Archive for August, 2010

Tourism News from Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean region Fifth Edition August 2010

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Fifth edition August 2010

 

Uganda News

CHOBE SAFARI LODGE RE-OPENING IMMINENT

As reported previously here, the Madhvani Group’s Marasa hospitality subsidiary was busy since last year in reconstructing the former Chobe Safari Lodge, located above the Nile falls in the upper section of the Murchisons Falls National Park, to its former glory.

In the old days the lodge was a magnet for fishermen from the entire East Africa and further abroad, to try their skills in the river’s rapids for giant Nile Perch and other fish.

The lodge is now in the ‘soft opening phase’ and has started to take in guests, although the official opening, expected to be performed by none other than President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, may still be a few more weeks away. Opening was delayed when a major shipment of construction material got ‘taken’ when the ship was hijacked by Somali ocean terrorists and had to be re-ordered.

This correspondent will travel to the lodge over the weekend and file a full report, pictures inclusive, after sampling the hospitality, food, location, facilities and activities now soon available once again to guests.

The surroundings of the lodge are mainly forests, giving a very different game viewing experience compared to the savannah part of the lower section of the park below the falls, and in particular birding enthusiasts will be able to spot a large number of birds resident around the lodge and in the forest during drives and guided walks. Game however, in particular elephant, can also be seen, at times not far from the lodge itself, according to a reply received from one of the consultants who worked on the Chobe reconstruction.

Chobe was destroyed in a wanton act of violence by retreating soldiers of the former dictatorship, leaving it ruined for well over 25 years, before the Madhvani Group secured the concession and started reconstruction in 2009 at a cost of about 12 million US Dollars. The details of contacts and of the website will be published in the main feature article coming up here soon. Watch this space.

 

TULLOW OIL – BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

Imagine a scenario, where a major oil company purchases the assets of another, pays close to 1.5 billion US Dollars for this purchase and only then finds out that their transaction has failed to gain the mandatory regulatory approvals. Impossible you may think but true enough for Tullow Oil of Uganda.

Last year first indication arose for close observers, that Heritage Oil Uganda was considering heaving off their Ugandan oil wells and oil concessions, and it did indeed not take long before ENI of Italy came forward and offered to purchase Heritage’s interests for said 1.5 billion US Dollars.

ENI being still a state majority owned company in Italy, had all the backing of the Italian government including a ministerial visit to Uganda, during which a future investment volume of at least 14 billion US Dollars over and above the existing infrastructure was proffered to their Ugandan counterparts.

When the formally notice of intent to sell the assets was issued by Heritage, just ahead of the Christmas season last year, Tullow was scrambling to secure funding to make good of a public ‘promise’ to invoke their first right of refusal over the sale, contractually agreed in a previous partnership memorandum between Heritage and Tullow. Indeed, when decision day dawned, and inspite of the holiday season, they appeared to have secured those funds and formally responded by invoking their buyout clause.

Governmental sources in Uganda at the time were blowing both hot and cold over the deal, with some claiming that their approval would not be granted for Tullow to become THE main player in the oil industry in Uganda and ENI would be given the nod, while others claimed that as it was a contractual right of Tullow to invoke a buyout, this would be granted.

The timeline attached to this article will outline in what sequence events did take place, but meanwhile, government has used its powers to approve, or else decline approvals, to exert pressure over a tax claim made against Heritage stemming from the sale of the assets.

Why Heritage did not opt to just sell their shares in the Ugandan subsidiary to Tullow, which would have been a tax free transaction, and instead opted to sell only the assets – and here the disputes arise from – they claim to have advice that there is no precedence for tax claims and have referred the dispute with the Uganda Revenue Authority to the enshrined arbitration, taking place under their agreement with GoU in LONDON.

That in turn did not go down well with some circles in government, not a surprise considering elections are around the corner in Uganda, and demands were made privately and publicly to have Heritage delivery over 400 million US Dollars of their sales proceeds to the taxman.

In line with dispute resolution over taxes, Heritage deposited the required percentage into an escrow account in Uganda, subject to release to the URA in case the arbitration goes their way, but the balance of those claims is kept in an escrow account in the UK, where Tullow had paid the purchase price.

It is clear that the termination of a key oil exploration license by government, held by Tullow, is while probably correct in law  is more of a technical matter, but the threat has upped the ante now with government insisting that neither would the license be restored nor the circumstances discussed unless the full ‘claimed’ tax obligation by Heritage has been paid.

Tullow now has a stark choice, having paid for the Heritage assets in full but now finding themselves unable to take possession or carry out work on the wells and fields. They either pay the tax burden as an ‘extra’ or risk losing another major permit on the 07th of September, when the next cut off period comes calling, effectively putting their entire assets and investments in Uganda at risk.

Heritage has quietly let it be known that as it was them who invoked the arbitration process – agreed under the Production Sharing Agreement or in short PSA –  they are happy to wait for a ruling by the international arbitrators which they will fully respect. They have also let it be known that Tullow, should they wish to pay the taxes claimed for by URA but not recognized by Heritage, they would be free to do so but should not expect to get any money already paid for the assets back. One source close to Heritage Uganda in fact did point to the ENI offer, which had given indication that they may pay the 1.5 billion US Dollars to Heritage and pay any tax dues in addition, but when the government in Kampala rejected their offer and gave Tullow provisional approval for the take over and purchase this entire package was subsequently withdrawn. The same source was also clear in blaming Tullow for being naive and ill advised by their legal teams and paying without having the full and irrevocable approval of government in place. All subsequent deals Tullow had lined up with the Chinese National Oil Corporation and Total of France are now on ice until the matter is finally resolved one way or another and as more deadlines for the lapse of permits and concessions are looming now, where government can withhold consent of renewal, Tullow will indeed be between a rock and a very hard place to either pay up the extra 400+ million US Dollars or else have their management and board face the wrath of shareholders, who saw over half a billion UK Pounds wiped off the share values on a single day last week at the London Stock Exchange, where Tullow is quoted.

The fallout however does not stop there as yet, as Ugandans in general will be disappointed that the ambitious production start and construction of a mini refinery and gas or heavy fuel oil driven 100 MW power station will now delay a lot longer, while these disputes boil on.

 

(Time lines of this saga as ascertained by this correspondent in recent weeks:

October 2009 Tullow announces the want to sell a portion of their assets in order to develop the Oil fields in Uganda including construction of a refinery.

Tullow starts generating a huge volume of positive press reports that overstate the value of the block 2 which they want to sell a portion of. Included in these reports are discoveries by Heritage Oil which is their partner and the operator of blocks 1 and 3A.

Tullow stock rises based on the stories and the Tullow stock value on the LSE essentially becomes inflated

Tullow opens up a data room and invites 10 companies to make bids including Exxon mobile, Total and ENI

November 2009 Tullow announces a sale of some of their assets will take place in Jan 2010

End of November ENI announces on its website they entered the Tullow data room. However for whatever reason based on what they discover ENI makes a surprise bid for Heritage’s assets instead of Tullow’s.

