Archive for May, 2010

Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean report Fourth Edition May 2010

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

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Fourth edition May 2010

 

Uganda News

CONSERVATION EFFORTS GET BADLY HIT

A pride of lions, including a pregnant female, were found poisoned last week in Queen Elizabeth National Park by UWA rangers on patrol. The three female and two male lions were part of a larger pride which had split up. The park personnel also found ‘bait’ near the dead carnivores, thought to contain the lethal mixture of poison used to kill the big cats and over a dozen dead vultures were also found nearby, having also ingested the poison. UWA veterinarians are now trying to establish the exact cause and identify the exact nature of the poison used.

Queen Elizabeth National Park has in the past been the scene of prolonged invasions by cattle keepers seeking pasture who even then speared and poisoned lions to protect their livestock before eventually being pushed out of the park when the damage to the tourism industry became more and more evident.

Tourism is one of Uganda’s main sources of foreign revenue but conservation often clashes with the interests of cattle owners, an almost equally big business, and other parks like Lake Mburo had their entire lion population killed in the past before over Christmas last year first evidence of renewed lion presence emerged.

The latest escalation has prompted a strong reaction amongst the tourism fraternity, which depends on their tourist clients actually seeing game, and in particular the big cats, and several safari operators this correspondent was in touch with demanded a harder line from UWA and government at large to deal with poaching and deliberate game killings.

Said one: ‘if the lions go a big part of a safari experience is missing. Our neighbours will tell the market that to see lions you need to go to Tanzania or Kenya because in Uganda they are becoming extinct. You asked me about budget cuts for tourism, and this is just one more problem our industry now has. Government is not taking this seriously at all. UTB needs more funding immediately. When I read your articles you always write about Rwanda and Kenya doing so well, but their governments spend a lot of money, but ours here does not. Now they are killing off the lions again in Queen [Elizabeth National Park] like a few years ago. Way back then it took government many months to decide about the cattle invasion and kept UWA on the short leash. Even now we believe that there are other political factors preventing UWA from acting prompt and decisive. You see, when there are so few lions now even reproducing is difficult for them and one day they will be gone. Why does government ever only does something for our sector when things have gone so bad and never be ahead of problems?’ Another regular contact also dismissed suggestions in the local media that ‘poachers’ were responsible for the deaths. Did she say: ‘no skins were taken, poachers would take the skins, so this is probably just a speculation on the part of authorities. For us it is clear it was cattle herders to protect their herds which they keep driving illegally into the park.’ Oooops…

 

GREED AND ENVY LOT IS BACK

Having failed to substantially influence the political decision makers with their greed and envy cries, the same group has now resorted to appeal to the Inspector General of Government to revoke an agreement between the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Nkuringo Conservation Trust, under which auspices – as previously reported – the Clouds Safari Lodge was built and is now operating successfully, playing an important part in promoting gorilla tourism and conservation efforts for Uganda. The IGG’s office has now, according to press reports, gotten involved in the saga, arguably the last ditch effort to overturn a decision taken several years ago and ever since a thorn in the side of a few disgruntled people, whose biggest issue is that it was not THEM who got the deal.

The same quarters, generally considered a small minority, have also repeatedly in the past thrown mud on the Madhvani group over their existing and legally binding agreements with the Uganda Wildlife Authority, which grant them an exclusion zone around their lodges in Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchisons Falls National Park for the duration of the initial agreement, with the agitators openly demanding that the contracts be broken by government. They have also been playing the ‘Asian racial card’ on a number of occasions, a despicable behaviour by any standards and exposing them for the disregard they so obviously have for the rule of law and respect for contractual agreements.

Sources close to USAID, one of the international agencies which funded the project from its onset, also confirmed that as far as they were concerned there were no irregularities over the funds granted to the project and the way those funds were spent, citing past audits which cleared and sanctioned their modus operandum. Said this source: ‘we also fail to understand or even appreciate why the Ugandan IGG should concern himself with our funding, we are answerable to Washington and they were and continue to be ok with it’. In addition, the African Wildlife Foundation, in short AWF, too is according to sources preferring anonymity ‘having a clear conscience’, that ‘the process at the time was completely above board’ and that it was both competitive and in ‘no way discriminatory as alleged by some disgruntled people who failed to submit proposals in time or failed to make proposals worth considering’.

Notably has the Uganda Investment Authority come out strongly in favour of the investors and the deal, telling the detractors to stop ‘messing with the investor’ in a hard hitting message published in the local media over the weekend. UIA’s executive director Prof. Dr. Maggie Kigozi was throwing their institutional weight behind The Uganda Safari Company / Wild Places Africa in an unequivocal way, saying TUSC had invested where others did not dare and promoted Uganda’s tourism industry abroad to the extent of having Prince Charles visit Uganda and staying at their Nakasero based ‘Emin Pasha’ boutique hotel.

The matter may now be heading to court, as UWA, the Nkuringo Trust Fund and the operator of the Clouds Safari Lodge are unlikely to comply with IGG ‘directives’ without a full legal battle, more so as several of those controversial ‘rulings and directives’ made by the office of the IGG in the past have recently been overturned by Ugandan courts in favour of the complainants, lending credibility over allegations of bias and favouritism. It seems greed and envy, and wanting to grab what is not theirs, are indeed might motivators and drivers … Watch this space.

 

EMIRATES TO GO TWICE DAILY WITH THE A380 TO THE BIG APPLE

The local Emirates office has confirmed that effective October this year the airline will operate their A380 ‘sky giant’ twice a day between Dubai and New York’s JFK airport, making the journey from East Africa to the United States even more comfortable and pleasurable.

Emirates currently flies daily to Entebbe, via Addis Ababa, using a B777 aircraft, and other destinations like Nairobi are already on double daily flights, making it easy to connect either directly to the US or spend some time in Dubai for shopping or recreation.

Ugandan travellers have reportedly shifted loyalty again away from British Airways in view of the upcoming strike action and one of the big beneficiaries in this market is Emirates, which connects East African travellers via their hub in Dubai to the rest of the world on a daily basis, using one of the most modern fleets of aircraft found anywhere.

 

MTN EMBRACES FACEBOOK – FOR FREE

Subscribers to the MTN mobile network in Uganda, and the wider region it is understood, have reason to celebrate once again. The latest innovation of MTN is free access to 0.facebook.com via the MTN data platform on enabled mobile phones, which now permit Facebook users to check their status, updates and post new messages FOR FREE … visitors to Uganda will undoubtedly now have a double temptation to purchase a local SIM card from Uganda’s leading mobile telecom company, as they can not only make and receive calls for low local charges but also stay in touch with their network of Facebook friends at no added cost. Facebook in turn may also capture a hitherto unexplored and untapped market since MTN has over 100 million subscribers across Africa many of whom may in the past not have been able to join FB or were even aware of its existence.

MTN was also the first company to introduce Google Search on their mobile network, trying to stay ahead of their competitors in a hotly fought over market, now crowded by 7 mobile operators and a number of dedicated ISP operators offering only data services.

 

ANNUAL NILE MARATHON FOR 30TH MAY

The ‘Source of the Nile’ marathon will be run in Jinja and its environs on Sunday 30th May this year, when it will kick off at the ‘real’ source of the river, located opposite the Speke Monument across the river and below the Jinja Golf Club. The event will see a full marathon, but also a 10 KM race and a half marathon run, and the events will commence at 07.00 hrs a.m. sharp. Participants can reportedly still sign up although the maximum contingent of 5.000 runners is likely to be filled rapidly now. Corporate sponsors Hared Petroleum have pointed out that registration fees remain at 10.000 Uganda Shillings – or just under 5 US Dollars – while corporate teams will pay 500.000 Uganda Shillings per entry.

Visit www.nilemarathon.com for more information or to send in a last minute registration request. The race routes are shown on the link to a Google map below for those wishing a peek preview on the event: View Source of the Nile Marathon-21 Kilometres

 

UGANDA’S TOURISM MINISTRY FACING MAJOR BUDGET CUTS

It was learned from usually reliable sources that the Ministry of Finance seems set to inflict a major budget cut of nearly 20 percent on the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry for the next financial year 2010/11. Figures obtained indicated a cut from the current year’s almost 48 billion Uganda Shillings, or about 24 million US Dollars equivalent, to just over 41 billion Uganda Shillings for the next financial year.

The proposed cut comes at a time when tourism marketing could urgently do with a financial boost so as to promote the country and the numerous attractions in existing, new and emerging markets but hope towards that end is now fading, when the extent of planned budget cuts became apparent.

Funding for the country’s marketing body ‘Tourism Uganda’, aka Uganda Tourist Board, has long been a bone of contention between the private sector and government, with the former often accusing government to pay mere lip service to the sector and continuing to think ‘tourism is just happening’ without understanding that for instance in Rwanda and Kenya the sector has developed so well, over the years and after a severe crisis, BECAUSE government allocated major funding increases to ‘sell the country’. Alongside, government has so far also failed to implement the tourism policy goal, set in 2003, to introduce a financing mechanism for tourism marketing through a ‘tourism development fund levy’ as stone age mindsets within sections of the ministry’s civil service do their best to hinder the launch of the levy, as it would also entail a range of other measures, mainly moving several oversight and executive functions to the reformed ‘Tourism Uganda’, a notion not all civil servants are happy with.

In stark contrast, Kenya, last year’s winner as best tourist board in Africa by the ‘Good Safari Guide’ this year came second only to South Africa, which had poured mega millions into promoting the FIFA World Cup and their tourism industry, while Rwanda for instance walked off for the past four consecutive years as ‘best African stand’ at the ITB in Berlin.

With development partners also confirming that tourism is NOT on the list of economic priority sectors they are asked to assist under bi- and multilateral assistance programmes, there is clearly a lack of political will to help the tourism industry in Uganda develop as it should, as it could and to reach its full potential in terms of new investments, job creation and foreign exchange earnings. Is anyone listening at the Ministry of Finance? Anyone?

 

MORE LANDSLIDE THREATS ON MT. ELGON

Latest information emerging from the east of the country indicate that further deep cracks are opening up on the mountain slopes, not far from where a few weeks ago a major landslide claimed several hundred lives. The terrain is according to sources getting weaker, following yet more torrential rains and the residents are now being warned to evacuate their homesteads ahead of more expected land and mudslides.

Farming methods are now being blamed as a major factor for these developments, as the residents relentlessly cut down the tree cover, which helped to not only absorb heavy rains but which roots also kept the soil together. Residents, some illegally squatting inside the national park boundaries, are also not using terracing but grow crops up the steep slopes. This according to sources sent to the area to assess the danger potential, helps trigger mudslides, which then often wash away not just the soil and the crops but also the homesteads built further down the steep mountain sides.

Some 8.000 people are said to be affected by the latest developments and remembering the death toll of a few weeks ago appear more willing to be moved to safer parts. The cracks which opened up measure, according to reports from the site, from inches to feet and with more rains on the way it seems a matter of time before another massive landslide will come down the mountain.

It is also understood that several hundred of hectares of deforested terrains are now earmarked for tree planting and re-forestation and that the project will start when the ground has sufficiently stabilized to allow safe planting operations by the teams of the forestry and wildlife departments.

Meanwhile though are the rains continuing with a vengeance and even the west and south west of the country are now beginning to suffer of landslides caused by the extreme weather conditions with roads and bridges being flooded across widening areas.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority has however also pointed out that hiking routes into and up Mt. Elgon National Park used by tourists are monitored and considered safe, and that the overnight camp areas and the ascend and descend route to the mountain top have shown no sign of potentially dangerous cracks or landslides. The clarification by UWA came following reported cancellations of hiking and climbing tours into the park, as reported in the local media in recent days.

Meanwhile has the meteorological department in Entebbe warned that the current rains would extend well into June with above ‘normal’ volumes compared to ‘ordinary’ years’ recorded rainfall.

 

FRIEND A GORILLA CAMPAIGN NEEDS FRESH IMPETUS

Following the visit of Simon Curtis last week to Uganda, aimed to produce a documentary film about the endangered mountain gorillas, further details have come to light about the progress and in fact limited success of the September 2009 launch of www.friendagorilla.org where presently, according to the site metre, only 14.730 ‘friends’ have signed up, way below the optimistic projections given by people involved in the creation of the project and launch last year. UWA has also last week confirmed that from the ‘friend fees’ and related donations some 60.000 US Dollars were raised so far over the past 8 months, which while laudable in itself is again below expectations.

It is understood that the presence of Simon Curtis triggered a general review of the project, its aims, objectives and expectations to devise a revitalised strategy in promoting gorilla conservation and raising much needed funds from overseas supporters. Readers are invited to visit the ‘Friend a Gorilla’ pages on Facebook, where a minimum contribution of only 1 US Dollar can ensure a ‘lasting friendship’ with the selected individual animal, all of which are shown on the site.

 

CAA MOVES TO 24/7 CARGO OPERATIONS

The Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, which also manages the country’s main Entebbe International Airport, has last week announced that at long last cargo operations, including customs, banking and cashier services would from 01st of June begin to operate around the clock.

For long this has been a source of dispute between the CAA, cargo operators and clearing agents, many of whom claimed that the facilities available and created at high cost must be utilised around the clock and not for the traditional ‘office hours’ only. Some of the last to come on board were the banks now represented at the airport with branches, which will now also work around the clock, at the same time serving departing and arriving passengers using flights in the small hours of the day.

Thankfully the CAA has seen the light, as has the customs departments, and importers and exporters can now have access to services whenever they need it and not when offices are ‘open’.

 

EAST AFRICA COMMUNITY DECRIES LACK OF US CONNECTIONS

The Secretary General of the East African Community has last week regretted the lack of direct air links between the United States and member states of the EAC, inspite of two countries being cleared by the FAA for such connections. Although the US has supported the EAC to update their aviation regulations in recent years, assisted in the establishment of CASSOA (Civil Aviation Safety and Security Agency) and supported the introduction of sophisticated immigration technology, details of which are reportedly regularly shared as a matter of course with US authorities, no flights have commenced as yet. Delta of the US was all set to start flights to Nairobi last year, only to pull out on the eve of the inaugural flight over obscure ‘security concerns’ which however in retrospect rather look like a political tool by the US administration to express their ‘concerns’ over other issues in their relations with Kenya.

