Associate Member of Skyteam and playing a vital role in that alliance’s expansion plans and future standing in Africa. Already ‘patch invasions’ are notable, as Ethiopian is now flying a daily scheduled service from Addis to Mombasa, giving convenient connections to their network passengers to the Kenyan beaches, while operating twice daily between Addis and Nairobi already, compared with Kenya Airways single daily service, indicating a disparity in demand for seats on one airline over the other. [Addis Ababa is also the seat of the African Union headquarters, besides being the capital of Ethiopia]

Unlike Kenya Airways, ET is also already on the lucrative route to Juba, something KQ is expected to remedy soon however, especially in view of several private airlines from Kenya already operating to the Southern Sudan, who have privately dismissed the concerns KQ has so far put forward to explain their absence from this important regional destination. In fact the rest of the region too has seen an expansion of flight frequencies to daily and more by ET, offering convenient connections in both directions for passengers originating in Eastern Africa and overseas travellers on business or holiday transiting in Addis.

‘The battle for the African skies’ as dubbed by this correspondent a while ago, is set to intensify, with the two main protagonists being driven by their own strategies but also as proxies of the alliances one already belongs to and the other one is soon to join. Interesting times ahead for African aviation, especially for the couple of quality airlines holding their own against global competitions we have on the continent, so watch this space.

South Sudan News

FEEDER AIRLINE TO START FLIGHTS TO ENTEBBE

One of the locally incorporated airlines based at the Juba airport, Feeder Airlines, has now started flights from the capital of the Southern Sudan to Entebbe, making it the first Southern Sudanese airline to begin scheduled flights. In the past Sudan Airways operated flights between Khartoum, Juba and Entebbe, but faced with aging equipment and regulatory bans have seen them withdraw from the route.

Feeder Airline is presently operating a network of scheduled flights from Juba to other centres in the Southern Sudan and the addition of Entebbe will further enhance their standing as one of Southern Sudan’s leading private airlines.

According to information from the airline’s office in Juba the flights will initially take place three times a week, but move to daily flights in due course, using a 50 seater turboprop aircraft.

CURRENCY WILL DEPEND ON HOW WE SEPARATE

As national elections are now looming across the Northern and Southern Sudan, others are already looking to the future and the time after the January 2011 Independence Referendum.

In banking circles there is now a discussion going on, what to do about the use of the present currency, the Sudan Pound, in case the referendum, as overwhelmingly expected, opts for independence of the Southern Sudan, and there are suggestions, that if the ‘parting’ is peaceful and well managed the ‘common’ currency may be in place for some more time, even beyond a year, before active steps are being taken to introduce an own currency in the then newly independent country.

However, a scenario is also being discussed should the separation be marred by violence, in which case the US Dollar could be brought in as a formal currency until such time that a yet to be created central bank in Juba can introduce their own notes. This would be a swift and largely welcomed move, as inflation too would stay in the low single digit figures, in line with the value of the ‘greenback’ on the international financial markets, thus allowing a better managed economic transformation too.

ELECTIONS TO GO AHEAD

Usually well informed sources in Juba have confirmed to this correspondent that except for some unexpected and major unforeseen reasons the elections next weekend will go ahead. The Southern leadership of the SPLM had last week withdrawn from the election process in Darfur, citing that the warlike conditions made free and fair elections impossible and pulled their candidate for the national presidency from the ballot too, aimed at embarrassing the Khartoum regime leader, whose very likely election would then be overshadowed by the absence of any credible candidate and opposition.

The same sources also expressed their confidence that the Southern leadership will be overwhelmingly re-elected in the Southern Sudan and can then with a full mandate of the population begin the preparations for the January 2011 independence referendum. Once the election results are known there will be a period of immediate political and economic activity in the build up to the referendum campaign to get infrastructural and other projects off the ground and to prepare for the post referendum transition into what will most likely be Eastern Africa’s youngest new nation. Watch this space.