Tullow states that ENI never entered its data room. The ENI CEO refutes this.  At this stage no major oil company has made a bid for block 2 which Tullow wanted to sell initially.

December Uganda government sources bless the ENI – Heritage deal and announces that Tullow will not be allowed to stand in the way of the deal

Mid December Tullow vows to stop the ENI Heritage deal

Government backtracks issues statement through the State minister Lokaris. The line cabinet minister Onek is silent and refuses to comment

January 2010 the Italian Foreign Minister visits Uganda and promises his governments support for the Oil sector including construction of a refinery.

January 2010 Tullow drop plans to sell its assets in Uganda – announcement made by the Aiden Heavey

ENI CEO Scaroni announces they have a 14 billion dollar development plan with financing ready for  Uganda.

January 2010 Tullow pre-empts the ENI Heritage deal on the 17th January basically they are forced to do so. They stand to lose on the 1.1 billion investment made by buying Hardman – which incidentally did not attract any tax claims from URA –  which appears to be a less attractive than previously thought.

February Heritage and Tullow announce Sale of Heritage to Tullow will take place in the first quarter of the year

April – June Taxation becomes a big issue Government insists Heritage should pay capital gains on the transaction. Discussions between Heritage Oil and government take place but the case drags on for several months

July 2010 6 month pre-emption deadline about to expire. 

July 2010 Heritage threatens to withdraw from the SPA and sends a letter to that effect to GOU.

Government asks for and is granted a one week extension

Heritage Oil officials return for talks, Government insists tax must be paid and declines Heritage offer of a 30% deposit and arbitration in the UK as per the PSA.

Heritage officials fly out of the country

Tullow panics and opens up direct talks with Heritage to break the deadlock. Based on the talks Tullow agrees to pay Heritage US$1.05 billion directly, US$121 million was deposited in a special account with the Ugandan Revenue Authority and US$283 million was put into escrow account pending arbitration of the Capital Gains Tax dispute with Heritage. An extra 100 million is paid based on the agreement  Heritage had brokered with ENI which was to give them a oil field of a value equivalent to 150 million US in their deal.

Tullow pays this money in the belief that Government will be put under pressure to give unconditional approval for the takeover of the oil assets.

Tullow announces the takeover of Heritage Uganda

The Minister signs a conditional consent for the takeover

The President subsequently announces the deal is null and void until the tax is paid and he takes over all negotiations related to the oil industry in Uganda directly.

August 2010 Tullow officials including Aiden Heavey fly into Uganda for talks to resolve the issues

President insists the taxes must be paid otherwise the deal is off

A letter is sent by government to Tullow indicating the appraisal license for block 3 will not be renewed or extended and the Government plans to take back ownership of this block.

Government tells Tullow to stop drilling activities in block one  after completion of the next appraisal well till transactional and tax issues are resolved.

Facts and Milestones

Tullow shareholders risk losing big time on the investments in Uganda, after the company has already fully paid for an asset they do not yet have possession of.

Tullow exposure in Uganda has now reached 3.1 billion dollars. 1.1 billion for the Hardman Oil buyout, 500 million for the exploration of block 2 and 1.45 billion for the Heritage buy out

Block 3A concessions and permits expire on the 7th September 

Block 1 concession and permits expire next year

End of time line description – compiled according to available data, information and valid to the best of this correspondent’s knowledge at the time of going to press)

 

PARK TRACK FROM PARAA LODGE TO PAKUBA AIRFIELD DUE FOR MAINTENANCE

Information has reached that the Ministry of Works and Transport has advertised for tenders to be submitted for the re-grading and related maintenance work of the Paraa to Pakuba track inside the Murchisons Falls National Park. The track passes from the ferry crossing point along the entrance of the Paraa Safari Lodge to the airfield and then to the park boundary near the township of Pakwach, also located on the river Nile.

The track, officially still a transit route through the park from Masindi, is now largely used by safari vehicles visiting the park, as a very impressive all tarmac highway has been built around the park to the Nile bridge in Pakwach. During the terror reign of the LRA in Northern Uganda many vehicles actually opted to drive through the park due to better security, but when the terror group was pushed out of Uganda into first Southern Sudan and then into the Congo and the Central African Republic, government swiftly embarked on the construction of this key road link to the West Nile region of Uganda, a move which paid off handsomely for not just bus and cargo transporters using it but also benefitting the park itself by removing the transit traffic and leaving the national park to its intended purpose, i.e. wildlife protection and tourism.

A source from Paraa Safari Lodge praised the upcoming track maintenance as it will make the journeys to and from the airfield for visitors coming by air from Kajjansi or Entebbe much smoother, adding to a very positive ‘first impression’ while being driven from the airfield to the lodge.

 

FERRY REPAIRS AT LONG LAST UNDERWAY

A public outcry over the intolerable delays in the maintenance work of a key lake ferry now prompted government to speed up the process, after weeks of uncertainty over the fate of the vessel and sharply risen cost and dangers for ferry users now forced to use traditional lake boats. Those are often in the bad news when reports come in from Lake Victoria, Lake Albert and other lakes that they have capsized in storms and bad weather, claiming many lives in the process, as many of the private boat operators tend to overload for a quick profit, while the ferries are better regulated and supervised, belonging to government. A ministerial source was quoted in the local media saying that it is understood and appreciated that the public is angry over the delays but that procurement rules made a long process necessary, claims dismissed by members of the public as untrue, as early preparations ahead of taking the vessel out of operation on the ‘due date’ could have avoided delays of this nature.

Repairs and maintenance is hoped to be complete by mid to late September, at which time the MV Kalangala is expected to return to full service.

 

SHILLING REMAINS WOBBLY AS CENTRAL BANK SHORES UP RESERVES

The value of the local currency Uganda Shilling remained depressed after a brief respite last week, as the Bank of Uganda got more active in the market with suggested purchases of up to half a million US Dollars a day to shore of the country’s foreign exchange holdings. Presently reports indicate that the country has reserves covering about 5 months of imports, not an alarming level for economists but it has been pointed out that this ratio should and could be improved. The Bank of Uganda has not put a time frame on the mopping up of foreign currency to stash away in the reserves but it is understood that should the value of the shilling begin to drop too rapidly that purchases may be deferred from one day to the next, or for a longer interval, and also not ruling out to releasing foreign exchange into the market to keep it stable, should this be required. Presently one US Dollar fetches about 2.250 Uganda Shillings.

 

PHONE COMPANIES TRY TO TRUMP EACH OTHER

Competition in the telecoms voice sector remains as tough as ever inspite of murmurs by company executives that the next ‘round’ would play out in the data sector, which – as previously reported here when elaborating on the latest technological advances with the arrival of 3+G  – is equally hard fought over.