In contrast, neighbouring Ethiopia has direct airlinks by Ethiopian Airlines with the US as has incidentally also Egypt and South Africa, a strong incentive for the East African region to strive and equally gain access to the US market place through direct connections. With another strike by BA now underway, it is high time we in Eastern Africa get direct airlinks with the United States to avoid having to route via Europe or other way points and ensure a regular flow of tourist and business visitors to our region.

 

LATEST ‘TRAVEL AFRICA’ EDITION NOW AVAILABLE

Last week also saw the arrival in this correspondent’s P.O. Box of the latest edition of ‘Travel Africa’, another gem full of well written articles and great pictures, promoting travel to the African continent. Edition 50, this year’s ‘spring edition’ is featuring a range of ‘places to see’ which can be combined with a visit to one or several of the FIFA World Cup matches in South Africa.

Additionally a small guide book to the winning ‘The Good Safari Guide’ properties across Eastern and Southern Africa was also enclosed, and how refreshing it is to sit on the terrace and leaf through ‘the real thing’ as opposed to scrolling through website content.

Support this ‘must read’ publication for Africa fans by subscribing for your own personal copy via subs@travelafricamag.com

 

Kenya News

KENYA AIRWAYS LEASES TWO ADDITIONAL EMBRAER 170

Finnair has signed a four year lease agreement with ‘the Pride of Africa’, commencing according to reliable sources from Nairobi on the 01st of June. Finnair itself operates a fleet of these economical twin engined 70 seater jets but has according to other information obtained leased several of them to other operators. It was also confirmed that it will be a ‘dry lease’ under which Kenya Airways will provide the crews for the operation of the aircraft. KQ already has three Embraer 170 flying for them and these latest additions to their fleet will undoubtedly assist to intensify their presence on domestic and regional routes, where the recent economic upswing has resulted in a recovering market and more demand.

It is expected that the two additional aircraft will be configured in a C / Y cabin layout similar to the Embraer aircraft already operating under KQ’s banner. Watch this space for the most up to date news from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region’s aviation sector.

 

OL PEJETA TO CHARGE VEHICLE ENTRANCE FEES

The Ol Pejeta Conservancy on the Laikipia plains in central Kenya has just announced that they will from the 01st of June begin to charge an entry fee for vehicles, which was hitherto free of charge.

Maintenance of the tracks and roads across the sprawling conservancy require of late ever more funds, probably as a result of the sharply increased visitors numbers, and like in other national parks and game reserves, they too will now begin to levy a fee on cars entering their area.

Charges will range from Kenya Shillings 300 for a saloon car, equivalent to about 4 US Dollars, to a maximum of 8.000 Kenya Shillings for a bus with more than 45 seats, equivalent of just over 100 US Dollars. The money raised through this measure will go towards maintenance of tracks, roads and opening up of new game viewing circuits. Visit www.olpejetaconservancy.org for more information about the work done on the conservancy and sign up for their newsletter to get the latest updates.

 

ANNUAL RHINO CHARGE TO RAISE CONSERVATION FUNDS AGAIN

May 31st has been set for the annual rhino charge event in Kenya, which is once again expected to rake in funds for rhino and other conservation projects. As has become customary the venue / charge area will only be revealed shortly before the event countdown starts to avoid hordes of ‘chargers’ doing recce drives and trying to gain an unfair advantage over their would be competitors. Visit www.rhinocharge.co.ke or else writ to them for more details via rhinoark@wananchi.com

 

KTB BAGS ANOTHER AWARD

The Kenya Tourist Board has reportedly added another trophy for their display cabinet, when the promotional team returned last week from the Asia – Africa Trade Fair where they were recognized as the ‘best exhibitor’ in the Middle East, Indian Ocean and Africa category. The award was won last year by Mauritius and Kenya can be proud to have wrestled the honours away from them and carried the prize home. It was also learned that the award is sponsored by Emirates Holidays which will undoubtedly give Kenya an added boost in their efforts to capture the cash rich holiday market in the Middle East and in particular in the United Arab Emirates.

Meanwhile has the Minister of Tourism put a 2 billion Kenya Shillings tag on the budgetary requirements for the Kenya Tourist Board for the next financial year, to be spent on opening up new markets and supporting existing and emerging markets through promotional campaigns, aimed to bring more tourists to Kenya’s Indian Ocean beaches and safari parks. At the same time the minister also pointed out that the two main airports in Nairobi and Mombasa needed further work to entice more airlines come to Kenya, as he cited ‘lack of adequate seats’ as a major constraint which needed to be addressed immediately.

 

FLY 540 BUILDS PARTNERSHIP IN WESTERN KENYA

It was learned over the weekend that Fly 540’s Kenyan operation has entered into a partnership agreement with an Eldoret based tour company last week. The deal will give tourist passengers arriving in Eldoret quality ground transportation for visits to nearby tourist attractions, wanting to explore the Kerio Valley or generally tour this hitherto touristically underexploited but nevertheless very scenic part of Kenya.

Fly 540 has been pioneering flights to Western Kenya to provide easy access for business travellers from and to Nairobi and Mombasa, and the wider region, but has obviously now also targeted tourists destined to Western Kenya. The airline offers, besides Eldoret, also other destinations like Kitale, Kakamega and Kisumu on their domestic network to upcountry locations.

Undoubtedly will the Kenya Tourist Board be grateful for these initiatives as Fly 540’s latest effort is in support of their own objectives of opening up new parts of the country to tourists, and flying there obviously is now the first choice after combining the flights with meet and greet, tour-guiding and transportation services.

 

Tanzania News

EASTERN BLACK RHINOS FIND NEW HOME IN SERENGETI

Last weekend did the first C 130 aircraft arrive from South Africa in the heart of the Serengeti’s Seronera airstrip, greeted by President Jakaya Kikwete himself and a large number of officials, volunteers and TANAPA staff, carrying the precious cargo of 32 Eastern Black Rhinos. The relocation of the species is done, and largely paid for, under the auspices of the Government of Tanzania, in conjunction with the Government of South Africa, and aimed to restore a healthy and wide spread rhino population in the Serengeti National Park. The cost of relocation for each animal is estimated to be in the region of about 9.000 US Dollars, but money well spent according to a jubilant source from Arusha who said to this correspondent: ‘this is a proud day for us. We had our president here to greet the rhinos and speak to us. He reassured the tourism industry that the rhinos will be protected 24/7 and general security of game parks will be improved. I think he knows how important tourism is for our country. Tanzania can make a lot of money from visitors from abroad and because so many go on safari instead of only the beaches we are doing financially very well.’

Only weeks ago did a group of other Eastern Black arrive in Tanzania, donated by the Czech Republic. Those animals are now in a secure rhino sanctuary at Mkomazi National Park and are forming the core of a breeding programme there.

The presence of the Tanzanian President underscored the importance Tanzania now attaches to its tourism industry and wildlife conservation, which prior to the recent CITES Conference in Doha had come under sustained criticism over gaps and loopholes, said to aid and abet poaching and facilitating the transit of blood ivory, birds, reptiles and other animals for illegal exportation.

Interesting enough, the ‘rhino returnees’ are offspring of initially 7 sent to South Africa to breed there, when poaching across Eastern Africa was rampant and rhino numbers plummeted across the region, even wiping out the rhinos in Uganda at the time.

A few months ago has the Frankfurt Zoological Society made a massive donation worth nearly 2 million Euros towards capacity building and training of park staff in preparation of the relocation, an effort now paying off as the park service has more vehicles, more communications equipment and more funding for fuel and other recurrent expenses available. The FZS has been supporting the Serengeti since the days of Prof. Dr. Grzimek, whose films and TV narratives ‘Serengeti must not die’ have immortalised the park in Germany and many other parts of the world and helped to continuously raise funds towards conservation efforts in Tanzania.

Meanwhile though it was also learned that another project to popularize the Serengeti across the world through webcam transmissions has stalled due to lack of sufficient funds – it is understood that about one million US Dollars would be required to kick of the project, a figure unlikely to be raised from local sources owing to the general economic situation and the continuing fallout of the global economic and financial crises over the past two years, which is also affecting public finances in Eastern Africa.

 

PIRATE ATTACK IN TANZANIAN WATERS

A vessel bound for Mombasa was reportedly attacked last week by Somali ocean terrorists about 130 miles off the Tanzanian shoreline, while enroute to the Kenyan port of Mombasa, some 350 miles further to the North. Many of the crew took shelter in the engine room while the remaining crew on duty then switched off all lights and managed to escape into the emerging darkness after being fired upon by the terrorists and the vessel sustaining damage.

Calls have subsequently increased in East African shipping circles to strengthen naval capacity and dispatch navy ships into the affected areas to ensure safe passage for ships coming to and leaving the East African ports of Dar es Salaam and Mombasa, and to be given a mandate to relentlessly hunt the terrorists inside the territorial waters.

Meanwhile has Kenya also changed course vis a vis the prosecution of ocean terrorists caught and handed over into their legal system, after the EU has availed more funding for the prosecution of such cases in Kenyan courts and added logistical support to subsequently imprison them to serve their sentences once found guilty.

 

LAKE TANGANYIKA SET FOR MAJOR CLEAN UP

Government and related bodies have reportedly secured the funding of a major new initiative and project to clean up Lake Tanganyika and its environs, it was learned last week. The lake, its shores and environs are a source of great biodiversity and fragile ecosystems and while currently hardly touched by tourists nevertheless important for the local population in regard as a water and food source through fishing.

The GEF, short for Global Environmental Facility, the African Development Bank and reportedly also the Nordic Development Fund are all contributing some 14 million US Dollars in total towards the establishment and execution of the project, due to unfold in coming months.

 

Zanzibar News

NEW AIRPORT TERMINAL FOR ZNZ

The Chinese government is reportedly going to pay for the construction of a brand new passenger terminal in Zanzibar, according to information sent to this correspondent late last week. China extended a 70+ million US Dollars loan agreement to the Zanzibari government, part of which will be dedicated towards the building of new facilities at the airport. Work there, aimed to extend the single runway to accommodate larger wide bodied aircraft, is already ongoing and is being financially supported by fund from the World Bank and other bilateral funding agencies.

Tourism is besides fishing and agriculture – Zanzibar is of course also known as the ‘Spice Island’ – the main source of income for the island’s economy and an expanded and modernised airport will be hugely helpful to attract greater visitors numbers from overseas.  

 

Rwanda News

GORILLA MONITORING TO BE STRENGTHENED

Following the untimely passing of four mountain gorillas recently, attributed to extreme weather conditions up their mountain habitat, has RDB – Tourism and Conservation stepped up monitoring by trackers and veterinarians, to be able to intervene should any of the rare animals show signs of illness or exhaustion. The measure has been hailed by conservationists who were shocked about the passing of four gorillas a few weeks ago on a single day, but those spoken to have all accepted that this was very obviously weather related and not caused by a lack of vigilance or lack of care by the park authorities, ‘but an act of nature’ as one regular contact in Kigali put it. It is also accepted that infant mortality amongst mountain gorillas is relatively high again attributed to their habitat at high elevations where the weather always plays a role.

The information was received ahead of the start of the annual gorilla naming ceremony ‘Kwita Izina’ which is due to kick off at the end of May and will feature a number of activities lasting a week.

 

South Sudan News

PRESIDENT KIIR SWORN IN

The President of the Semi Autonomous Region of the South Sudan, Gen. Salva Kiir, was sworn in last Friday for his first elected term of office, following the conclusion of a general election across the entire Sudan, the first for a generation. Gen. Kiir was already in office, following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or in short CPA, assuming office after the fatal crash of erstwhile SPLM/A leader Garang in a helicopter crash in July 2005. A new government is expected to be announced shortly, and again expected to be a government of ‘Southern Unity’ incorporating politicians of other parties than the winning SPLM. Across the 10 southern states have also the elected governors been sworn it and the newly elected state and southern parliament is now also due to sit soon to commence their work and create the legal and regulatory framework for the independence referendum due on 09th January 2011.

This correspondent extends his best wishes to the Southern Sudan as they now march towards that big day and are at last able to determine their own future and destiny, from which they were prevented by a cruel regime over many decades.

 

Madagascar News

RENEWED FIGHTING DESTROYS HOPES FOR TOURISM RECOVER

The rival political factions in Madagascar last week again used force and opened fire on each other in Antananarivo, the capital of the island country. Regime leader Rajoelina, in power since early 2009, has on many occasions fooled missions of the African Union and snubbed reconciliatory efforts led by the former President of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano, first feigning to accept agreed negotiated positions but upon his return to his lair reneging promptly on the commitments made in the meetings. Madagascar has been put under sanctions by the African Union and excluded from all continental and regional meetings and committees, but to little avail so far as the illegitimate regime has been seeking support from other radicals around the globe. SADC, the Southern African Development Cooperation, has also slapped sanctions against the regime, with equally little effect however.

Meanwhile have contacts on the island expressed their dismay that the latest fighting – regime security personnel reportedly opened fire first on several hundred protesters – will stifle any little sign of recovery for the country’s tourism industry, on which the island’s economy in the past heavily relied, before the political squabbles and the coup of last year brought a constant stream of visitors to a near standstill. Watch this space.

 

Seychelles News

NORTH ISLAND FOR SALE – ANY BIDDERS?

The famous ‘North Island’, located in the inner circle of islands around Mahe, is reportedly up for sale by its owners, the Southern African Wilderness Safaris Group. The news broke when the stock exchanges in both South Africa and Botswana issued a cautionary public notice to shareholders, that the apparent sale of the island by a company associated with Wilderness may have an impact on their share price.

The island’s owners were not immediately available for comment. North Island and its top of the range resort (www.north-island.com) are considered a nearly priceless asset to any hospitality concern and first indications received from the Seychelles are that buyers are likely to be lining up from around the world, with bidders from the Gulf already positioned in the front row. Watch this space.