SUDANESE AIRLINES BANNED BY EU

The latest ‘black list’ issued by the European Union now also includes ALL airlines registered in the Republic of the Sudan, following a damning report by ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal, Canada and added independent findings by the EU. The ban came into effect last Thursday, i.e. April 01, as safety standards in the country were described as ‘not up to international standards’, nor was enforcement and compliance with the acceptable range of regulations governing the global aviation industry.

There were several air accidents in the Sudan in recent months and years, all of them undermining the confidence in the regulator’s ability to effectively govern the industry. The ban reportedly applies to the following airlines: Sudan Airways, Sun Air, Marsland Aviation, Attico, 48 Aviation, Azza Air Transport while others not named here were reportedly also on the list, including the Sudanese State Aviation Company.

Predictably howls of outrage and cries of foul play came swiftly from Khartoum, where the SCAA called the EU’s ban ‘unprofessional’, an interesting perspective of course of a regulatory body which ‘presided’ over a series of air accidents under their ’professional care’, while also, and equally predictably, blaming standing sanctions against the regime for the state of the aviation industry.

This development will undoubtedly further enhance the business of airlines in good standing, which from neighbouring countries now fly to Juba and Khartoum and uplift passengers and cargo from there, such as Jetlink, East African Safari Air or Fly540 from Nairobi and Air Uganda from Entebbe. It could not immediately be established if regional aviation regulators would react to the news from Brussels and also ban these Sudanese registered airlines from flying to their airports and subject them on landing to special ‘ramp checks’ to ascertain that not only all mandatory documents are on board of their aircrafts but also that proper maintenance has been carried out and the crews are duly licensed.

The Sudan as well as the Congo DR both have a horrendous safety record and arguably lead the air accident statistics for Africa by far. Other African countries which suffer a total ban of all their registered airlines are Djibouti, Benin, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Sao Tome and Principe, Swaziland and Zambia while Angola and Gabon have several of their airlines banned with a handful of others permitted to fly to the EU under strict supervision and conditionalities. Watch this space for the most up to date aviation developments in the Eastern African region.

Madagascar News

ANTI LOGGING CAMPAIGN BEARS FRUITS

In a rare show of yielding to international pressure has the regime in Madagascar now reversed its policy in regard of logging and exportation of rare tropical hardwood. The ban, which had been lifted by the regime last year, has been restored on the cutting, trade and export of rosewood and will last for reportedly 5 years, although it is not immediately clear what it going to be done with the thousands of logs of trees already cut and which were waiting for exportation. International campaigners, while appreciating the intermediate success, have however already vowed to continue their campaign until a permanent ban is introduced. Indiscriminate logging – last year tens of thousands of hectares of pristine rainforest were cut – and lukewarm enforcement by government agencies of rules and regulations is a major threat to the forests and national parks on Madagascar where several species of Lemur cats are found, which do not exist anywhere else in the world. Tourism to Madagascar was once a major income earner and shot in the arm of the local economy but has suffered severely in the recent past as a result of strongly worded anti travel advisories and the isolation the regime is now subjected to from a wide range of countries, keeping wannabe tourists away until the situation has been resolved and a stable, freely elected government installed again.

Seychelles News

COAST GUARD INTERCEPTS PIRATES, RESCUES CREW

As previously reported, the Seychelles have taken full advantage of training and new equipment provided by friendly members of the naval coalition, in boosting their coast guard’s capabilities. This came back to pay when last night the ‘Topaz’ was dispatched following a distress call by a local fishing vessel, which was attacked by ocean terrorists using a previously hijacked Iranian dhow.

The intelligence provided by unmanned aerial vehicles, aka drones, and other surveillance by the naval coalition fleet, proved important as the coast guard vessel then managed to catch up with the hijacked ships. Once it became clear that the ocean terrorists were not complying with orders to stop and be boarded, the Seychelles president James Michel then gave orders to prevent the ships reaching Somali waters at all cost. Although being fired upon first with rocket propelled grenades by the terrorists, the ‘Topaz’ evaded the incoming fire and then engaged the pirate dhow in turn. Subsequently the dhow was fired upon, the engine disabled and the crew and terrorists captured after they had jumped overboard from the burning vessel.