Warid Telecom, embattled after remaining in the 2G data range and having to come to terms with a changeover of management, again, is now offering a dual Sim card phone for literally free, as buyers get air time worth 50.000 Uganda Shillings with the phone purchase, which too costs the same amount. Uganda Telecom is promoting their solar charged phone, giving two for the previous price of only one at a cost of 60.000 Uganda Shillings, also with preloaded airtime. Top of the range phones are available from Orange Uganda, at highly subsidised prices while wireless landlines are also being pushed by the more recent smaller entrants into the market which operate on a CDMA platform. Bharti, the new owners of what used to be Celtel and the Zain, have already vowed to cover every last corner in Uganda to tap into the still enormous potential of new subscribers in the rural areas, and going by their recent head on clash in Kenya with market leaders Safaricom, they will make good of their promised in Uganda too, where market leaders MTN and Uganda Telecom are bracing themselves for a level of competition over price and reach not seen before.

But nevertheless, this now seems to become more and more a side show to the oncoming battle for the data market, where rumour has it that the companies are planning to lift the data limits from subscriptions, as the pressure grown to utilise the available capacity of the three fibre optic systems now spanning across Eastern Africa, where at present only an exponential growth by added subscriber numbers gives hope to progressively use the new infrastructure to a greater extent. Watch this space as the battle of the air waves continues, not only in Uganda but across the region.

 

HANDS OFF THE SOROTI FLYING SCHOOL

Alarming news have reached supporters of East Africa’s single publicly owned aviation academy in Soroti, designated by the East African Community as an educational centre of excellence. Land belonging to the flying school appears to have been earmarked for ‘selling off’ in an act of ‘divestiture’ but has met stiff opposition by the school’s board, management and the area MP and other members of parliament, who brought the machinations into the public domain, after alerting the local media to these plans.

It is not clear what motive the promoters of this scheme have, but should indeed the school be revamped as is planned and turned into what it could and should be, the half square mile of land may well be needed in the future, be it for buildings, runway extensions or as emergency drill area. Also included in the proposed ‘sell off’ are reportedly staff houses, probably one of the reasons the opposition to the scheme was swift and is gathering momentum. Watch this space for future updates.

 

CAA SEEKS TENDERS FOR GULU AERODROME / ENTEBBE

The Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, both regulator as well as airport and aerodrome operator, has last week advertised for tenders to repaint the taxiway and runway markings in Entebbe, to keep the airport in ship shape and have the markings visible at all times. CAA has also invited tenders for consultancy services to improve the aerodrome in Gulu, where they are intending to construct a new passenger terminal, apron lighting, parking away from the buildings as recommended by international guidelines in view of latest security recommendations, a perimeter fence, navigational equipment upgrades and an additional cargo area. A runway extension is reportedly also within the scope of the consultancy work, indicating that Uganda may be developing Gulu as an alternative to Entebbe in case of weather or cases of emergency, while at present aircraft are diverted in such circumstances to either Eldoret or Nairobi.
Kenya News

SPARKS ARE FLYING BETWEEN KENYA AIRWAYS AND BOEING

The recent announcement by Boeing, which incidentally came once again as hard as pulling teeth, stated that their first delivery of the B 787 to their launch customers might well slip from late 2010 into early 2010. This has promptly caused added worries for airlines in Eastern Africa like Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines, both of which had banked on having these state of the art aircraft arriving much earlier in order to boost in flight efficiencies and take advantage of lower operating cost and larger capacities. Boeing has in the past been accused of belittling, downplaying and concealing problems with the development of their ‘Dreamliner’ – now often dubbed the ‘Nightmarer’ considering the years of delays, cost overruns and loss of reputation by Boeing in aviation circles over their problems with the B 787. While Ethiopian Airlines has already made firm arrangements with Airbus for delivery of new wide bodies, a ‘first’ for ET, Kenya Airways is still apparently considering options, but a regular source from the company’s Embakasi Head Office has confirmed, on condition of anonymity, that NOT ALL is well in the relations between KQ and Boeing, letting it slip that unlike other airlines suffering from delivery delays Kenya Airways apparently has not received meaningful offers of compensation for these delays, which already cost the airline dearly.

KQ is on the proverbial prowl now that the global economy has shaped up again, and is currently embarking on an aggressive development of new routes, while also adding frequencies to their present destinations.

It is here that the delayed deliveries ‘bite’ as the lack of aircraft, and the continued use of existing older Boeing 767’s, which operate at higher cost compared to ‘younger’ aircraft, is impacting on the growth strategy of the airline and its profitability. It is an open fact that the Kenya Airways management and board have been talking to Airbus about the purchase or lease of several A330’s to bridge the gap caused by Boeing, which would signal a return to the European manufacturers after a prolonged ‘Boeing only’ period, which however was infiltrated first by Saab turboprop aircraft and then by the purchase of Embraer jets, which made KQ the largest African Embraer operator already. KQ did in the past operated Airbus A310 aircraft but phased them out to go all Boeing for their long haul fleet, a situation which could be reversed in the very near future already when the company makes their final decision on the true financial and operational impact the fresh delay may bring for them.  Hurt feelings over being brushed aside by Boeing, as the word from Nairobi has it over demands for compensation, may clearly not help the US based manufacturer’s case and until swift and comprehensive offers are put forward to KQ, the dice, already in the air, may fall the way of Airbus. In fact, at this stage a cancellation of the B 787 order is considered possible, should Boeing not make broad amends and extends substantive sweeteners to keep the orders on their books.

Partner airlines KLM and Air France in any case are major Airbus operators already and their technical expertise will undoubtedly help KQ, should they sign up for the A330’s, to retool their own maintenance facility at the Embakasi base, where they are approved MRO for Boeing aircraft – and again Airbus is waiting at the wings to take advantage of an opportunity here too by getting a foot in the door.

Meanwhile has the same source also confirmed that KQ is trying to get more slots for added flights to London Heathrow, which presently operate daily but should, as traffic and demand grows, eventually go double daily and are currently restricted by available landing slots with only two extra traffic days firmed up so far. Watch this space for the most timely aviation updates from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region.

 

MORE TROUBLE AT THE FERRIES LANDING

The Likoni ferries plying the route between the Mombasa island and the southern mainland ran into trouble once again last week when a truck ran into the water at the South landing site, which already is quite narrow and a source of congestion as vehicles and passengers are scrambling to get on and off the ferries in a place proverbially between the rocks and the water.

As navigators had to be extra careful when landing and setting off, delays piled up and the back log of cars, busses, lorries and passengers grew and caused problems for commuters most of last Monday.

The Kenya Navy and salvage operators did eventually manage to pull the wreck out of the water but admitted that rough seas and high tides had been preventing them from accomplishing this task much earlier. Meanwhile sections of the tourism industry have once again used this opportunity to lobby government to make a commitment about construction a highway access from the Nairobi highway and the international airport to the south coast to ease transportation of tourists, for commuters and for cargos and defuse the constant bottleneck the Likoni ferry crossing has become over the years, inspite of now using two new ferries with a higher operational performance standard.