 

THE VALUE OF ‘SURVEYS’

Only last week did I come across a survey, which rated the cleanliness of Mauritius ahead of that of the Seychelles. Mmmmhhhh did I think, really now. Having been to Mauritius in the past, there is no denying that they have wonderful beaches, excellent resorts and hotels, and their  island tours and deep sea fishing do not fail to impress visitors. HOWEVER, when looking at the two capitals I do not think that the state of cleanliness of Victoria should by any standards come second to that of Port Louis, as I personally rate Victoria higher and think it is cleaner. That is not to say that Port Louis is dirty, not at all, and certainly not in comparison to say Nairobi or Kampala, where dust and litter are the order of the day. So in all fairness, to the peddlers of such ‘surveys’, which we all know are often biased towards the paymasters, give credit where it is due … both Mauritius and the Seychelles have their unique charm and attractions but ranking down one at the expense of the other is surely not the way to go about credible journalism and ‘surveys’ especially when the name of the publication is ‘Forbes’. Oooops…

(www.forbes.com/2010/04/21/environment-cleanest-countries-business-iceland-cleanest-countries.html?boxes=Homepagetopspecialreports)

 

AIR SEYCHELLES RESPONDS TO SHTA LETTER

As was almost predictable has the Seychelles national airline responded to allegations made in the open letter recently published here from the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association, in regard of issues raised about their own performance and issues pertaining to them and the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority. In the ongoing interest of providing a balanced picture their response too is published here and thanks go to Capt. David Savy, Executive Chairman of Air Seychelles, for his input:

 

Air Seychelles categorically refutes the allegation that the SCAA or Air Seychelles as a ground handler is impeding Emirates 7’th frequency.

The SCAA has offered EK alternate timings. The timings specifically requested by Emirates on a Thursday morning is totally unrealistic given congestion at the international airport.

The Seychelles international airport is currently designed to process no more than 500 passengers per 90 minutes. The principal limitation being that in check-in facilities and baggage sorting areas.

Typically the airport is subjected to peaks on certain mornings and on Saturday nights. Otherwise the airport is idle and under utilised at other times.

Accepting the Emirates timings would have meant 4 arrivals within 30 minutes and 3 departures within 40 minutes. With all the goodwill in the world the current infrastructure cannot accommodate this. The other operators would face delays and passengers greater inconvenience.

Emirates currently operates 4 morning flights and 2 afternoon/evening flights weekly. The proposal to Emirates was to operate the seventh service in the afternoon/evening or if they had to do so in the morning it had to be done prior or just after the peak timings.

Emirates like Air Seychelles is subject to slot and airport restrictions to most airports it operates to and what was proposed to Emirates is no different.

The SCAA and Ministry of Transport is actively looking at increasing the arrival and departure halls to alleviate the current congestion.

Extensive works were carried out to the International terminal and long term aircraft parking last year to alleviate congestion at peak times.

The current apron can only accommodate safely 4 wide-body aircraft at any one time.

A 5’th parking position is possible but when used there is an encroachment on the parking of domestic aircraft.

Likewise the expansion and enhancement of the Domestic terminal is long overdue.

The Government has plans to build a new international terminal to meet the growing demand from airlines but a start date has yet to be announced.

As until a totally new facility becomes operational flights will have to be spaced out so that passengers are not inconvenienced.

 

And in closing can this correspondent confirm that the extra flight Air Seychelles operates into the UK since earlier this year, this flight was not given permission by the UK authorities to fly to London Heathrow but had to route to London Gatwick, in the absence of available ‘slots’, requiring Air Seychelles to set up a costly parallel operation at London’s second airport, while awaiting a slot to be granted at Heathrow. This lends credence to the comments made last week by a source close to the SCAA and underscores above comments from Air Seychelles, than indeed capacity restrictions rather than the alleged ill will are the main cause for the request to Emirates to shift their arrival times for their planned 7th flight, as indeed already two of the six current flights arrive at an alternate ‘slot’. It was also learned from aviation sources in the Gulf that Emirates is indeed considering operating their seventy frequency to arrive in the evening, as two of their flights already do, which in view of their ever improving connectivity in Dubai with other flight arrivals would still give swift connections to passengers flying to the Seychelles via Dubai. A storm in the proverbial tea cup?

Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean report Third Edition May 2010

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

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Third edition May 2010

 

Uganda News

FRIEND A GORILLA CAMPAIGN TO MOVE TO US SCHOOLS

The campaign for the conservation of the mountain gorillas, and by extension for www.friendagorilla.org, has taken another step, when Hollywood celeb Simon Curtis returned for the second time in a year with a film team in tow to shoot a documentary on his current visit. One of the target groups is the ‘Key Clubs International’ high school association and their over 250.000 members across schools in the United States. The documentary however will also aim at target groups beyond these school associations to ensure that a generation grows up aware of the need to conserve the environment, protect biodiversity and look after our flora and fauna for the common good of future generations.

Curtis started his tour through Uganda with a press briefing last week before embarking on a safari to Kibale Forest National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park before returning to Bwindi Forest which  he last visited in September last year with some of his other celeb friends.

 

MORE RAINS, MORE MUDSLIDES, MORE PROBLEMS

Over the past few days Uganda again suffered from torrential rains in parts of the country, both East and West, and subsequent mudslides again took a number of lives as they cascaded down Mount Elgon and the hills around Rukungiri destroying homesteads and everything else in their way.

A route through the southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park was also temporarily impassable as the Ishasha River broke its banks and rose high enough to flood the bridge, bringing traffic in that part of the park to a standstill and marooning park visitors and transit traffic from and to the Congo border at Ishasha on either side with long hours of waiting before the water eventually subsided, but still leaving the roads treacherous and muddy.

 

SHELL GIVES UP ENTEBBE AVIATION FUEL DEPOT

Following growing pressure from the aviation fraternity and constant complaints over the lack of AVGAS on the Ugandan market, and bitter comments in the local media aimed against Shell, has the oil giant now ceded their interest in the Entebbe aviation fuel depot to TOTAL, signalling the beginning of the end of their engagement in Uganda. ‘Nothing is well at Shell’ was the comment of one aviator from Kajjansi, who has suffered constant supply problems for AVGAS in recent months and accused Shell’s Ugandan management of ‘indifference and arrogance’ when dealing with complaints and demands to restore fuel stocks. Shell has also failed to live up to repeated verbal commitments made to the aviation fraternity to actually commission an AVGAS facility at the Kajjansi airfield outside Kampala, also prompting those affected by this failure to call for governmental intervention and a swift change of guard, so that a new fuel company can then resume AVGAS and related supplies.

Only recently did news emerge that Shell was to withdraw altogether from the retail fuel business in East Africa and across 21 countries of the continent.

It was also no surprise that Shell’s comments about the Entebbe development were feeble and hardly credible and were swiftly dismissed by aviation observers as ‘irrelevant’.

 

GULF OF MEXICO OIL SPILL TRIGGERS WAKE UP CALL FOR UGANDA TOO

The National Environmental Management Authority seems to have woken up to the stark reality of the inherent dangers of drilling for oil and producing crude oil in ecologically sensitive areas, following the global media coverage of the extremely damaging oil spill off the US Gulf coast. Fragile ecosystems there, inspite of the technological might and status of general preparedness of the US authorities and emergency response teams, are being damaged – some are saying beyond repairs – and comparisons are already drawn with the Alaska oil spill of the Exxon Valdez long ago, where the damage to fish, wildlife, birds and the coastline until today continues to show fallout and negative effects.

Here in Uganda, a similar accident would likely spell even greater disaster to the fragile areas of Murchisons Falls National Park, the river Nile, Lake Albert and the length of the Albertine Graben, where exploration is ongoing.

Hence, and for some as a complete surprise, did NEMA react by raising matters of concern to them over the present exploration, pointing out the disposal practises of some of the oil companies in respect of drilling mud and ‘cuttings’, but reportedly also turning their attention now to disaster preparedness and the measures and technologies put into place by the oil companies to deal with a worst case scenario in Uganda, should ever such an accident happen.

Much of Uganda’s oil wealth has been found along the Albertine Graben where fragile ecosystems presently exist and great biodiversity has attracted numerous tourist visitors to the various national parks and game reserves located along the rift valley and its lakes.

NEMA is expected to review all emergency procedures, taking into account the latest lessons taught by the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, where clearly the company initially downplayed the true extent of the damage to their installation and the quantity of the leak, very likely delaying a swifter and more comprehensive response from US government agencies, notwithstanding the fact that it is BP which is legally responsible to the fullest extent. If foreign technical advice from environmental watchdogs, and the findings and recommendations of the unfolding enquiry in the United States will find their way into the NEMA deliberations, is however still to be seen, although of course highly recommended.

NEMA’s action has compelled several of the licensed oil exploration companies to store, for the time being, the toxic drilling mud and cuttings in steel containers, until a safe method of disposal can be established, and it has been learned that attempts to ‘evaporate’ the potentially deadly mixture have failed, leaving oil company executive scratch their heads while looking for other options.

Watch this space for future updates – meanwhile, efforts to have Tullow Oil honour an earlier invitation to discuss relevant issues with them are so far falling on deaf ears, as after an initial willingness expressed in a mail to this correspondent by the CEO of Tullow in Uganda no further replies could be recorded from them. Compared to previous experience with Heritage Oil, which was very forthcoming and accommodating to the media, the question now lingers in the back of everyone’s mind I spoke with, what exactly is it they do not want us to find out … Oooops…

 

NILE WATER TALKS TO CONTINUE

Uganda over the weekend restated her desire to continue dialogue with Egypt and the Khartoum regime over the new Nile Treaty, after affixing the official signature on the document in line with agreements reached by the ‘producer countries of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo and Ethiopia. The assurances were given when hosting the ‘formal’ presentation of the new Nile Treaty for signature. Four of these countries (Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia) have already signed the new document and a process of ratification will go underway once all remaining signatures (Kenya, Burundi and Congo) have been affixed, at that stage severely limiting Egypt’s input. Once the new treaty is ratified by the national parliaments, no further changes can then be affected with ease. The use of the waters of tributary rivers and lakes feeding into the Nile had been contentious for long, after the Eastern African countries started to assert themselves and their ‘birthright’ over this crucial resource and they increasingly ignored the colonial treaties of 1929 and 1959, which are now thought to be dictatorial, unjust and no reflection of economic and political reality in today’s Africa. Egypt, under the old treaties, has a veto right over the use of any of these waters, considered unacceptable in this day and age, and while the new treaty does reflect certain rights by downstream countries to the use of the Nile waters, this must under the new document be done by negotiations and not by wielding political sticks or uttering thinly concealed threats of war aimed to intimidate the Eastern African countries and bully them into giving in to Egypt’s demands with little if any regard to their own development.

One particular comment enraged public opinion across Eastern Africa when a Northern Sudanese delegation official was quoted as having said: ‘they [the East Africans] do not need this water, they have rain. Here in Sudan we need [that Nile] water’ … as if we here in East Africa count for nothing but to be slavish suppliers of water to the downstream countries ?!?

 

KASUBI RECONSTRUCTION STARTS

Kampala’s one and only UNESCO World Heritage site, the Kasubi Tombs of the Buganda Kingdom, is now being readied for rebuilding, following a devastating fire a few weeks ago. At the time this sacred site was almost completely destroyed by a sudden fire, and no details are available as yet to the cause of the fire or those suspected to have lit the proverbial ‘match’. While Uganda lost a priceless tourism asset the Kingdom of Buganda lost an essential part of its identity and heritage.

It is understood that building activity will begin this week, and that a perimeter wall will be constructed, besides working on the shells of the burned out buildings.

This first stage is likely to take until the end of the year before further work will then follow. UNESCO is supporting the reconstruction as is the Ugandan government, the city council, the Buganda Kingdom and many individual supporters. The funds raised so far and still expected from a variety of fundraising activities both inside and outside of Uganda will be managed by Price Waterhouse Coopers, a globally renowned accounting and business consultancy firm to avoid any suggestions of misuse of donated money.

 

Kenya News

TO JUBA AT LAST

Kenya Airways has at last confirmed that they will commence daily flights on their Embraer 170 jet aircraft from the 07th of June, closing a huge gap in their regional network inflicted on themselves in the past. The airline had left this profitable market to other airlines from Kenya and the Southern Sudan, which were flying happily between the two destinations, while KQ stood by citing obscure concerns they would not specifically comment on.

Jetlink, a privately owned Kenyan airline in fact flies their CRJ twice a day to Juba and a number of other operators also fly daily or several times a week.

It appears that common sense at last prevailed amongst the decision makers at Kenya Airways to add the route to their regional network, finally offering visitors to the Southern Sudan from overseas a seamless connection on their preferred airline alliance.

 

KISUMU AIRPORT PRIORITIES CHANGES

It was learned over the weekend that the various ongoing work stages of the reconstruction of the Kisumu airport will be fine-tuned, to allow for a full re-opening by latest August this year. The contractors will no concentrate on completing the runway shoulders and the runway extension with absolute priority, while additional car park facilities and a completely new cargo parking area will be added at a later stage, in order to get the most out of the available funding at this stage.

There is reportedly also a ‘downsizing’ of the airport terminal building in the making although no specific details could be obtained from sources in Kisumu willing to discuss the changes.

A full rehabilitation and expansion was floated by the previous Kenya Airports Authority management but it would appear that a ‘reality check’ has now set in when the KAA board has been reviewing available funds verses the ambitious projects previously ‘sold’ to an unsuspecting public.

Kisumu can presently only received smaller narrow bodied aircraft up to the size of a B737 but when the runway expansion is completed wide bodied aircraft up to the size of a B767 or similar can land and take off from the lakeside airport without restrictions.

 

POACH AT YOUR OWN RISK

A combination of Kenya Wildlife Service anti poaching personnel and other security organs have successfully tracked down a group of poachers last weekend in the Kora National Park area, following a surge in poaching this year. The criminals were ambushed and engaged, killing one of them instantly while some others managed to escape and are being pursued. Ivory was recovered by the officials, believed to originate from two elephant killed only days earlier, as were AK 47 assault rifles and ammunition.