The Iranian captives and the Seychellois crew were all rescued, with one of the Iranians reportedly injured by a gunshot allegedly fired by a Somali ocean terrorist.

All the Somalis were captured and will be brought to court in Victoria upon returning to Mahe tomorrow, where they will then face charges of terrorism and piracy.

The determined action by the Seychelles coast guard was hailed as a success by the naval coalition and the Seychellois government, but more important served clear notice to the ocean terrorists that from now on, when trying to approach or enter Seychellois waters, they will be decisively engaged according to this new more robust rule of engagement and should be aware that force may be used to capture them.

It was later also learned that enroute back to Mahe the ’Topaz’ was approached by another pirate ‘mother ship’ and two skiffs and again came under fire. The ‘Topaz’ responded in kind, apparently sunk the ‘mother ship’ and one skiff and then decided to return directly to port to first safely return the rescued crew from the earlier incident and hand over the captured ocean terrorists into the legal system of the Seychelles.

Another Seychelles coast guard vessel, it is understood, is en route to the area where the ‘Topaz’ was being shot at to ascertain if there were any survivors following the engagement at sea.

Undoubtedly the pirates are finally meeting their match at sea and this robust response is also serving added notice to other wannabe pirates to stay away from Seychellois waters or else face the same fate.

NEW FUEL DEPOT MEETS ENVIRONMENTAL BEST PRACTISE

Praslin, La Digue and other nearby inhabited islands will benefit from shorter access to fuels and gas, now that a new depot was opened mid last week by President Michel. The facility will store petrol, diesel but also LPG gas, and transportation  of products from the new facility to consumers will cut down on transport time and cost, no longer having to go all the way to the main island of Mahe. As the storage incorporates the latest technologies, environmental and health and safety issues have also now been comprehensively addressed, which will be good news for those promoting an intact environment as a key prerequisite for tourism and fishing, the two mainstream economic activities in the Seychelles.

AND in closing today, some material taken from Gill Staden’s newsletter ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ as always gratefully acknowledged:

Beyond the Victoria Falls

Some of you may remember … a long time ago … that I had embarked on a book called Beyond the Victoria Falls.  The book is a travel book for the region around the Victoria Falls.  I had just about completed the book when the publishing company Struik said that they may be interested.  I waited until they had gone through their procedures to do decide whether they would take it on or not … finally they said yes but with major changes …

So I am now back at the drawing board.  I am going into ‘recluse-mode’ for the next few months to complete the book.  Much of what I had written before is now a bit out-of-date, so I will need to update/recheck much of it.  I will probably be bothering a lot of you with emails asking questions … please be patient if I ask you the same stuff again.

In the meantime, I will give you a bit of information about the book and if you have anything that you feel should be included, you can send me details.

The book covers:

Zambia

Livingstone

Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, Kafue National Park, Lochinvar National Park, Sioma Ngwezi National Park

Liuwa Plain National Park, Lower Zambezi National Park and Lake Kariba

Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls Town

Zambezi National Park, Hwange National Park, Kazuma Pan National Park, Chizarira National Park, Matusadonha National Park, Mana Pools National Park and Lake Kariba

Botswana

Kasane and Kazungula

Chobe National Park, Nxai Pan National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Nata Bird Sanctuary

Namibia

Katima Mulilo

Mudumu National Park, Mamili National Park, Bwabwato National Park, Mahango National Park

Apart from a description of each park; what is to be found there; how to get there, etc, I also want to write about wildlife projects which happen – things like the Painted Dog Foundation in Hwange, the Elephant Orphanage in Kafue.

I had considered adding cultural information about traditional ceremonies, etc, but have decided not to.  I don’t want to offend anyone and I know I would forget something important and be in trouble later.  Maybe this is something that I can research for a future date.

Muchinga Escarpment

From a Choma-ite

…, far more damaging to the Environment is the Zambian’s Government’s issue of land along the Muchinga Escarpment for “agriculture”. Most of this land is unsuitable for agriculture as it is on remote, steep hillsides.