Meanwhile, as if this problem had not been enough, did one of the new ferries stall mid channel last Wednesday evening and needed to be ‘rescued’ by a tug boat which was called to site to avoid the ferry drifting off. One regular source from the coast subsequently sent a message comprising a single word in response to my enquiry for more details; ‘ALREADY?!?’ before later on, in a second message, adding ‘government has to put up either that long overdue road now from the mainland to the south coast or consider building a bridge high enough to let ocean vessels get into Kilindini harbour so that wananchi and our tourists are not constantly suffering from these mishaps or worse, a possible bad accident.’ Watch this space.

 

NAS EMPLOYEES IN COURT OVER ALLEGATIONS OF SABOTAGE

As a strike is looming at NAS, Kenya’s leading aviation catering firm, several of their employees were produced in court and charged with intent to bring harm to airline passengers, after they were allegedly found to have put sharps into meal portions made ready for delivery to customer airlines.

As many as 5 staff are faced with stiff prison terms if found guilty and although it could not be absolutely ascertained that their actions were deliberate as a result of the ongoing dispute between workers, their union and the company, suspicion of course lingers that their alleged criminal plot was prompted by their albeit illegal desire to make the company consent to wage and terms and conditions demands made on behalf of the unionised workforce by the union. At present though a source close to NAS has played down suspicion that this was a concerted action with masterminds still at large, claiming the employees in question were acting alone in a small group of agitated but misguided workers. The court case, when heard, will undoubtedly tell a fuller story.

 

FLY 540 UPDATES

The regional low cost airline has just announced a few changes to schedules and aircraft operated on certain routes which deserve sharing. The ‘new’ recently introduced flights from Wilson Airport to the safari destinations Masai Mara, Nanyuki, Samburu and Amboseli are using C208 ‘Caravan’ equipment. The late afternoon / evening NBO – MYD – LAU flight operates now Monday to Saturday, with no flight on Sunday afternoon. Effective 20th September the flights from Nairobi to Eldoret and Kakamega will be combined on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to provide a convenient weekend connection for travellers, operated on the Dash 8. The Bombardier Dash 8 is now also being used between Nairobi, Mwanza / Tanzania and Bujumbura / Burundi. As a result of the add on routing to the Saturday morning and Sunday evening flight to Entebbe via Kisumu the CRJ is now appearing on that route on a regular basis, other flights being operated by ATR equipment. And finally, effective 20th of September the inaugural direct Nairobi – Dar es Salaam flight will also take place, operating daily on the route. Look in on their website www.fly540.com for more information and most up to date schedules.

 

NEW ‘ROUGH GUIDE TO KENYA’ HITS THE SHELVES

The ninth edition of this ‘must have’ guide to the parks and beaches of Kenya is now available in leading bookstores or by online purchase. The latest edition has updated information on all the places worth visiting in Kenya, and there are too many to tell here, a compliment to the attractions Kenya has in store for tourist visitors from across the world. Researched and written by Richard Trillo, a dedicated fan of Eastern Africa, the book offers detailed insights into a range of topics of how to ‘rough it’ or in other and better words, how to visit Kenya on a small budget and still see much of what the rich and famous see too at a mega budget. This does not mean however that the guidebook is ‘only’ for those travelling on the proverbial shoestring as it contains a wealth of information useful to any visitor to Kenya, no matter what their individual budget actually is. Visit www.roughguides.com for added information, and to also see their Zanzibar edition and Swahili ‘made easy’ phrasebook, or follow the Rough Guide blog site where comments and experiences, but also feedback to the book itself can be posted and where the latest updates are available on a range of issues between the print versions at www.theroughguidetokenya.blogspot.com

 

ROTHSCHILD GIRAFFES NOW OFFICIALLY ‘ENDANGERED’

The latest information from conservation circles in Kenya has it that the number of Rothschild giraffes has shrunk dramatically in recent years, with reportedly only 250 now remaining. Some years ago focus was strong on the protection of the species, supported initially by the Giraffe Manor in Karen / Nairobi, while at Lake Nakuru National park breeding was encouraged by well protected surroundings.

Several of these rare giraffes were in fact relocated several years ago to the Kidepo Valley National Park to boost the breeding herd there, as numbers had also dropped, by disease and through predators.

Sources close to the Kenya Wildlife Services are said to be concerned enough to specifically from a task group to study the reasons for the drop in population and devise ways and means, most likely through translocation, to once again afford special protection to the species and get a breeding programme underway once more.

 

Tanzania News

PRECISION AIR TAKES DELIVERY OF ANOTHER ATR 42-500

Tanzania’s premier airline has confirmed last weekend that they have taken delivery of their latest ATR 42, part of a major order placed with the French manufacturer some years ago. The new 48 seater turboprop aircraft will be christened ‘Bukoba’ according to an airline source, after a municipality in Western Tanzania. The last, 7th such aircraft is expected to join the Precision Air fleet later, probably as early as end of September, allowing the airline to further expand their domestic and regional route network which they now dominate as a result of the near demise of Air Tanzania. Well done Precision Air – and adding evidence that private sector owned aviation companies in Africa, especially in the Eastern African region, can be successful and financially viable if only run by competent professionals free of interference by governments or megalomaniac owners on an ego trip.

 

HELICOPTER OPERATORS TO REAP BIG

The upcoming election campaign in Tanzania will be a welcome bonus for those airlines operating fleets of light aircraft and helicopters as the ruling party CCM and some of the opposition parties have already vowed to traverse the country by using aircraft and in particular helicopters to reach remote areas of the country, landing right on site of the campaign venues and then canvass for votes.

The use of state resources is under existing laws not permitted, so even President Kikwete will have to charter his own airborne transport, while he is however permitted to use his security detail which will in such cases travel in government transportation.

It is generally expected that the Chama Cha Mapinduzi, or in short CCM party, in power since the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere founded the Tanzanian nation, will win once again very handsomely, both the Presidency but equally important also a wide majority of seats in  parliament.

Elections are to be held on October 31st and intending visitors to the country’s beaches and game parks can be reassured that elections in Tanzania in the past have always been peaceful and that for the forthcoming round this trend is fully expected to continue.

Anti travel advisories, issued by some foreign countries, in particular about potential pre-election violence on the islands, can be taken for what they normally are, an overreaction by foreign office bureaucrats trying to cover their proverbial … no tourists have to the knowledge of this correspondent ever come in harm’s way at any of the past campaigns and on election days, not on the mainland and not on the islands and no less is forecast for the end October elections, vote count and subsequent declaration of winners.