Kenya has started a no tolerance policy against poaching and is cracking down hard in order to protect its lucrative tourism business which depends on an intact environment and sizeable wildlife numbers and is clearly also showing the way to some of her neighbours still pondering how to go about anti poaching measures.

 

TOURISM SECTOR RECORDED STRONG FIRST QUARTER PERFORMANCE

The Kenyan tourism industry is confident, following the publication of first quarter arrival data that they are firmly on course to a record year, exceeding the arrivals of 2007.

Some quarters in the sector however are cautious in regard of revenues, as – according to their observations – tariffs and rates are still depressed following the rebates and discounts needed to kick start the industry after the global financial and economic crisis of 2008 and 2009.

First quarter arrival figures available show that indeed the record of 2007 was very slightly exceeded, incidentally with a rise of nearly 25 percent over the last year of 2009.

Global recovery undoubtedly aided this trend but also political peace and quiet in the country and the wider region has helped to restore consumer confidence. As reported last week the Kenya Tourist Board was only ‘beaten’ into the runner’s up position of the continental rating undertaken by the ‘Good Safari Guide’ by South Africa, which poured mega money into their pre World Cup campaigns and reaped their due reward for their Herculean efforts. Meanwhile though has Kenya also made inroads into the conference market and with the launch of new safari and culture circuits, the launch of new domestic air destinations and the introduction of new products, like learning bushcraft from Masai warriors as part of a safari itinerary, has catapulted Kenya right to the top of the most preferred destinations in Africa, while the wider region is undoubtedly benefitting too from this trend.

However, to sustain this laudable trend constant product innovation, product excellence and relentless marketing in existing, new and emerging markets must continue to lift the tourism sector to the top of the Kenyan economy once again.  

 

COAST TOURISM INDUSTRY DEMANDS MORE ROADS AND BRIDGES

The constant traffic jams in and out of the city across the Nyali Bridge from the northern mainland and across the dam between the airport and the access from Nairobi into the city have now also ignited the ire of the tourism sector at the Kenyan coast. For long have commuters and the business community at large complained to the council and government about a lack of attention to infrastructure, and failure to create new bridges, dams and roads into the city – Mombasa being an island as it is.

For a long time has the tourism industry demanded that a completely new road from the Nairobi road and airport must be build to the South Coast, where key tourism resorts are located which presently can only be reached through the equally congested ferry. Located at the Likoni Channel, which  opens the Kilindini sea port of Mombasa to the Indian Ocean, the ferries have been unreliable for long, cited a risk due to having ‘overstayed’ beyond their planned lifespan and many tourists have in the past missed flights when stuck on the southern mainland side when ferries had broken down.

In order to gain a higher profile in the ranking of globally renowned beach destinations, the Kenyan government must now decide what added infrastructure will be needed in terms of roads, bridges, dams, water, electricity and refuse collection, amongst others, so that tourists can be lured to the Indian Ocean beaches and truly enjoy a holiday of a lifetime without having to crawl through thick traffic on arrival and departure.

 

Tanzania News

NEW BRIDGE CONNECTING TO MOZAMBIQUE OPENED

A vision dating back into the mid 1970’s by the then presidents of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and of Mozambique Samora Machel has at last come to its fulfilment, when a week ago a key bridge was officially opened by the current presidents Jakaya Kikwete and Armando Guebuza. The new road link across the river Ruvuma is thought to improve trade relations between the two neighbouring countries but also facilitate easier movement of business and tourism visitors in an area where such infrastructure was for long lacking. According to information sent to this correspondent by sources in Dar es Salaam the bridge cost Tanzania nearly 30 million US Dollars to build and spans over 700 metres across the river. Previously crossings had to be done by boats, canoes and as and where available ferries.

However, government opponents were swift to point out in separate messages to this correspondent, that the project, besides the ‘opening fanfare’ was far from complete as access roads were ‘in a pathetic state’ and immigration and security installations not ready for use. Hence, opinion is divided between ‘wow’ and ‘ooops’ for the moment until further information can be received.

In response to an enquiry a governmental source from Dar es Salaam however was quick to point out that link roads to the new bridge and related added infrastructure was already included in the next budget which is due to be presented soon, dismissing opposition claims that the bridge was a ‘white elephant’.

Said the source on condition of anonymity: ‘this road and bridge link us to our neighbours Mozambique. Our founding father Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and the founder President of modern Mozambique Samora Machel have so long ago dreamed about closer links between our countries. Now it is reality at last, and both sides have spent much money to achieve this. Why would opponents now rubbish our work and efforts. Extra roads will come, others to the bridge will be renovated, it is a small issue when considering that the big issue, the bridge itself, is now complete. We expect many overland tourists to come this way to visit us or go to Mozambique. Tourism there is only starting now, so we will benefit from the road and bridge link. For myself, I am proud of this achievement, and those who are not are simply not patriotic, please write this!’

Undoubtedly here as in many other cases time will tell just how successful the road / bridge link between Tanzania and Mozambique will be, but for now it is congrats upon the completion of the new link bridge.

 

PRICELESS CARVING RETURNED TO TANZANIA

A ‘Makonde’ carving, which went missing over a quarter of a century ago from a museum in Dar es Salaam was returned last week to Tanzania. In the mid 80’s a number of art pieces and exhibits disappeared from the national museum in Dar and the recovery of this particular piece, which was found in a Swiss museum which had acquired it in good faith, was done under the UNESCO convention, which now governs claims by the initial owner countries of items found elsewhere. In this particular case however verification of the claim and subsequent negotiations took over 12 years, a time frame not acceptable any longer in this day and age. As and where looted or stolen artefacts are discovered they should, once verification has been carried out under UNESCO auspices, be returned at once.

Interpol, the International Council of Museums and UNESCO were all involved in the case and were thanked at the handover ceremony, after the carving had been airlifted back into Tanzania on the 09th of May.

It was also pointed out that several similar cases are still being pursued by government and officials are hopeful to bring those also to a successful conclusion.

 

STARK WARNING ON FOREST DISAPPEARANCE

Forests in Tanzania could disappear within decades, it was learned last week from a regular source in Arusha, if not checked immediately and massive reforestation undertaken. According to the source Tanzania presently has over 400.000 hectares of forests, but the loss of forest cover has been extensive over the past 50 years and accelerated over the past decade.

Government officials blamed the situation on the increase in use of charcoal, which in the absence of affordable and easily available electricity is often the only means of heating water and cooking meals, in both remote rural areas but also amongst the urban poor living in squalid conditions with no electricity nor piped water.

This latest report was published by globally respected Conservation International in an attempt to draw much needed high level attention to the dire situation, in order to protect biodiversity, fragile ecosystems and alongside keep the tourism sector up and running which depends most heavily on an intact environment for visitors to come from overseas and spend their money in Tanzania.

Tourism is a key source of foreign exchange earnings for the country and also one of the largest sectors in terms of creating employment and Tanzania could not afford to neglect these issues if the upwards trend of tourism arrivals is to continue in the future.

 

NEW ARUSHA – MUSOMA ROAD TO ROUTE THROUGH SERENGETI

Information received from Arusha indicates that government has at last taken a decision of the exact route the new proposed road from Arusha to Musoma is to take, bringing bad news to conservation activists, who tried to prevent the new highway to cut right through the traditional migration routes in the Serengeti National Park.

For those acquainted with the geography of Tanzania, the new road link, much in demand by the way from the business community and local communities, the new road will start at Mto Wa Mbu – located on the foot of the Manyara escarpment, and then move through along Engaruka, pass Lake Natron, Loliondo, the Serengeti before reaching Musoma.

Proponents of the road reportedly considered the impact of the main highway leading through Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda, where a tarmac road runs through the park towards Kasese, but migration there is limited to smaller number of animals crossing the road, while the new highway cutting through the Serengeti will at certain times of the year see the big herds march across the area in their tens of thousands while a traditional elephant migration route is also being divided by the new highway.

Construction is due to start in early 2012 after a full feasibility study has been completed by the end of this year and further anticipated impacts been dealt with. It could not be established from TANAPA what made them accept the routing they fought against for so long, and if political ‘instructions’ came down on them like the proverbial ton of bricks, but the unusual silence of regular sources within and close to TANAPA speaks volumes for itself of course. Watch this space.

 

Rwanda News

NEW AIRPORT AND RAILWAY TO BE FINISHED UNDER PUBLIC / PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP

The Rwandan government has last week confirmed that amongst several projects shortlisted for PPP were also the planned new international airport at Bugesera but also the planned railway which will eventually connect the port city of Dar es Salaam with Kigali.

Both projects have a bearing on many sectors of the economy but notably also tourism, as air and rail links are crucial to bringing more visitors to the ‘land of a thousand hills’ as Rwanda is also known. The announcements were made last week at the end of an investment conference where the country was showcasing major infrastructural projects aimed to attract and impress global investors and financiers. While the railway is thought to cost in excess of 4 billion US Dollars at current prices, the new airport is expected to cost nearly 650 million US Dollars when finally completed.

The investment conference attracted over 100 high level delegations and individuals from around the world who wanted to get firsthand experience of existing and upcoming opportunities in Rwanda and judging from feedback obtained from Kigali the participants were widely impressed, leading to further negotiations between interested parties to go into partnership.

 

GORILLA DEATHS A BLOW TO CONSERVATION

Just weeks ahead of this year’s Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony and country wide celebrations highlighting the country’s conservation efforts, did news break earlier in the week that four gorillas, a mother and baby and two more adolescents were found dead high up in the forests. Speculation is that the extreme weather conditions of torrential rains over prolonged periods of time may have contributed to this sad development, and it is understood that vets working with the Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation, are trying to figure out the exact cause of death.

The animals belonged to two groups normally found high up on the mountain where the biting cold and almost constant rain and fog in recent weeks seems to have taken its toll on weaker animals. The loss of four of the rare mountain gorillas at one time is most unusual and almost unprecedented and the tourism and conservation fraternity will mourn this loss, while taking hope for more births in coming weeks and months as Rwanda sets out to begin its annual celebrations next weekend.

 

Seychelles News

SEYCHELLES STEPS UP ANTI PIRACY EFFORTS

Information was received during the week that the Seychelles government is in the process of establishing a separate chamber in its court system to exclusively deal with pirate trials, supported by friendly nations participating in the naval operations off the Horn of Africa and across the expanses of the Indian Ocean. The Seychelles is presently the only country to accept recently caught ocean terrorists, after Kenya has decided to stop putting them on trial, maybe also motivated by the vicinity to the Somali borders across which hostile Islamic militants are only waiting for a chance to spread their hellish gospel into neighbouring countries.

In the Seychelles however there is political will and determination to deal with the problem, and when an additional patrol boat comes on line for the country’s coast guard, provided by the UK government, it will be deployed along the Northern approaches to the archipelago.

Discussions between members of the naval coalition, the Seychelles and the African Union backed transitional government in Somalia are also ongoing, trying to have Somalis caught at sea serve their sentences in Somali jails, in view of the rather too limited places currently available on the islands.

The Seychelles have in the past made determined efforts to combat ocean terrorism even with their limited resources, as after all the menace potentially affects the two mainstay economic activities, fishing and tourism and have in conjunction with the naval coalition caught increasing numbers of often hapless Somalis at sea, who several times in their ignorance even tried to attack navy vessels. Ignorance and stupidity however being no excuse, they too are facing trial and long prison terms, as they are charged with both piracy related crimes and terrorism.                                              

 

SEYCHELLES CIVIL AVIATION UNPERTURBED BY SHTA OPEN LETTER

Sources close to the Seychelles CAA have been in touch with this correspondent over the recently published letter of the chairperson of the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association, which laid heavily into both the SCAA and Air Seychelles.

The source made it clear that there were several ‘misjudgements’ – this is the best translation from French I can come up with – on part of the SHTA which needed to be cleared up.

The SCAA has under the bilateral air services agreement granted Emirates 7 flights per week, with six presently operating, but the arrival time slot of the proposed 7th flight was not available as other wide bodied aircraft were already scheduled to arrive over this time frame. The limited space at the Mahe International Airport is presently not permitting to add a third wide bodied aircraft on the ground at the same time, before substantial additional handling capacity was created first to increase processing of passengers and cargo at the entire airport.

It was also pointed out that other reasons advanced by the SHTA in this connection were also not correct, since two of the present 6 flights were already using a different time slot at the airport and were not showing any lesser passenger occupancies compared to the other 4 flights.

Wrote the source: ‘to say SCAA or our national airline have stopped the 7th flight is misleading and you ought to make the truth public’.

At the same time the same source also took exception about comments made over the general level of air access to the islands, saying: ‘Government of Seychelles and SCAA have entered into dozens of bilateral air services agreements which govern air transport between countries. SCAA, as does the government, encourage in fact more countries to enter into negotiations with us to bring more traffic to the islands, the only real way tourists can in fact arrive here. Air Seychelles is our national airline and makes representations when we negotiate such deals, and we also encourage commercial agreements where Air Seychelles can tie up with other airlines, like they fly on behalf of Air France between Paris and Mahe. Anyone suggesting that SCAA, or government, or Air Seychelles would be opposed to more flights and more connections, is simply misinformed or did not understand these complex issues of aviation business.’

No comment was available at the time of going to press from Air Seychelles but it is hoped that for next week a statement can be obtained from them too for the sake of clearing the air.

 

RONNY RENAUD ESQ. MOVES TO ISLAND DEVELOPMENT COMPANY

The current Chief Executive Officer of the Seychelles (Marine and) National Park Authority, Mr. Ronny Renaud, featured here in a full scale interview a few weeks ago, has been appointed as Deputy CEO of the Island Development Company as part of that parastatal’s reorganization. Taking over from him at the SNPA will reportedly a Mr. Denis Matatiken, who is currently working at the Department of Environment.

The IDC is a key to the development of islands across the archipelago and of crucial importance to the further enhancement of tourism, fishing and related economic activities.

New chairman of the IDC is Mr. Patrick Lablache, who according to sources in Mahe has a wealth of experience in both public and private sector.

The changes at IDC are reportedly part of the Seychelles public sector reform which seeks to streamline administration and cut cost through a variety of measures.

Congratulations to Ronny, whose interview is still available at eTN’s Executive Talk.

Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean report Second Edition May 2010

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

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Second edition May 2010

 

Uganda News

GOOD SAFARI GUIDE 2010 WINNERS ANNOUNCED –

AND IN MEMORIAM PRIMROSE HAVELOCK STOBBS

The Good Safari Guide (www.thegoodsafariguide.com) last weekend held its annual award ceremony in Durban / South Africa’s International Conference Centre, just ahead of the opening of the annual INDABA tourism trade show.

While several category winners came from Southern Africa, and congrats to them too of course, important for us here in Eastern Africa was that Kenya ended up with the runner’s up position in the African 2010 vote for ‘Best Tourist Board’. Kenya won the award in 2009 but was giving way to South Africa’s Tourist Board this year which ran a superb marketing campaign towards the FIFA World Cup in June. Congratulations are nevertheless in order for the Kenyan effort and also to the Zambia Tourist Board, which came a surprising third.

Elsa’s Kopje at the Meru National Park in Kenya, of Cheli and Peacock fame, earned ‘best safari property in East Africa’ and doubled the honours when also taking the overall ‘best safari property in Africa’, while their owning / managing company Cheli and Peacock also took the honours as ‘best safari accommodation group in Africa’, an amazing development considering the competition out there across Eastern Africa and Southern Africa, leaving the ‘big boys’ out in the cold. Cheli and Peacock then added another award when they bagged the ‘best community safari property’ award for their Loisaba Lodge. Hats off to C&P for this extraordinary achievement and congrats to all their staff for making this possible.

One of this correspondent’s personal favourites on the safari circuit, Gibbs Farm, came a notable third as ‘best safari hotel’. Gibbs Farm, for those not in the know, is located on an extensive coffee estate and farm on the foothills of Ngorongoro, near Karatu, an ultimately charming stopover en route to the crater or the Serengeti beyond, or simply to get away for a few days and enjoy the excellent home cooking, peace and quiet for a couple of days.

Kenyan company ‘Porini’ made it on to several finalist lists but sadly did not gain any honours this year, other than this mention here for their equally outstanding settings and hospitality, while across the border in Rwanda Governor’s Camps’ (yes, those from Kenya) Sabyinyi Silverback Lodge came top in Africa for ‘best new safari property in Africa’.

And in closing the award mentions, my personal recognition and respect goes to the late Primrose Havelock Stobbs, formerly of Abercrombie and Kent and a long time Kenya resident, who was posthumously awarded a life time achievement award by the Good Safari Guide for her contributions to the tourism and safari sector over the decades. Primrose passed away just about three weeks ago in the UK, after a long illness very bravely borne and has undoubtedly looked down from heaven to see her name announced, while her eyes will have followed the big herds across the plains of the Serengeti and the Masai Mara, which she so loved in her lifetime. The award was received on behalf of the late Primrose’s family by Nigel Vere Nicoll. Nigel is the CEO of the Africa Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA), who worked with Primrose for a long time. My profound condolences to the family of the late Primrose and may she rest in heavenly peace, surrounded by the wildlife she so loved.

Sadly for us here in Uganda, no property or company made it into the top three, although the Emin Pasha Hotel in Kampala and the Clouds Safari Lodge were once again nominated amongst the finalists. Better luck to them next year and here is a challenge for other Ugandan safari properties, to shed mediocrity and pretence and aim to rival those truly outstanding, truly luxurious and truly exemplary examples set by the award winning Kenyan, Tanzanian, Rwandan and Southern African companies. Try do us here in Uganda proud next year?!?

Visit www.thegoodsafariguide.com for the full list of finalists and awardees in this year’s competition and make sure you select and start voting now for excellence in service towards next year’s edition.

 

SPARE US THE SHAME AND PAY UP

Sad news emerged over the weekend when parliamentary committee investigations and enquiries’ revealed the ongoing default in subscription payments by Uganda for key international tourism and conservation bodies.

The UN World Tourism Organisation is now owed nearly 700 million Uganda Shillings, accumulated over many years and belying constant assurances to the tourism sector by government that they would pay up to restore full membership to this crucial body and resume participation in its organs and receive assistance readily availed to the group of least developed nations, which ordinarily are a great multiple of the annual subscriptions paid to the UN body.

In addition it was discovered that major arrears have now also accumulated for membership in the World Conservation Union and CITES, amounting to nearly 600 million Uganda Shillings. Other continental bodies too claim backdated arrears. The Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry predictably blamed the Ministry of Finance for not allocating them enough funding to meet international obligations of this nature, but this sort of excuse has been peddled to the parliamentary committee, the media, the tourism industry and the public at large for too long now, without any visible action being taken. Time to wake up and PAY UP to restore Uganda’s reputation within these international bodies, on which our tourism and wildlife sector so much depends.

 

MAKERERE UNIVERSITY SCRAPS TOURISM COURSES

Questions are being asked if the recent ‘scrapping’ of tourism related courses by Uganda’s main university is another sign that the sector is poorly understood and only the focus of lip service by government and its organs. Late last week did news emerge from the ivory tower that tourism and conservation related bachelor degree courses would be axed from by the university administration, including – but not restricted to – three year studies on conservation biology, wildlife health and management, environmental journalism, travel and tourism management, hospitality and leisure management and catering and hotel management.

New students expressed their dismay over the decision, after setting their sights on joining one of these courses and then starting a career in the tourism industry after graduation, as they may now have to join one of the private universities which continue to offer such courses, albeit at times with lesser credentials and acceptance in the market place. It was learned though that these courses would be ‘wrapped into one or two post graduate diploma courses’ but no longer available as a bachelor degree course.

Meanwhile has the row ignited again between the main university and the Makerere University Business School which is often at loggerheads with the main administration, when MUBS announced that they will continue to offer some of the courses scrapped on the main campus, such as hospitality and leisure management, as the courses ‘are in demand’ and ‘profitable’.

Questions were also raised if the discontinuation of these courses was done after due consultations with employers or the tourism industry, which has in the past often asked for more rather than less courses and training opportunities, focused on quality, hands on training and relevant course content to make graduates immediately employable. Oooops…

 

FRIEND A GORILLA CAMPAIGN GETS NEW MOMENTUM

The film documentary of the visit of several Hollywood celebs last year in September has yielded an added bonus, when it was awarded a second place at the Brazilian TourFilmBrazil tourism film festival last week. The documentary shows the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat in Bwindi forest and of course the tracking by the celebs when they visited the forest.

It was also learned that Simon Curtis is due to return to Uganda during this week – ash cloud permitting that is – to engage in some additional promotional activities aimed to raise awareness and funding for the conservation of the gorillas’ habitat. For added information visit www.friendagorilla.org and for details on the film festival see www.tourfilmbrazil.com or www.cifft.com

 

TIME UP FOR CHOGM THIEVES

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has last week directed that decisive action must now be taken against those suspected and alleged to have diverted CHOGM funds or delivered shoddy or nonexistent work, according to press reports in the Ugandan national media. Besides possible prosecutions this also involves the non renewal of any contracts by senior civil servants implicated before the parliamentary committee and in the audit report.

Sources close to the CID are also all but confirming that case files are being prepared already following the revelation in the audit reports and the reports coming from the public accounts committee of parliament, and prosecutions in court now appear imminent with apparently little regard to the individual’s standing or positions. As CID officers are in any case attached to Parliament they have already interviewed a number of suspects who were referred to them by the public accounts committee and files have been opened there for some time now. The final report of the public accounts committee has formally recommended that officials implicated should be prosecuted although there are already indications that a renewed ‘fight’ over the report will take place in the plenary session of parliament, especially over recommendations as to who should be prosecuted forthwith. Meanwhile have some election strategists for the ruling NRM party of President Museveni also shown some relief over these pending developments as it will put them in a better position to highlight government’s efforts to combat corruption and underhand, shady deals.

Visit the following links for all the gory details: www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/912276/-/wyisuv/-/index.html, www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/13/718594 and

www.observer.ug/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8406:bukenya-still-guilty-pac-&catid=78:topstories&Itemid=59

 

FED UP WITH BA

News that another strike is looming at British Airways immediately brought moans and groans from travel agents and regular frequent fliers in Uganda and a small flood of messages and comment to this correspondent, as was the case on previous strike votes. Customer loyalty will be tested to the limit once again should the strikes go ahead, and it is notable that the mood is changing against the BA top management, whom one leading travel agent, previously cautiously in favour of them, now described as ‘stubborn to the point when the whole thing will go bust’ while another decried the management’s position of all or nothing. It is increasingly becoming clear however, that another series of disruption of scheduled services, so soon after the now notorious ‘Icelandic ash cloud’ brought air traffic to a halt in and out of Europe, will likely spell financial disaster for BA at a time when they are still struggling with the fallout of the last strike. Agents in Uganda are already forewarning clients booked over the periods in question and try to rebook them to be sure that travel can take place in case flights are brought to a standstill by the strike. Watch this space.

 

FLY 540 REINSTATES THEIR SATURDAY MORNING FLIGHT

It was learned last week that the airline will with effect from 05th of June reinstate their Saturday morning flight between Entebbe and Nairobi, also operated with one of their new CRJ 200 jets, and a flying time of just over 45 minutes, making it arguably the fastest connection available. Other upcoming schedule changes across their network can be obtained through their official website on www.fly540.com or by writing to them (contact link on the website). Fly 540 is operating in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and the airline is expected to expand operations further into neighbouring and regional countries.

 

Kenya News

FLY 540 KEEPS EXPANDING DOMESTIC NETWORK

The latest information coming from the region’s first true low cost / low fare airline now indicates that they will link Kakamega in Western Kenya to their growing domestic network, opening up Western Kenya some more for tourism purposes but also for business travellers.

Fly 540’s flights to Eldoret, Kitale, Kisumu and now Kakamega will offer a swift access for tourists wanting to see ‘Obama’s roots in Kenya’, as his paternal village is just a few kilometres outside Kenya’s lakeside city of Kisumu, flights to Kitale offer easy access to Mt. Elgon National Park and nearby game reserves and their latest addition of Kakamega will bring the Kakamega Forest nearer too.

The Kenya Tourist Board has in the recent past created additional ‘circuits’ in parts of the country yet less visited by overseas tourists and the added airlink will undoubtedly entice tour and safari operators to be more proactive when promoting these ‘novelties’ and offering tours and safaris to Western Kenya.

More and more tourist visitors are now using air services to the national parks to spend time IN the parks as opposed of spending time ON the roads to the parks, a sensible choice when time in the destination is limited and yet visitors wish to see many of the country’s highlights.

The aircraft used on the Kakamega route will be a Beechcraft 1900 or depending on demand a Bombardier Dash 8, which are also used for the newly added off peak flights to the coastal destinations of Mombasa and Malindi and of course to Lamu.

 

KENYA AIRWAYS SET TO GET B737 SIMULATOR

As part of KQ’s ongoing investment in their in house training programmes is a new flight simulator now on the way to be installed at the KQ base at the ‘old’ Embakasi airport side of JKIA. It was learned that the airline’s training budget would on arrival of the new equipment be rededicated as the expensive training abroad, mandatory twice a year for pilots holding an ATPL, could then be saved to a large degree and the funds used for other purposes.

Kenya Airways has in recent years been progressively building training capacity for cabin crews and the new facilities for pilots will be a most welcome move, as it will also be available ‘for hire’ by other airlines in the region using the B737.

Presently nearly 100 pilots are deployed to foreign simulators on a regular basis to conduct their training in order to be re-certified under international aviation regulations.

 

IVORY FOUND IN VIETNAM ALLEGED TO COME FROM KENYA

A shipment of ivory tusks, concealed in other cargo shipped allegedly from Kenya’s main seaport, has been detected in Vietnam after the containers were inspected by officials. Kenya Wildlife Services officials are said to be trying to get DNA confirmation to establish the actual origin of the tusks, which could also have been transhipped via Mombasa. Two tons of ‘blood ivory’ have reportedly been found but information at hand suggests that the final destination of the ‘white gold’ was to be China, where the hunger and greed for ivory is legendary. The Lusaka Agreement task force has also been involved in the investigations to be certain that impartiality prevails when determining and then announcing the true origin of the loot.

 

Tanzania News

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME REPORT PUBLISHED

Last week saw the publication in Dar es Salaam of a long awaited report on the environment, and in particular of crimes committed and laws broken in the recent past across the country. Predictably poaching too was part of the report as were issues surrounding illegal logging, clearing of forests without licences, other offences against the wildlife act and violations of the fisheries act. It is understood that similar reports are due for publication in other countries of the East African Community, plus Ethiopia, the Sudan and Mauritius.

One of the outcomes of the combined findings will be a likely strengthening of legislation, monitoring and enforcement to improve on the participating countries’ ability to fight environmental crimes, illegal logging and trade in tropical hardwoods, and in the process also disrupt the bloody chain of poaching and the illegal trade in ivory, animal products and live species.

 

WE DO WITH OUR IVORY AS WE PLEASE…

Tanzanian government officials showed resilient stubbornness in the face of their recent ‘defeat’ in Doha, when CITES’ general assembly rejected their application to sell, what Tanzania calls ‘legal ivory stocks’. Kenyan government officials had tried to discuss the disagreement with their Tanzanian counterparts only to be robustly rebuffed.

Ahead of the CITES meeting earlier in the year emotions ran high already when Kenya led a coalition of ‘elephant defenders’ in opposing new applications to lift the ban on trade in ivory, and each side made determined efforts to lobby other countries into taking their sides, something Kenya and her allies clearly did better, most likely also being armed with  better arguments.

A report about anti poaching efforts and efforts to stop illegal shipments and the transit of ivory through Tanzania painted a negative picture about the capacity and political will to bring the menace to an end, and while predictably officials in Dar es Salaam cried foul, they had little to offer in terms of a substantive rebuttal. Contradicting statements too did not help Tanzania’s cause, as even the responsible minister blundered in several off the cuff remarks, that ‘only part of the sales proceeds’ would go towards conservation and anti poaching financing, leaving the question unanswered where the balance, and exactly which balance in percentage terms, would go, had the sale application succeeded.