Furthermore it is being issued to people who have neither the knowledge nor the capital to use this land sustainably, so it is being stripped for charcoal.

There are stories that Zambia is exporting charcoal by air to the Middle East; there are rumours that some trucks come as far as the southern province to buy charcoal for export to Tanzania, and certainly the numerous Tanzanian trucks on the Mpika/Serenje/Kapiri run would find it easy to export charcoal from the Muchinga area.

A South African book on Climate Change (called Bending the Curve) discusses Carbon Emissions, not just on a per country basis, but on a per Capita basis and on a per dollar of GDP basis. Valid arguments. China’s Carbon emission is huge, but is low when divided by their population and the size of their economy. Zambia, because of its massive deforestation and low GDP is one of the worst in Africa…if not THE worst.

There is no need to make this land over to agriculture. The adoption of the Conservation Farming techniques being promoted by the Conservation Farming Unit will probably more than double the average yield per hectare of small scale agriculture in the next few years. Their method is far more sustainable than the charcoal burning destruction already started on these strips of land.

(Gill:  I sent a few emails around to try and find out more about this issue.  Obviously the northern section of Zambia is hardly my stomping ground.  If anyone knows anything, please email)

A Response to the above from Lusaka

It is one of the places that we would all love to go to, but it is so far away. Maybe we should do a ZOS exploratory trip. If we can find the funding we may consider a trip later in the year so that we can see if the blue swallows nest there.

At the moment we are fighting a battle much closer to home – A Chinese company has been given the concession to cut the mopane trees in Mutulanganga forest which is an IBA.

Another Response from Lusaka

I agree with her/him that there’s far too much agric ‘development’ in unsuitable areas of N. Prov, not only on the Muchingas. If you look at Google Earth you can see where incursions have occurred (and photographer Stephen Robinson has documented it in a photo documentary [commissioned by CF Farmers Bureau] during last year’s fly-overs), despoiling our beautiful miombo woodland. Of course, what are people to do? There are more and more every year and they have to eat and earn monies for their many children.

Equally worrying: Recently the Merretts who run Mutinondo had a visit by some GRZ types who wanted to look at the Mutinondo Falls for possible hydro development. Remember the 2009 GRZ announcement that the Chinese were to build 400 hydro schemes? I don’t know how far they got with that, but the one at the Lumangwe Falls is definitely being built (for electricity export to Congo!).

Needless to say, the Muchingas are a HUGE area, a good 300km in length, with lots of villages in some areas and empty of folk in others (except for poachers and fishers). Actually there are 2 Muchingas: there’s a split in the mountain range just south of Lusiwasi Power Station, with one scarp going inland towards Serenje, the other following the Luangwa up to the bridge …

Another Response … well part of it, anyway … the rest was unprintable!

I am sure this is a huge problem and I have heard of trucks taking charcoal to Dar and then it being shipped to Dubai where it is sold for $5 a kilo or something ridiculous.

Kalizo Lodge, Katima Mulilo

Floods

Time races by so quickly. Here we are already at the end March 2010 and the floods are again with us. I might add it is a wonderful experience, and not many people get the thrill of seeing the Zambezi in flood.

The Zambezi reached a height of 7.37m. The water was the 2nd highest since 1969. Unfortunately Kalizo was flooded with a number of chalets in the water and the road closed. The good news is that the water is dropping and after a good flood the fishing is always very good and already the Tiger are running. Now it’s time for drifting and spinning and if you want to experience the Tiger frenzies’ now is the time!

The water is still high so we only have a limited number of chalets available and you have to walk through the water to get to the bar and restaurant. Ones it starts dropping it usually drops quickly. You cannot drive in at the moment, but your car will be left with ours at a safe protected area.

Fishing

December 2009/January and February 2010 saw some really good Tiger Fishing with many between 5 – 8.5kg! From April onwards the Tiger frenzies will start again with May and June the start of the Bream fishing. Christmas holidays this last year was really good Tiger fishing, with wonderful sunny weather and very little rain – a camper’s holiday!

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