 

CHINESE NATIONAL CHARGED IN COURT OVER GAME TROPHY OFFENSES

A Chinese citizen, working for a company rehabilitating the railway, was last week produced in court and charged with a series of offenses over the alleged possession of ivory. The accused was reportedly nabbed at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, as he was preparing the leave the country with his ill gotten loot of ivory carvings. Sadly, once again it is China, or rather her citizens and their greed and lust for ivory, which has come into the ‘bad news’, a trend regularly repeated across Eastern Africa and Southern Africa, where of late a large influx of Chinese workers has been recorded following various aid agreements between China and Africa for large infrastructural projects and joint ventures in manufacturing and industry. Yet, the lax legislation back home in China, and several other Far and South Eastern countries for that matter, over the possession and processing, and sales of ivory, has done little to prevent citizens from those countries to try to buy blood ivory, fueling a substantial increase in poaching in the still game rich parts of Eastern, Central and Southern Africa.

Little movement has taken place yet in persuading such countries to tighten their own legislation in support of CITES and the global protection of wildlife and it is hoped that the more Chinese citizens end up in courts in Africa for possession and smuggling of blood ivory and related animal products, that sooner their home governments will join the rest of the world to fully outlaw the possession, processing and sale of African wildlife items.

Meanwhile though one culprit was also produced in court in Nairobi last week over similar allegation of trying to smuggle 5 rhino horns and as much as two tons of blood ivory out of the country, reported in last week’s column. Surprisingly court granted bail worth half a million Kenya Shillings for the defendant, after the public prosecutor did not oppose the bail application, lending credibility to suggestions that the defendant is either willing to name the true masterminds or else is being put under 24 / 7 surveillance to lead investigators to the ‘real’ owners of the loot.

Another Chinese national was also nabbed at the international airport last week with ivory carvings in his luggage, produced in court where he then pleaded guilty to the charges of illegal possession of prohibited items. He was subsequently sentenced by the magistrate’s court and was sent down for 18 months, a sharpish reminder for him, all and sundry to once and for all keep their hands off blood ivory, rhino horns and other animal products to stem the tide of poaching, fuelled by the greed of South and Far Eastern nationals to possess a piece of carved ivory or consume powders made from rhino horns at the expense of keeping our wildlife alive.

 

TANZANIA TO BOOST NAVAL CAPACITY TO GUARD AGAINST PIRATES

The Somali sea pestilence, aka pirates, aka ocean terrorists will have another thing coming soon should they try to enter Tanzanian waters, which extend 200 miles into the open Indian Ocean from its shores and have in the past seen the terrorists criss cross the vast area in the absence of deterrent and detection.]

Information from Dar es Salaam is now telling a different story, as the capacity of the Tanzanian navy is apparently being boosted by friendly nations, as is the case also in Kenya and the Seychelles, also affected by the pirate trade. State of the art detection and surveillance equipment is being procured and will be installed soon, while the navy is also due for new fast boats able to chase, engage and neutralise the pirate’s motherships and skiffs, once detected by shore based personnel.

This will be good news for shipping which had suffered sharply risen insurance cost and delays due to taking wider routes around the areas infested by the Somalis, and importers and exporters will be breathing a sigh of relief once the new equipment is operationa.

 

Rwanda News

BRING IT ON SAYS RWANDAIR CEO

The arrival last week of a second B737-500 on a yearlong lease from GECAS has brought to a conclusion the immediate fleet renewal and fleet expansion of Rwanda’s national airline and is now allowing RwandAir to add destinations and frequencies to existing routes. The company’s CEO Rene Janata also proclaimed they are not shy of competition, considering that more airlines have expressed desire to fly to Kigali from Southern, Eastern and Central Africa. RwandAir it was stated, is confident that an excellent product in flight and on the ground, and the use of modern aircraft like the CRJ200 and the forthcoming deliveries in 2011 of two brand new B 737-800 will convince the market that flying with RwandAir is a superior choice.

The airline also reflected on cooperation with new airlines coming to Kigali rather then head on competition over pricing, a sound strategy of course to avoid over capacity and fare dumping as seen in other unregulated market places.

 

SWEARING IN OF PRESIDENT KAGAME FOR SECOND TERM FOR SEPTEMBER 06

Next week will see the formal inauguration of President Paul Kagame for his second 7 year term of office, following his landslide victory in elections a few weeks ago, when he swept the ‘board’ with a whopping 93 percent majority of votes cast. The day is expected to be announced as a public holiday in Rwanda but no fall out is expected for tourist visitors, other than that banks will be closed on the day, while forex bureaus will operate as normal during weekends and holidays.

The tourism industry has overwhelmingly welcomed the re-election of President Kagame, whose government is expected to continue predictable and stable economic policies, including high focus and attention to the tourism industry, a major employer and foreign exchange earner for the ‘land of a thousand hills’. Sources have also dismissed recent attempts via the comment section of articles posted in eTN to blame the government for acts of violence ahead of the elections, with one regular source calling the attempts ‘laughable and not worth being repeated’ before then adding ‘does anyone believe such nonsense, President Kagame and the RPF does not need intimidation to win elections, they stand on their record of security, reconciliation, peace, development and economic progress and those who cannot stomach it should first tell the world how they can do better’. Well said.

 

Seychelles News

CENSUS TO ESTABLISH THE CURRENT NUMBER OF SEYCHELLOIS

The archipelago is in its final phase to conduct a national census across the islands, aimed to establish the present number of Seychellois citizens living on the various islands. Census results are a key indicator of population growth, age, demographic and social distribution of the populations in the country and will allow government, as and where necessary to shift focus and resource allocation to areas with larger population growth and in greater need of added resource allocations.

It was pointed out to this correspondent that while visitors will be counted in this exercise as well, their disruption will be minimal as the main thrust is towards the indigenous population.

Seychelles has an estimated 27+ thousand households and nearly 400 trained enumerators have commenced the exercise on 26th of August and were expected to finish their count by the 30th of August at the latest.

 

INVOLVE SEYCHELLOIS, TOURISM SECTOR TOLD

The ‘Agenda 2017’ made progress last week when consultants sat down with Seychelles’ aspiring tourism investors and existing operators to discuss the ‘where to and how’ of getting indigenous Seychellois to participate to a greater extent in the flourishing tourism industry. Under proposals already made with the support of the Commonwealth Secretariat in London and the Seychelles Tourist Board, indigenous participation in the sector, through the work place but also through investments, a significant shift towards greater local ownership and workforce is foreseen.

After studying the value addition chain in place across the archipelago the consultants then held sessions with the private sector, participants from civil society, trade association and governmental senior bureaucrats. Also involved were key stakeholders from the country’s education sector and leading vocational and other tertiary institutions, whose input for training young Seychellois and assisting in skills transfer to the local workforce will have a key role to play, in order to achieve the objectives of ‘Seychelles Agenda 2017’.