Other wildlife officials too conceded that their capacity was weak and needed strengthening, but decried the little funding they were getting through the government budgeting process every year to fulfil their functions. Other more recent report brought into the public domain also speaks of an increase in the smuggling, from and through Tanzania, of birds and reptiles, which ordinarily would be another nail in the coffin of a renewed application to sell ‘legal’ ivory stocks, as long as such practises in Tanzania are not only common but on the increase.

Yet, inspite of such surrounding circumstances Tanzanian officials insist that burning the ivory, as Kenya did in the past, was NOT an option for them to even consider and that they would maintain their ‘all or nothing’ approach when filing a fresh application with the CITES secretariat in Lusaka ahead of the next global meeting. The minister, although denying to widen the rift with Kenya over this issue, insisted that burning ivory was not for Tanzania, saying ‘it doesn’t make sense’ and ruling out further conciliatory talks to establish a common East African position by throwing down the gauntlet to the Kenyan delegation when announcing that a renewed application would be filed.

Sources from Nairobi also rejected accusations made in Tanzania that Kenya had a hidden agenda against Tanzania when assembling the anti sale coalition ahead of the Doha CITES summit and one source, usually well informed, said: ‘…accusing us of betrayal is rich. We tried to talk to them [Tanzania] well ahead of Doha but more influential figures there carried the day, although we are aware of differing positions amongst their wildlife service. We even asked third parties to talk to them, but in vain. Technical advice was thrown out there over political opinions. In any case, it was not Kenya alone who voted against the sale, more than half of signatory states voted against. We can only invite our Tanzanian brothers and sisters to sit down with their fellow EAC countries and openly discuss a way forward, find common ground and maybe find a solution, but even as I say this they are busy closing this avenue. You ask if this is stubborn? For sure it lacks flexibility and the will to talk. But we will bring this on the agenda, on the table to discuss in Arusha [at the East African Community] and not in the media. Some of you [the media] have been stoking the heat of argument, some of you were very factual and fair, but generally we have to sort this out behind closed doors.’

Click on the following article links, sent by sources in Dar es Salaam and Arusha, for more information on this subject and to understand better how the Tanzanian media report on this controversial matter:

www.dailynews.co.tz/home/?n=9644&cat=home and www.dailynews.co.tz/home/?n=9739&cat=home

 

Rwanda News

AKAGERA CONSERVATION BY ‘COALITION’

Conservation efforts were given a boost in Rwanda last week when nearly 2.500 police officers came on site and helped park staff and neighbouring communities to create crucial fire ‘breaks’ by clearing shrubs, dry undergrowth and removed vegetation. The park has in the past, especially during the dry season, often been subject to bush fire outbreaks which on occasions spread on to the grazing land outside the park, and the newly created natural barriers are hoped to put an end to such acts of nature.

Rwanda’s police force is currently celebration their 10th anniversary, after being completely restructured and remodelled in comparison to its predecessor body, and used the opportunity to present itself in a fashion to rural communities which will go a long way to improve ties between ‘the people’ and the police. Well done!

 

NEW MARRIOTT HOTEL DUE TO OPEN IN TWO YEARS

Global hotel chain Marriott has confirmed that they will partner with the Government of Rwanda and others to build and then manage a 60+ million US Dollar five star hotel in the heart of Kigali. It is understood that the land was initially set aside for Dubai World’ to build there but when the global economic and financial crisis hit all their investment plans for Rwanda fell apart. However, Rwanda being an up and coming tourism and investment destination it did not take long to rekindle interest from other parts of the world and the entry of Marriott can only be applauded, as it will give Kigali and Rwanda added global exposure through Marriott’s own marketing activities to fill the new hotel when completed.

 

PRESIDENT KAGAME SWEEPS PARTY PRIMARIES

Ahead of the upcoming presidential and general election in Rwanda has incumbent President Paul Kagame seemingly swept the board of country wide primary elections, where the various parties elect their flag bearer for the position of President. It is generally expected that the president will easily secure a second term in office, allowing him to continue rebuilding society and the economy in the ‘land of a thousand hills’ as Rwanda is fondly known amongst her many friends in the region and around the world.

All primaries have reportedly been conducted in a civil manner and without any troubles and tourists sampled were not even aware of the ongoing process. Well done!

 

South Sudan News

BORDER DEMARCATION ABOUT 80 PERCENT COMPLETE Sudan, and in Khartoum for that matter, following the first elections in a generation, is focus now shifting to the upcoming referendum due for January next year.

Boundaries between the South and the North will continue to be drawn up by a joint commission of the North and South and in line with the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

Over 80 percent of the boundary line has now reportedly been agreed upon and although it is thought that

As efforts are now underway to form a new government in the semi autonomous region of the Southern

the remaining 20 percent may be the most contentious portions remaining, there is hope that a final agreement can be reached before the Southern population goes to the polls again next year to decide on their future and if they wish to become an independent state or remain in a united Sudan, where the regime in Khartoum has in the past inflicted war upon them and shamelessly discriminated against the African population.

The referendum law itself is mute however on key issues like resource distribution, water rights and other crucial issues, as the SPLM in the South has taken a position that the referendum should come first and negotiations over the sharing out of the ‘family silver’ can take place when the results are known, after the referendum, which is largely expected to confirm the South’s desire to shape their own destiny.

Meanwhile has a high ranking delegation from the US government also expressed their support for the Government of Southern Sudan, in short GOSS, to help them build capacity for their police force and security organs to be able to deal with any threats in the future, both ahead and after the independence referendum.

 

EGYPT ACCUSED OF MEDDLING IN SOUTHERN AFFAIRS

The recent visit by the foreign minister of Egypt and more ominously the intelligence chief of Egypt to Khartoum were greeted with protests from the Southern population, which is now readying for an independence referendum after the completion of the first general election in a generation and the formation of a new government in the South.

Egypt has in the past not minced words that they prefer a united Sudan, while the Southern African population, oppressed, discriminated against and attacked by the regime’s war machine until 2005 are overwhelmingly expected to vote ‘YES’ when the independence question is posed to them in January 2011. One of Egypt’s major concerns, although not openly admitted, is their fear that an independent South would promptly join hands with the water producers countries upstream, i.e. Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Congo, from where the Nile waters originate and of which Egypt demands the lion’s share under outdated, outmoded and dictatorial treaties signed in 1929 and 1959 by the colonial masters and then shoved down the throats of the newly independent Eastern African nations as part of their own independence deals.

Egypt, and the regime in Khartoum, have stalled and obstructed discussions and negotiations with the upstream countries, which also includes Ethiopia from where the ‘Blue Nile’ springs, and have demanded that the old formulas remain, prompting the Eastern African water producer countries to begin a unilateral process of signing on to the new draft agreement to be followed by a process of ratification starting next month across the region.

The presence in the delegation from Cairo to Khartoum by the country’s ‘spy chief’ sent ominous signals to the Southern government and to East African regional observers of the exact motives why the highest ranking security official would come to Khartoum at this stage, unless with ulterior motives aimed against the  Southern Sudan. This was underscored by statements from Khartoum and Cairo that Egypt would ‘work towards Sudanese unity’ without specifying what measures they would take to achieve this, and having often rattled their sabres in the past over the water issue, nothing really can be ruled out at this stage. It was also mentioned by a source from Juba that the assurances of Egypt to ‘respect the outcome of the referendum’ were generally much weaker in tone and language than their noises over ‘supporting unity’, denting the credibility of such statements. Watch this space.

 

Seychelles News

EDEN ISLAND MAIN SPONSOR OF OCEAN YACHT REGATTA

The Seychelles’ annual ocean regatta will take place between May 22nd and 29th and bring a number of yachts to the starting line at Eden Island, which’ owning company is also the main sponsor. A race course has been set to see a route from Mahe to Silhouette, Praslin and La Digue before returning to Eden Island on the last day when the up to 70 foot racing boats will rush towards the finishing line.

Included this year are tasks of deep sea fishing – reportedly with a tag and release policy – which will be a separate competition within the main race.

A variety of sponsors have offered substantial prices for the winners in the various categories to give incentive for extra efforts and spectators can see the races from island vantage points, elevated hills, mountains, the various beaches where the race will pass by or follow the yachts with chartered boats or even helicopters. An event not to be missed.

 

AIR SEYCHELLES NEW WEBSITE NOW ALSO IN FRENCH

As mentioned recently, when coinciding with the move to their new headoffice at the Mahe International Airport the Seychellois flag carrier also launched a new English website, the next step was taken earlier in the week, when their new ‘French’ site was officially commissioned.

Added foreign language versions in Italian and German are due to follow soon, to make it easier for Air Seychelles’ passengers and travel agents in their main markets to book flights via the web pages.

Secure payment transactions have also been built into the new site allowing for transaction by leading credit and debit card organizations.

Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean report First Edition May 2010

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

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

First edition May 2010

 

Uganda News

AVGAS GOES MISSING – AGAIN

Air operators using conventional single or twin piston engined aircraft are once again up in arms over the fresh shortage of AVGAS, the ‘juice which makes our aircraft fly’ as one of the contacted domestic airline executives said to this column. Only recently did a severe shortage come to an end which curtailed flying and halted flying lessons, as airlines rationed the precious liquid to serve their regular commercial clientele.

However, no sooner had supplies been restored did Shell once more let the market run dry, again remaining largely indifferent to the plight of the domestic airlines and owners of private planes.

Shell recently announced that they would sell of their Eastern African distribution operations and it is now alleged, that, although Shell has behaved ‘badly’ in the past the bottom is now dropping out of their service and care of their erstwhile business, probably showing their true faces as they prepare to exit Uganda and the rest of East Africa.

One irate air operator has threatened to sue Shell for breach of contract, and predictably no comments were received from Shell over the repeat problems inflicted on local airlines. Shell had dragged their feet in related matters too, such as the installation of a fuel storage facility at the Kajjansi airfield which has been going on for years and now seems destined for ‘neverland’, considering that Shell is hardly ready or likely to pay for the completion of the depot now that they have declared their intention to leave the market place. Said another operator from Kajjansi to this correspondent: ‘Shell is becoming completely hopeless. Our relationship is marked by broken promises and non delivery of AVGAS. The sooner they go the better as we hope a new and dedicated distributor of oil, lubricants and aviation fuels will do better and have some respect for their clients. Shameful behaviour!’

 

BRIDGES INTO DISASTER AREA WASHED AWAY

A few weeks after the tragic landslide in Bududa / Mt. Elgon, which cost the lives of several hundred people, have fresh torrential rains now added more misery when swollen rivers washed away bridges leading to the area. Emergency personnel have reportedly been sent to the scenes to assess the damages and as and where possible begin emergency repairs, but a full restoration of road links may take well until after the rainy season is over, when the construction sides are safe and further rains do not wash away whatever repairs may now be done. The flow of supplies, but also access to schools, health centres and other social services now remains severely impeded in the Bududa area. Additional new landslides in the immediate vicinity of where the original disaster occurred were also reported in the media a few days ago, underscoring the need to continue moving people out of the park area and into safer zones further down the mountain or other parts of the region.

The same part of the country was already in 2007 subjected to flooding and destruction and as a result of the El Nino induced current heavy rainy season across Eastern Africa many parts of the region are suffering of similar problems as repeatedly reported here.

 

GORILLA TWIN PASSES AWAY

Sad news have reached a few days ago that ‘Katungi’, one of the twin pair born in late 2008, has apparently died. The little adolescent mountain gorilla was a member of the Nkuringo group, visited last year by this correspondent. It is a very rare occurrence that a female mountain gorilla gives birth to twins, and when discovered it was cause for both celebrations as well as scientific interest amongst researchers working in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.

It is understood that vets working with the Uganda Wildlife Authority are trying to establish the cause of the gorilla youngster’s death to learn more about health issues surrounding the gorillas and be able to more effectively provide medical assistance when and where required.

Visit www.friendagorilla.org for regular updates by UWA on what is going on amongst their ‘gorilla community’, or better befriend one of them for the nominal fee of just 1 US Dollar.

 

CHOGM ‘THIEVES’ TO FACE IGG PROSECUTION

The Inspector General of Government of Uganda, in short the IGG, has now confirmed that they will begin to prepare indictments towards some individuals suspected to have diverted funds or ‘stolen’ funds in the run up to the Commonwealth Summit in November 2007, following constant revelations from the parliamentary public accounts committee and interrogations of suspects by the CID officers attached to parliament. Many civil servants, business people and government officials were implicated by the public accounts committee and accused of complicity in the misuse of funds, while the public at large was outraged that road repairs and other infrastructural measures soon after the summit began to fall apart and deteriorate with no sign of maintenance or the initial contractors being asked to fix up their shoddy work.

In fact, sources from parliament are talking of their intention to press for prosecution of very senior officials, including the country’s Vice President, senior ministers including the state minister for tourism and a range of other officials who had come to the attention of the investigators and failed to absolve themselves while answering allegations and questions from MP’s. Notably the Vice President evaded the parliamentary committee – some sources suggest he defied summons – while others staged ‘walk outs’, took several summons to appear or failed to cooperate in the eyes of committee members.

The IGG will according to reports from parliament share the ‘burden’ of prosecution with the office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions and court cases, according to another source close to the investigation, would likely be filed already soon.

The parliamentary public accounts committee also visited the president last week at State House in Entebbe to discuss issues surrounding their investigation and shed light on to attempts by some of those questioned before the committee trying to hide behind obscure ‘presidential directives’ without however presenting any documentary evidence to that effect. It was made clear by the President in the meeting, that while he was not in any way involved in procurement of goods and services for the summit, he had on several occasions guided and counselled those concerned to observe existing rules of procurement and ensure that the requirements of the Commonwealth Secretariat for holding such a summit, as laid down in the ‘Blue Book’ were catered for. He also challenged anybody trying to hide behind any of these obscure ‘directives’ to produce evidence to that effect. The President also expressed satisfaction, that inspite of the ongoing queries and investigations the summit overall was a success as it showcased Uganda around the Commonwealth family of nations and the world at large and subsequently increased tourism arrivals substantially. The President also commented favourably on the increase in bed capacity of the Ugandan hospitality industry, which he said was another reason why the country was now able to attract more conferences and global meetings, something not possible without having held the Commonwealth summit.