 

SEYCHELLES TOURIST BOARD TO TURN PUBLIC BEACH INTO SHOWCASE

STB last week signed two landmark MoU’s before taking custody of the Anse Royal Beach and the Creole Village, both of which will in the future be managed by the tourist board.

The transfer was effected by the National Heritage Foundation to STB in an effort to provide not only better services on the two sites but also ensure their full inclusion in the tourism circuit – as well as keeping the Anse Royal accessible to Seychellois citizens.

The development comes soon after President Michel, under whose direct supervision the tourism portfolio now falls – signalling the increasing importance of the sector to the national economy – had directed that Seychellois should be able to access all parts of the archipelago, learn about the country and equally appreciate the beauty, scenery and biodiversity as foreign tourists have done over the years in their hundreds of thousands. The president during his address also mentioned transportation tariffs for inter island commutes and indicated that the cost for Seychellois ought to be affordable if they are to travel across the archipelago as ‘domestic tourists’.

Both the Creole Village, aka Craft Village, and the public beach will over the coming months be redeveloped and refocus to become centres of excellence and showcases for best practise when managing such public assets successfully.

 

Congo News

LET 410 CRASH CLAIMS 20 LIVES

The terrible record of the Congo DR aviation sector took another turn to the worse last week when a Czech built twin engined turboprop 19 seater LET 410 crashed in bad weather, after apparently running out of fuel. The ‘Filair’ operated plane came from the Congolese capital of Kinshasa but could reportedly not land immediately at the destination airport of Bandundu due to unspecified reasons before eventually crashing at the outskirts of the town. None of those on board, crew and passengers, survived the crash.

All of the Congolese airlines, including Filair, are banned by the EU for lack of sufficient safety oversight by the Congolese aviation authorities which have long been blamed for simply not being able to build the capacity from within to administer safety regulations and airworthiness directives by manufacturers and oversee their licensed airlines in appropriate fashion to ensure regular competent maintenance is being carried out.

While ICAO, the FAA and the European Union have all in the past offered technical assistance to turn the country’s civil aviation authority around, train staff and recruit new competent officers, flying in the Congo DR remains nevertheless a risky proposition until aircraft maintenance and crew training reach internationally acceptable standards and the aircraft operators are starting to use state of the art aircraft. Condolences are extended to the families and friends of those on board the stricken aircraft.

 

Sudan News

EGYPT AIR TO START ALEXANDRIA – KHARTOUM FLIGHTS

Following hot on the heels of the introduction of a flight from Cairo via Khartoum to Southern Sudan’s capital city of Juba – now operating twice a week – comes the news that Egypt’s national carrier plans to commence flights twice a week between the Mediterranean city of Alexandria to Khartoum. Egypt’s policy towards Africa has in recent months taken a new approach by seeking closer trade cooperation with sub Saharan countries while affirming the continental ‘strength’ of Egypt through a range of bilateral aid agreements aimed at supporting a diplomatic ‘offensive’. In Eastern African in particular Cairo based investment firm ‘Citadel’ has made inroads recently when acquiring a major interest in near failed railway concession operator Rift Valley Railways and in particular for the Southern Sudan an aid offer has been made towards infrastructural projects worth 300 Million US Dollars.

Egypt Air’s drive for more African routes reflects changing times, as in particular Turkish Airlines has of late aggressively expanded into the continent and in order to retain the crucial connecting traffic via Cairo Egypt Air, a members of the global Star Alliance, may well have been prompted into a significant reaction to competitors reaching into Africa for the same market share. Watch this space.

 

BASHIR SNEAKS IN AND OUT OF KENYA, BRINGS WILSON AIRPORT TO A HALT

Last week’s promulgation of the new constitution in Kenya saw several heads of state grace the occasion with their presence, including Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, and they all landed with full protocol at Nairobi’s main airport Jomo Kenyatta International. In stark contrast however did Khartoum’s regime leader Bashir sneak into the Kenya through Wilson Airport from where he also left the country later on under a shroud of secrecy. Air operators and passengers normally using Wilson Airport were reportedly irate over the closures of the airport for all traffic between arrival and departure of the tyrant, and three regular sources minced no words over this event, none of the comments however fit to be repeated in the public domain, probably in itself a hint how strong the sentiments were and what words were flying. Flights in and out of Wilson, East Africa’s busiest airport, were halted and then long delayed, scheduled flights to and from the national parks were disrupted and charters had to be halted as passengers could either not get into Wilson Airport or because all commercial operations were grounded for the duration.

It appears that many of the leading politicians in Kenya did not know of his presence, and subsequently squabbles arose in Kenya’s political establishment over the wisdom of inviting an alleged war criminal and alleged genocidaire, wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Kenya is a signatory country to the ICC Convention and will be facing not just tough questions by the ICC but has already incurred the wrath of US President Obama and many other world leaders, who sharply condemned the invitation and presence of Bashir in Nairobi for the event. It is also understood that the ICC referred Kenya’s decision and behaviour to the United Nations Security Council where the case is due to be discussed and a possible reaction and response will be prepared.

The ICC is also drafting indictments against perpetrators and promoters of the post 2007 election violence and instead of revelling in the newly found world attention and spotlight the day was by all accounts spoilt by Bashir’s presence. The alleged war criminal, brought to the venue by tourism minister Balala – a visitor Balala too would rather like to forget soon considering the negative publicity it brought to Kenya – had according to a reliable source in Nairobi’s foreign ministry secured guarantees beforehand that the arrest warrant would not be executed against him and only travelled to Nairobi after these assurances were given in writing. Subsequently some government mouthpieces tried to defend the presence of Bashir in Kenya for the big day but were rubbished by the comments of many Kenyans posted on blogs and social websites, who openly questions the sanity of the invitation.

The fallout has also reached the Southern Sudan, where regular high ranking sources, on condition of strict anonymity, expressed their anger and disappointment with Kenya, having fully expected to see the First Vice President of the Republic of the Sudan, who is also the President of Southern Sudan, Gen. Salva Kiir represent their country. In fact some opinions proffered to this correspondent spoke of unspecified ‘consequences’ for Kenya in their dealings with Southern Sudan. It appears that Gen. Kiir was all set to fly to Nairobi but was apparently told last moment that his presence would now after all not be required as regime chief Bashir would travel himself.

Upon probing if they would have wanted Bashir, their former archenemy, arrested they were however all more guarded, with one claiming ‘it would not have helped us with the independence referendum’ before adding ‘we know that hardliners in Khartoum and their backers abroad are not happy with Bashir for permitting us to move to independence. We are aware that there is underground movement about this, but we hope all stays in place until 09th January 2010 when we will vote to become an independent country. After that the North can do what they want about Bashir, it is no longer our concern then’.

Kenya’s ‘Second Republic’ was launched with glitz and glamour in a grand ceremony at Uhuru Park, where in 1963 the late founder president Jomo Kenyatta took the oath of office as he led his then nascent and young nation into independence, but the presence of Bashir has shaken many international observers and friends of Kenya who now ask what if anything has really changed so far as several laws seem to have been broken by the Kenyans’ responsible for the invitation, and with absolute impunity.

Tourism stakeholder meanwhile, while appearing somewhat unsettled over the huge controversy the Bashir presence caused in the country and worse for them across the world, were still jubilant over the fashion the referendum was held, the votes counted and the new constitutional requirements are now unfolding, that it will ensure lasting peace and reconciliation amongst leading political opponents, giving hope for free and fair elections in 2012 and allowing the tourism industry to prosper and grow, at last fulfilling Kenya’s enormous potential along the Indian Ocean beaches and in their national parks and game reserves.

Indeed, this is the wish of this correspondent too, but LESS any future visits of such wanted individuals, who only bring shame with them but no benefits.

 

Southern Sudan News

TORIT TOO GETS NEW ROAD ACCESS

Reporting in the past has often concentrated on the main axis of road construction between Juba and the Ugandan border, hugely important of course, but doing no justice to many other road projects across the vast Southern Sudan which presently comprises 10 states. Eastern Equatoria’s capital Torit is now reportedly also getting a road link towards Katire, to ease traffic for passengers and cargos, but other links too are under construction, nearly 100 kilometres of feeder roads, to ensure that Torit is linked by road without problems to other state capitals and Juba itself. The project is funded by USAID, a strong sign of commitment by the United States to the development of Southern Sudan, where roads are of crucial importance for farmers and ranchers to bring their products to the main markets while in turn opening up the area of easy delivery of goods and services and allowing all important foreign visitors to travel the Southern Sudan with greater ease.

 

Breaking News from Uganda’s oil sector

TULLOW OIL – BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

Imagine a scenario, where a major oil company purchases the assets of another, pays close to 1.5 billion US Dollars for this purchase and only then finds out that their transaction has failed to gain the mandatory regulatory approvals. Impossible you may think but true enough for Tullow Oil of Uganda.

Last year first indication arose for close observers, that Heritage Oil Uganda was considering heaving off their Ugandan oil wells and oil concessions, and it did indeed not take long before ENI of Italy came forward and offered to purchase Heritage’s interests for said 1.5 billion US Dollars.

ENI being still a state majority owned company in Italy, had all the backing of the Italian government including a ministerial visit to Uganda, during which a future investment volume of at least 12 billion US Dollars over and above the existing infrastructure was proffered to their Ugandan counterparts.

When the formally notice of intent to sell the assets was issued by Heritage, just ahead of the Christmas season last year, Tullow was scrambling to secure funding to make good of a public ‘promise’ to invoke their first right of refusal over the sale, contractually agreed in a previous partnership memorandum between Heritage and Tullow. Indeed, when decision day dawned, and inspite of the holiday season, they appeared to have secured those funds and formally responded by invoking their buyout clause.

Governmental sources in Uganda at the time were blowing both hot and cold over the deal, with some claiming that their approval would not be granted for Tullow to become THE main player in the oil industry in Uganda and ENI would be given the nod, while others claimed that as it was a contractual right of Tullow to invoke a buyout, this would be granted.

The timeline attached to this article will outline in what sequence events did take place, but meanwhile, government has used its powers to approve, or else decline approvals, to exert pressure over a tax claim made against Heritage stemming from the sale of the assets.

Why Heritage did not opt to just sell their shares in the Ugandan subsidiary to Tullow, which would have been a tax free transaction, and instead opted to sell only the assets – and here the disputes arise from – they claim to have advice that there is no precedence for tax claims and have referred the dispute with the Uganda Revenue Authority to the enshrined arbitration, taking place under their agreement with GoU in LONDON.

That in turn did not go down well with some circles in government, not a surprise considering elections are around the corner in Uganda, and demands were made privately and publicly to have Heritage delivery over 400 million US Dollars of their sales proceeds to the taxman.

In line with dispute resolution over taxes, Heritage deposited the required percentage into an escrow account in Uganda, subject to release to the URA in case the arbitration goes their way, but the balance of those claims is kept in an escrow account in the UK, where Tullow had paid the purchase price.

It is clear that the termination of a key oil exploration license by government, held by Tullow, is while probably correct in law  is more of a technical matter, but the threat has upped the ante now with government insisting that neither would the license be restored nor the circumstances discussed unless the full ‘claimed’ tax obligation by Heritage has been paid.

Tullow now has a stark choice, having paid for the Heritage assets in full but now finding themselves unable to take possession or carry out work on the wells and fields. They either pay the tax burden as an ‘extra’ or risk losing another major permit on the 07th of September, when the next cut off period comes calling, effectively putting their entire assets and investments in Uganda at risk.

Heritage has quietly let it be known that as it was them who invoked the arbitration process – agreed under the Production Sharing Agreement or in short PSA –  they are happy to wait for a ruling by the international arbitrators which they will fully respect. They have also let it be known that Tullow, should they wish to pay the taxes claimed for by URA but not recognized by Heritage, they would be free to do so but should not expect to get any money already paid for the assets back. One source close to Heritage Uganda in fact did point to the ENI offer, which had given indication that they may pay the 1.5 billion US Dollars to Heritage and pay any tax dues in addition, but when the government in Kampala rejected their offer and gave Tullow provisional approval for the take over and purchase this entire package was subsequently withdrawn. The same source was also clear in blaming Tullow for being naive and ill advised by their legal teams and paying without having the full and irrevocable approval of government in place. All subsequent deals Tullow had lined up with the Chinese National Oil Corporation and Total of France are now on ice until the matter is finally resolved one way or another and as more deadlines for the lapse of permits and concessions are looming now, where government can withhold consent of renewal, Tullow will indeed be between a rock and a very hard place to either pay up the extra 400+ million US Dollars or else have their management and board face the wrath of shareholders, who saw over half a billion UK Pounds wiped off the share values on a single day last week at the London Stock Exchange, where Tullow is quoted.

The fallout however does not stop there as yet, as Ugandans in general will be disappointed that the ambitious production start and construction of a mini refinery and gas or heavy fuel oil driven 100 MW power station will now delay a lot longer, while these disputes boil on.

 

(Time lines of this saga as ascertained by this correspondent in recent weeks:

[HO – Heritage Oil]

October 2009 Tullow announces the want to sell a portion of their assets in order to develop the Oil fields in Uganda including construction of a refinery.

Tullow starts generating a huge volume of positive press reports that overstate the value of the block 2 which they want to sell a portion of. Included in these reports are discoveries by Heritage Oil which is their partner and the operator of blocks 1 and 3A.

Tullow stock rises based on the stories and the Tullow stock value on the LSE essentially becomes inflated

Tullow opens up a data room and invites 10 companies to make bids including Exxon mobile, Total and ENI

November 2009 Tullow announces a sale of some of their assets will take place in Jan 2010

End of November ENI announces on its website they entered the Tullow data room. However for whatever reason based on what they discover ENI makes a surprise bid for Heritage’s assets instead of Tullow’s.