2010 being a pre-election year in Uganda, with general and presidential elections now less than a year away, this saga will obviously continue to attract public attention and it is not ruled out that consensus for some prosecutions will be granted sooner rather than later to present a strong anti corruption stand as repeatedly stated by the President to the Ugandan public at large and reiterated when meeting the parliamentary public accounts committee last week.

Read more about this issue in some rather candid articles from the local print media like the New Vision, Uganda’s leading daily via www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/13/717758, www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/12/717996, www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/13/718058 and www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/12/718066  or from the Daily Monitor via www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/909310/-/wy25tq/-/index.html

And in breaking news just in, the Vice President reportedly reacted with anger, according to Ugandan media reports, when finally meeting with the parliamentary public accounts committee yesterday, directing ‘words’ against the chairman of the committee and the auditor general.

Read all about these latest twists in this saga via www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/12/718368 by the New Vision and www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/911640/-/wyi7lp/-/index.html in the Daily Monitor, which used particularly strong words and language when reporting about the latest developments.

 

CLIMATE CHANGE FALLOUT BLOCKS ROUTE TO RWENZORI PEAKS

Glaciers on the top of the Mountains of the Moon, aka Rwenzori Mountains, have shrunk considerably since the peaks were first climbed over a hundred years ago, and since satellite surveillance and mapping has started to provide detailed records, part of the progressive disappearance of the equatorial icecaps also seen on Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya. This has worried climate researchers, conservationists and economists alike, as the fallout for the local ecosystems and the subsequent economic fallout, when runoff water quantities from the mountains begin to dwindle, will be having a major impact on millions of people living around these mountains.

Meanwhile though have reports filtered back from climbers – the Rwenzori Mountains are a national park under the auspices of the Uganda Wildlife Authority – that the glacier leading up to the Margherita peak has developed a deep crack which has widened to several meters, effectively blocking the ascend for climbers. This particular glacier has shrunk to less than 20 percent, according to available records, since the 1960’s and the deep crack may be a harbinger of things still to come, should global warming continue unchecked.

There is now a risk, that should the crack widen further, that part of the glacier may progressively ‘slide’ away further. According to UWA sources other but smaller cracks have also been observed on other glaciers in the mountains although it could not immediately be ascertained what impact this would have on mountain climbing tourism, the major source of income for this particular national park. Many alpinists come to Uganda to climb the challenging Rwenzoris’, the only ‘proper’ equatorial mountain range besides the free standing Mt. Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro

The equatorial icecaps were immortalised in Ernest Hemingway’s book ‘Snow on Kilimanjaro’ and have been attracting tourists from all over the world to East Africa.

In recent reports, and as witnessed directly by this correspondent, was mention made about the Mt. Kenya glaciers shrinking to a minute portion of their former glorious self, while the Kilimanjaro icecaps too are now only covering the top of the peak instead of reaching far down the mountain. Watch this space for more reporting throughout the year as the focus is now on the Mexico Summit where hopefully a globally binding agreement on the curtailing and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions can be reached, as otherwise the equatorial icecaps may well be gone within the next 15 to 20 years. Stark prospects …

 

MADHVANI FOUNDATION SEEKS APPLICATIONS FOR SCHOLARSHIPS

The annual award process of scholarships worth 500 million Uganda Shillings is now going underway again as every year and applications must be received by the Foundation by 31st May. Most notably, scholarships are again available in the field of hotel management and environmental studies, both fields important for Uganda and of course the tourism and wildlife sectors. More details are available for Ugandan students via www.madhvanifoundation.com. Successful applicants will have their tuition fees paid directly to the institution of higher learning of their choice while all other study and living expenses are to be met by the students selected.

The Madhvani Group operates currently 2 of the best known safari lodges in Uganda, is about to open their third safari lodge in the upper part of Murchisons Falls National Park and recently acquired their first safari camp property in the Masai Mara in Kenya, a reason why the foundation in recent years added hotel management and environmental studies to their portfolio. Well done and bouquets for the foundation over their philanthropical engagement in the country for many decades and the enormous amounts of money spent on their charitable work here in Uganda.

 

NEW BANK NOTES LAUNCHED

The Bank of Uganda earlier in the week launched new and redesigned banknotes which will now be gradually introduced into the local economy. The present 1.000 and 5.000 Uganda Shilling notes have been given a ‘make over’, incorporating not only the latest security features and arguably given the notes a longer life span through new production processes, but in addition a new note with the value of 2.000 Uganda Shillings was also launched, which is equivalent to approximately 1 US Dollar. It is understood that the present one- and five thousand shilling notes will be progressively withdrawn from the market, as in any case their general appearance has suffered and in particular tourists were often seen shy of accepting old and tattered notes as change when purchasing items from local curio traders and shops. This did not give a good impression to tourists in particular and urgent action was needed to remedy the situation.

Hence, the new notes will undoubtedly also raise the ‘general fresh appearance’ Uganda gives to her visitors from abroad, a development which deserves a ‘bouquet’ for the Bank of Uganda.

Meanwhile, in a related economic development, has government released the latest inflation statistics, and proudly reported a fall from double digit inflation during the height of the global financial and economic crisis to now ‘only’ 5.9 percent, largely driven by consistently rising fuel prices. The same trend was reported from the entire region, where inflation rates have fallen on a broad basis and economic growth forecasts were upped across the board.

These latest data were released earlier in the week by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics in conjunction with the Bank of Uganda and the Ministry of Finance. Economic growth for the 2010/11 period is expected to be in the range of between 7 and 8 percent, giving overall good prospects for the local economy in the near term and excellent prospects in the medium and long term when oil production starts and a hung chunk of the national spending on the importation of fuels can then be dedicated to other crucial sectors like education, health and infrastructural developments.

 

Kenya News

WHERE ARE THE NEW FERRIES

Anger is spreading amongst commuters, the business community and the tourism trade over the unexplained delay of delivering the new ferries for the Likoni channel crossing, which presently connects the island of Mombasa with the southern mainland, a crucial link for tourists and the local community alike.

Initially the ferries were to be delivered already last year but constant delays were experienced and procurement payment issues in Kenya too were not helpful towards a timely delivery.

It is now understood that it may take several more weeks before the ferries may arrive in Mombasa, but no word was received to to the shipping route, which may add more dangers to the timely delivery should the route go through waters infested with Somali ocean terrorists, as it would more than likely need a navy escort all the way from the Red Sea to the port of Mombasa.

Interesting enough, no one has yet used the Icelandic ash cloud as a reason for explaining the fresh delays …

 

KENYA BUZZ PRODUCES NEW GUIDE / MAP

Kenya’s premier e-guide – available via www.kenyabuzz.com – has now launched a printed version of their accumulated ‘wealth of knowledge’ and is selling both, an up to date map of Nairobi as well as the quality guide book for 1.200 Kenya Shillings, or somewhere in the region of 15 US Dollars, a bargain considering the range of details contained in the new guide about eating out, shopping and all related information valuable to tourists and locals alike.

Subscription to the weekly edition mailings of the e-guide are free and can be requested when visiting Kenya Buzz’s website, where a variety of news items can be found week in week out, including links to some of the lesser known but nevertheless very good safari and beach properties available across the country for locals and overseas visitors alike. A ‘should really read’ publication for any intending tourists and business travellers coming to Kenya.

 

KENYA AIRWAYS ADDS ‘FRILLS’ FOR BUSINESS CLASS TRAVELLERS

It is now three pieces of baggage, weighing 23 KG each, which KQ allows their business class travellers to take with them when checking in for flights from East Africa for onward flights into their European network, moving to the same standard already in place with some other carriers, some of which also added perks to their faithful flyers in order to retain their top revenue bracket. A number of airlines flying to Entebbe already grant larger allowances in terms of overall weight while again others restrict the weight per piece to their standard 23 kilograms and then rather add an extra checked suitcase.

The use of customer loyalty schemes – Kenya Airways some months ago added a co-branded credit card for their faithful passengers which earns them extra ‘points’ – is also increasingly playing an important role as the ‘earn and burn’ opportunities continue to grow and frequent fliers often manage to accumulate enough ‘credits’ within a few months to enjoy a free weekend at the Kenya coast for instance with their families.

 

Tanzania News

POACHERS SHOT WILDLIFE AND POLICE OFFICER

During a recent anti poaching operation it once again emerged that lives are indeed at risk when trying to enforce the law. Two officers were shot at and seriously injured by poachers in the Manyara region of Tanzania. The anti poaching operation comprising over half a dozen officers drove into what appears an ambush, during which the vehicle was sprayed with bullets, before those officers not injured then managed to arrest several culprits, which will soon appear in court charged with attempted murder and a variety of other crimes related to poaching and illegal logging.

Poaching has been a matter of concern in Tanzania amongst conservationists and government had been asked to do substantially more to combat the vice.

This correspondent expressed his sympathy and best wishes for a full and speedy recovery of the injured anti poaching personnel and commends them for their bravery.

 

WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM / AFRICA CHAPTER MEETS IN DAR

Hot on the heels of the third East African Community Investment Conference, held last week at the Munyonyo conference and resort complex outside Kampala, is the WEF / Africa chapter holding its economic review meeting in Dar es Salaam this week. Over 1.000 delegates from over 80 countries are expected to join governmental delegations and representatives of multilateral organizations.

The meeting is breaking new ground as it will be the first of its kind in the Eastern African region and the theme of the event is ‘Rethinking Africa’s Growth Strategy’ – a timely reminder of having just emerged from the worst global economic and financial crisis, which still reverberates in many of the economic sectors of the African nations. In particular Tanzania and her East African Community sister states will try to showcase the investment opportunities and potential to the visitors from abroad but it is a meeting for the whole of the African continent of course. Issues like food security and production, aggravated some years ago by a global demand for bio fuel crops which drove the price of food often beyond the means of ordinary people, will rank high on the agenda, as will infrastructure, which is in urgent need of major investments to bring Africa into the 21st century.

The tourism industry in Tanzania hopes for the proverbial shot in the arm during the present low season, hoping for good sales of pre and post congress tours to the Indian Ocean beaches and the country’s much fabled national parks.

It is also understood that a parallel forum for ‘young leaders’ is due to take place also in Dar es Salaam at the same time, for which a few hundred extra visitors are expected in Tanzania’s commercial capital, filling all the available hotel space to the delight of the hospitality trade and leaving ad hoc visitors and visitors with no prior bookings stranded to look for rooms in the city and then had to settle for hotels or resorts further out of the city centre.

 

Rwanda News

NEW CEO FOR RWANDAIR

The Chairman of the Board of Directors Mr. John Mirenge has stepped down from the twin position of CEO of the company earlier this week, when German national Rene Janata was introduced as the new Chief Executive of the Rwandan national airline.

Mr. Janata comes from German flag carrier Lufthansa, underscoring the already close cooperation between Lufthansa and RwandAir as expressed in the purchase of two CRJ200 aircraft last year, which also came with maintenance support.

The new appointment is intriguing as RwandAir already operates a codeshare with Belgian flag carrier Brussels Airlines on the Brussels to Kigali route, and Lufthansa is presently the largest shareholder in SN with the option next year to substantially expand ownership and eventually purchase SN in full. Lufthansa is already flying under codeshare with Brussels Airlines to ‘neighbouring’ Entebbe and it is according to information at hand only a matter of time now before the LH code will also be placed on the SN flights routing through Kigali.

Further options for cooperation are now abound, as WB has for long sought a sound partner to become a core investor in RwandAir, and with the ‘German Connection’ now all but obvious the coming months and weeks will make interesting observations and watching. Stay tuned to this space for the most up to date information about East African aviation.

 

RDB – TOURISM AND CONSERVATION PUBLISHES       ‘KWITA IZINA 2010’ PROGRAMME

The following programme has been published now for the forthcoming Kwita Izina celebrations this year, and intending visitors can now prepare where they want to go in Rwanda and what event they wish to see in person:

 

WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY AND KWITA IZINA CEREMONY PROGRAM

 

Day 0: 28th/05/2010: Press Conference to announce the WED and Kwita Izina activities

Day I: 29th /05/2010 Community Work (Umuganda) an official launching of World Environmental Day and Kwita Izina week activities  highlighting the role of conservation of mountain gorillas. This will be on usual date for “Umuganda Rusange” of May 2010

Day II: 30/05 to 1st /06/2010: WED and Kwita Izina National Cycling Tour

To sensitize our communities and Rwanda citizens in whole on Environmental Conservation through Kwita Izina Cycling Tour to promote a carbon free environment. This event will be organized in partnership with Rwanda Cycling Federation and the cycling tour will be combined with exhibition of environment friendly products and a public campaign for environment management.

Day III: 2 June 2010: WED and Kwita Izina Soccer

Link WED and Kwita Izina with the FIFA World Soccer Cup tournament in South Africa—from Kwita Izina to World Cup. This will be a joint soccer with FERWAFA.

Day IV- 3rd June 2010:  Environment and Conservation Conference and this will focus on “Celebrating the international year of Biodiversity”

The Environment and Conservation Conference will bring together environmentalists and conservationists to share experiences and future plans in the conservation of the biodiversity, ecosystem management and green economy and protection of  the mountain gorillas as well as other threatened species and their ecosystems. The conference will demonstrate Rwanda’s willingness and ability to play a regional role in environmental management and gorilla conservation and will also be earmarked by the launch of biodiversity policy Wildlife Policy and the post conflict environmental assessment report.

Proposed topics that will be discussed by international guest speakers are;

Conservation of national parks for green economy

Payment of ecosystem services for sustainable development

Reducing biodiversity loss for future generations

Carbon offset and sequestration

Day V, 4th June 2010: Umuganda and Community Projects launching, general public exhibitions/expositions on environmental initiatives and Community party “Igitaramo”

On 4th June will be an opportunity for Rwanda to carry out the community work (Umuganda) with international dignitaries while planting trees in Kigali at Nyandungu wetland will be done as a symbolic way to promote a carbon free and green economy. The emphasis will be on wetland ecosystem for management and sustainable development.

On the same date Rwanda Development Board will launch new community projects realized surrounding Volcanoes National Park as part of the Kwita Izina week activities.

Since 2003 different community projects have been implemented through gorilla revenue sharing and support of Partners with the aim of alleviating poverty.

The traditional party called “Igitaramo” whereby different cultural dances are performed is a very exciting event organized by the Rwandan Community. This cultural extravaganza which involves different traditional dances such as superb “Intore dance “and “Ikinimba” will take place in celebration of the new born baby gorillas.

DAY VI, 5th June 2010: World Environment Day & 6th Annual Kwita Izina Ceremony  

5th June marks the first time Rwanda is hosts the World Environmental at the global level and this will be celebrated in conjunction with the annual Kwita Izina Ceremony. On this day, we shall be celebrating the successes of gorilla conservation by giving names to the new baby gorillas. The focus will be on “Raising global awareness of biodiversity conservation as we give names to our baby gorillas” with honoured guests from International and regional Community Rwanda’s leadership, private sector local community,  Gorilla Range States, and renowned conservationists and  supporters of Kwita Izina

For further details about World Environment Day and Kwita Izina Ceremony, please check our websites: www.rwandatourism.com or www.rema.gov.rw or www.kwitizina.org or www.unep.org/wed

 

Seychelles News

SEE US AT THE ARABIAN TRAVEL MARKET, AND AT INDABA OF COURSE

The Seychelles Tourist Board, together with representatives of hotels, resorts and destination management companies will be making an appearance in Dubai for the forthcoming Arabian Travel Market, before turning their attention immediately afterwards to INDABA in Durban / South Africa. Both markets are hugely important for the Seychelles and increased air capacity will help to sell holidays to the archipelago from both the Gulf States as well as from Southern Africa, where Air Seychelles has added Cape Town to their regular flights between Mahe and Johannesburg.

The delegation has indicated that they will be happy to welcome ad hoc visitors with no prior appointments at their stands and have all materials and information at hand for ‘buyers’ and also for casual non trade visitors, as both events are combined consumer and trade affairs.

 

KEY SPANISH OPERATORS VISIT SEYCHELLES

Following several activities in the Spanish holiday market last year and early this year has a group of leading travel and tour operators from Spain visited the Seychelles last week. The eight day trip was arranged by the Seychelles Tourist Board in conjunction with Air Seychelles and Iberia and Beachcomber Hotels.

The visitors had the opportunity to get acquainted with the main island of Mahe but also visited other islands on the archipelago like Praslin, Silhouette and St. Anne to gain a greater insight into the range of resort facilities available. An ocean cruise with ‘Silhouette Cruises’ was also on their programme, giving them ample experience of the activities available for visitors to the Creole islands and the quality of hotels and resorts.

It is understood from STB  sources that invitationals for leading tour operators and travel agents from key existing and emerging markets will continue across the year, as will visits for press and media organizations to keep the destination firmly in the spotlight as one of the most desirable places in the world to visit.

 

GERMAN PUBLICATION VOTES LA DIGUE BEACH ‘BEST IN THE WORLD’

The Seychelles have again been voted as number one in the ‘top five’ bracket of the ‘best beaches’ in a recently published survey by a German publication, as available on the web via www.strandbewertung.de for interested readers.

This correspondent has visited this particular beach on La Digue during a visit long ago, and having seen many other beaches around the globe only agrees that this is an extraordinary example of a beautiful beach and truly deserves to be included amongst the very top. Visit www.seychelles.com for more information about the archipelago and in particular about the chosen beach ‘Anse Source d’Argent’ on La Digue Island.

 

GREEN ISLAND FOUNDATION TO WORK ON TWO ENVIRONMENTAL PROJECTS

Although the population of the Seychelles is still – in comparison with other countries – relatively small, pressure on the environment and natural resources is growing across the archipelago too. The emphasis is now turning to ‘sustainability’ in each facet of life and the economy and the Green Island Foundation has now commenced work on two projects related to these goals. A so called ‘integrated coastal zone management’ plan is being implemented along two beaches on the islands of Praslin and La Digue, bringing together tourism stakeholders, the business sector, communities and the administration all of which will be involved in discussions over resource use and resource allocation. The two projects are funded by the European Union and will focus on such sensitive matters as beach erosion, overfishing, see weed and reef preservation but also look at general biodiversity and water quality issues.

 

SEYCHELLES TOURISM ACADEMY GETS NEW CHAIR

Mr. Philip Guitton was recently appointed as the new chairperson of the committee (board of directors) of the STA, and at the same time appointed vice chairperson of the Seychelles Tourist Board. Mr. Guitton is the regional general manager of the Constance Lemuria Resort in Praslin and the Constance Ephelia Resort on Mahe and has been working in the Seychelles since 2006. His work background before coming to the Seychelles, as well as his track record on Praslin and now Mahe have made him a prime choice for his new appointments and the hospitality industry has high hopes that the Seychelles Tourism Academy will benefit from his experience and connections. Well done, and all the best for the challenges ahead in coming months and years.

 

MAIA’S LOSS IS PARADISE SUN’S GAIN

Mr. Philippe Bethune has been moved ‘across’ from the main island of Mahe to the Paradise Sun Hotel on Praslin on promotion from his erstwhile position as Resident Manager of the MAIA Luxury Resort and Spa, following three ‘wonderful’ years at the MAIA. The Paradise Sun is also part of the South African Southern Sun Hotels empire and his appointment as General Manager is surely a vote of confidence in his performance at the MAIA.

 

This correspondent had the opportunity to meet Philippe a few months ago while staying at the MAIA and was able to sample their hospitality and the award winning cuisine of this top of the range resort. (Conde Nast proclaimed the MAIA’s cuisine as the ‘best in Africa’) Using a breakfast meeting with Philippe to discuss hospitality industry issues and tourism to the Seychelles with him, he did say that working at the MAIA was ‘wonderful’. My best wishes and congratulations on his new appointment to Philippe through this column.

 

SEYCHELLES HOSPITALITY AND TOURISM ASSOCIATION OPEN LETTER TO THEIR MEMBERS

 

This issue of our industry’s e-News is the final one before the Annual General Meeting of our Association. I start by taking this opportunity to thank everyone for their support for our industry’s Board during their year of office. Our united effort has paid dividends and today we are, not only the respected body representing the industry, but we are becoming the Government’s partner in the continued consolidation of our industry.

It is that new found cooperation and understanding between the Government as the facilitator, and the private sector as the economy’s motor, that will make the real difference for our industry and in so doing for Seychelles.
 
Together we must now rally our individual efforts for our common good. We have, as an industry, managed to hold our visitor arrival numbers, but we now need to be united in our drive to better our yield. Many ideas are being floated, but this will need to be a united drive. Our ‘one island one hotel partners’ serviced by Air Seychelles are complaining about the recent increases in the airline’s charter rates to connect these islands to Mahe. These islands are an integral part of our country’s tourism infrastructure and as your Association’s representatives we have taken the matter up with the Minister of Finance. Air Seychelles and its Board of Directors are looking at themselves as a commercial entity and they decide their own path for the future, but Seychelles also needs to protect its main industry and enable that industry to develop and prosper. Today it has become evident that the survival of the national airline and the consolidation of different other commercial entities will need to be looked at together. If the time has arrived for opening the airspace for the connecting of our islands, then so be it and we need to be brave enough to do so. This will encourage local businesses to get together to open a second domestic airline, and as a result both the Seychellois and our tourism industry will benefit.

The drive for us to open new tourism markets was seen as necessary when the ‘European ash crisis’ closed all the European airports. La Reunion, India, China, South Korea, East & South Africa are all markets we have, as an industry, been working hard to open and to develop further, and this with the support of the Government. The week on week statistical figures have shown that our country’s arrival numbers have held during the week’s disruption caused by the ‘Ash Crisis’, because we had arrivals from other countries outside of Europe. Our strategy as an industry is working, and it is such a broad view of our industry that will make the real difference for our country. This is why we also need to open up to the world with more air access from or to areas that Air Seychelles is not flying.

The Seychelles Tourism Industry is disappointed that the SCAA have decided to block Emirates Airlines from introducing their 7th flight to Seychelles because that latest flight would clash with the arrival time of an Air Seychelles flight from Mauritius. Can our country really afford to miss the opportunity of being advertised with daily landings by Emirates at 7am, and this flying in from anywhere in the world.  Yes Air Seychelles was using that slot before, but what is in the interest of the Country as a whole?, what is in the interest of the Tourism Industry as a whole? and what will bring in more benefits to the Seychellois as a whole?. Seychelles may now not have the daily Emirates Airline landing in Seychelles because we want them to land in the afternoon on that one day, and in so doing force our visitors (tourists coming to holiday in Seychelles) to sit in Dubai airport for some five hours whilst in transit. We appeal to Mr Gilbert Faure of the SCAA, and to Mr Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, the Chairman of both the SCAA and of the STB to look beyond the file on our desk and to look at the economy of the country. Let us urgently review that decision that will seriously hamper our country’s new found tourism drive. The decision is yours and the effects will also be from your hands…because we will not be able to ask why other destinations are zooming ahead whilst we are stuck with our 150,000 arrival numbers!!!

I am ending this message by encouraging every tourism and hospitality industry member to make a special effort to be present at our AGM in May. Come and listen to where we are and what is still outstanding from our ‘to do list’.

Much has been achieved over the past year, however there is still more to be done; our demand for the industry to be represented on key Board i.e. Planning Authority, Praslin & La Digue Development Boards, the Management Boards of our USPs – SIF for Vallee de Mai & Aldabra, Botanical Gardens, Marine National Parks is still outstanding. Our Country is too small to have such key bodies operate with no input from the industry that remains the pillar of the Seychelles Economy. It is our hope that we will succeed this year in convincing government such requests are for the good of Seychelles.

Thank you to President James Michel and to his Government for their trust in our Industry and in our Association, thank you to all our Industry’s Members for their continued support and friendship, thank you to all the SHTA Board Members for your loyalty and support, thank you to the Tourism Industry at large for the spirit of togetherness that is so apparent and which is so encouraging.

Louis D’Offay, Chairman, Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association

 

Southern African News

LUFTHANSA TO USE THE A 380 TO JOHANNESBURG

Information was received from a regular contact in South Africa that apparently the local Lufthansa office ‘leaked’ the good news to the local travel and tourism trade, that they will commence flight operations with their soon to arrive fleet of A380’s to Johannesburg on an initial three times a week basis, when the four expected giant aircraft due for delivery have been received by Germany’s flag carrier. Operations are due to commence, as per the information at hand, by October this year when the traditional ‘switch’ to the fall and winter schedule takes place. Presently LH is using their proven B747-400 on the route, but a growing volume of cargo and passenger traffic to and from South Africa has probably prompted LH to choose JNB as their first – and for the time being surely ONLY – African A380 destination, after recently announcing the deployment of the new aircraft also to Tokyo and Beijing.

Johannesburg was also the first ever African scheduled destination for the A380 for flights by Air France, a signal of confidence in the destination and vote of confidence for JNB to handle the giant airlines satisfactorily. Bookings for the new service are already available on the system, it was also pointed out.

 

 

And in closing today as usual some material from ‘down south’, taken from Gill Staden’s The Livingstone Weekly, this time highlighting her experience with a hunting dogs, aka painted dogs project:

 

Project Update April 2010:

Stability returns to the Kutanga pack.

“Shall we do it?” I asked Jealous.

He gave me his usual smile and said, “lets go.”

Janet and Sandra, our long time friends and now Trustees of PDC UK, were with us. They watched this little cameo between Jealous and me play out with some amusement.

We were on the trail of the Kutanga pack again and they had moved off the road into a thickly wooded area. As usual I was torn between Hwange and Harare, and this was my last day before I had to travel from Hwange to Harare for meetings with National Parks.

After dealing with Squirrel (who was still in our Rehab Facility) and Bulls Eye (who was fully recovered now) there seemed to have been some in-fighting between Moth and Blaze for the apparently vacant alpha male position.  It seems that Bulls Eye was in fact the low ranking male. Now Moth and Blaze were badly scarred from the fighting. Blaze seemed to have come off worse and was limping badly and had multiple bite wounds over his body, including the most delicate of places for a male!

We will never take chances with the welfare of a dog. It was the welfare of the tyres on my Landrover that caused the momentary hesitation between Jealous and me as we surveyed the thick bush in front of us, full of intimidating, thorny, acacia trees. Jealous’ smile was a knowing one, as he would be fixing the punctures. We pushed forward, experience telling us that the dogs had now settled for the morning and would not move until the late afternoon, unless they were disturbed. We have done this many times before and quickly closed in on the pack, using the signal from Moth’s collar to guide us. We sat staring hard into the thick bush, searching for a telltale flick of an ear or tail. It was Janet who spotted

the slight flicker of movement and I slowly manoeuvred the Landrover to within 12 meters of the snoozing dogs. I quickly prepared the dart, filling it with the immobilizing drugs and took aim. Blaze got to his feet slowly and stood for a second looking at me. He shifted his weight slightly, in obvious pain, and I fired.

My aim was good and the dart hit home in his upper left thigh. He moved off a few metres, pulled the dart out with his teeth and lay down. It was as if he knew and welcomed what was happening. Five

minutes later he was in a drug induced “sleep.” Jealous and I moved quickly but quietly, picking Blaze up and carrying him to the side of the vehicle to begin treating him. His wounds were extensive though

not too severe, not as bad as those of Bulls Eye and Squirrel anyway.

Working methodically from top to tail we cleaned up all of the bite wounds, flushing them out with diluted betadine solution. I administered two long acting anti- biotic injections, while Jealous

fitted a collar, as the rest of the pack sat watching us just a few metres away! It really felt like they knew what was happening, that it was not a bad thing, that we were helping their pack mate.

An hour had passed and Blaze started to come round. With the reversal injection given we cleared our kit away and got into the Landrover. Blaze staggered on wobbly legs to the rest of the pack, who mobbed him with typical enthusiasm and they all moved a short distance away into the shade of the thick bush. We drove away, happy that we had done all we could and confident that he would recover quickly.

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