Tullow states that ENI never entered its data room. The ENI CEO refutes this.  At this stage no major oil company has made a bid for block 2 which Tullow wanted to sell initially.

December Uganda government sources bless the ENI – Heritage deal and announces that Tullow will not be allowed to stand in the way of the deal

Mid December Tullow vows to stop the ENI Heritage deal

Government backtracks issues statement through the State minister Lokaris. The line cabinet minister Onek is silent and refuses to comment

January 2010 the Italian Foreign Minister visits Uganda and promises his governments support for the Oil sector including construction of a refinery.

January 2010 Tullow drop plans to sell its assets in Uganda – announcement made by the Aiden Heavey

ENI CEO Scaroni announces they have a 14 billion dollar development plan with financing ready for  Uganda.

January 2010 Tullow pre-empts the ENI Heritage deal on the 17th January basically they are forced to do so. They stand to lose on the 1.1 billion investment made by buying Hardman – which incidentally did not attract any tax claims from URA –  which appears to be a less attractive than previously thought.

February Heritage and Tullow announce Sale of Heritage to Tullow will take place in the first quarter of the year

April – June Taxation becomes a big issue Government insists Heritage should pay capital gains on the transaction. Discussions between HO and government take place but the case drags on for several months

July 2010 6 month pre-emption deadline about to expire. 

July 2010 Heritage threatens to withdraw from the SPA and sends a letter to that effect to GOU.

Government asks for and is granted a one week extension

HO officials return for talks, Government insists tax must be paid and declines Heritage offer of a 30% deposit and arbitration in the UK as per the PSA.

Heritage officials fly out of the country

Tullow panics and opens up direct talks with Heritage to break the deadlock. Based on the talks Tullow agrees to pay Heritage US$1.05 billion directly, US$121 million was deposited in a special account with the Ugandan Revenue Authority and US$283 million was put into escrow account pending arbitration of the Capital Gains Tax dispute with Heritage. An extra 100 million is paid based on the agreement  Heritage had brokered with ENI which was to give them a Oil field of a value equivalent to 150 million US in their deal.

Tullow pays this money in the belief that Government will be put under pressure to give unconditional approval for the takeover of the Oil assets.

Tullow announces the takeover of Heritage Uganda

The Minister signs a conditional consent for the takeover

The President subsequently announces the deal is null and void until the tax is paid and he takes over all negotiations related to the oil industry in Uganda directly.

August 2010 Tullow officials including Aiden Heavey fly into Uganda for talks to resolve the issues

President insists the taxes must be paid otherwise the deal is off

A letter is sent by government to Tullow indicating the appraisal license for block 3 will not be renewed or extended and the Government plans to take back ownership of this block.

Government tells Tullow to stop drilling activities in block one  after completion of the next appraisal well till transactional and tax issues are resolved.

Facts and Milestones

Tullow shareholders risk losing big time on the investments in Uganda, after the company has already fully paid for an asset they do not yet have possession of.

Tullow exposure in Uganda has now reached 3.1 billion dollars. 1.1 billion for the Hardman Oil buyout, 500 million for the exploration of block 2 and 1.45 billion for the Heritage buy out

Block 3A concessions and permits expire on the 7th September  

Block 1 concession and permits expire next year

End of time line description – compiled according to available data, information and valid to the best of this correspondent’s knowledge at the time of going to press)

Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Fourth Edition August 2010

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Fourth edition August 2010

 

NEED MORE FROM AFRICA?

I often get enquiries about where else readers of my articles can pick up material about Africa, destination information and conservation updates … well, I can recommend to visit http://www.safaritalk.net where a wide range of issues on conservation is covered on a regular basis and which provides a large number of added links to other sites talking about Africa, safari and conservation issues.

And for those with the taste for still more, google ‘Travel Africa’ or the sister publications ‘Travel Zambia’, ‘Travel Namibia’ and ‘Travel Zimbabwe’ – extraordinary magazines worth subscribing to, which upon reading instantly makes me, a seasoned and frequent intrepid explorer, salivate for travel, travel and more travel to all those places I read about in every new edition … Enjoy what you find and do make sure your next holiday takes you to Africa.

Uganda News

EMIRATES TO USE A380 FOR HONG KONG FLIGHTS

A source at the Kampala office of Emirates has confirmed to this correspondent that the airline will effective 01st October this year begin to use the giant A380 aircraft on their route between Dubai and Hong Kong via Bangkok, offering even greater inflight comfort and service than then has been the case until now.

The giant aircraft, Emirates recently took delivery of their 12th A380, is progressively introduced on high density / high demand routes to permit travellers flying via Dubai reach their final destination in style, while the existing fleet of A330 and B777 aircraft is subsequently being deployed for an increase in frequencies to other destinations, where either the airports are not yet ready to received the A380 until modifications to air bridges and other facilities have been carried out of where traffic at this moment in time does not make the use of an A380 viable.

The same source also reiterated that flights between Dubai and Manchester will be upgraded to the A380 as of 01st September, making it the second such UK destination after London Heathrow.

Emirates is the largest customer for the A380 and has another 78 aircraft on order, due for deliveries over the coming years, all aimed to cement the airline’s ambition to become the world’s biggest airline connecting the entire globe via Dubai.

4G UNFOLDS IN KAMPALA

The first fourth generation, aka 4G network has been officially launched in Kampala last week when FORIS, an Israeli owned company, went into operation. Said Mr. Moshe Mitz, CEO of FORIS in Uganda at the launch: ‘we have identified price and slow internet speed as the biggest barriers for users in Uganda’ – by all standards a true reflection of the situation on the ground, where overprizing, capacity restrictions and at least in the case of some operators like WARID the hanging on to GPRS and EDGE 2G connections is now way beyond the available technology.

With three fibre optic systems now operational in Uganda, and in fact the entire region the cost of connections should have come down considerably in recent months but it almost seems that a cartel of sorts is in place preventing the benefits from reaching the consumers. Limiting capacity for wireless internet users too is not exactly a ‘state of the art’ market approach and those companies trying to blindside consumers with seemingly fabulous pricing then cause prompt outrage when the micro print in the terms and conditions comes under the magnifying glass by only providing a few hundred MB capacity for the money paid before effecting instant disconnections when that limit has been reached. This alone may be ‘consumed’ by regular updates of antivirus programmes or Microsoft updates and upgrades, while the use of social network sites too eats deeply and fast into the low cost / low capacity options.

UTL was the first company to go 3G in Uganda some years ago and is considered by many to become the first of the major telecom’s companies to move towards the introduction of a 4G standard without going 3.5 as an intermediate step, while Orange was the first to introduce a 3+ or 3.5G network in Uganda, which – while offering streaming downloads with literally no time lost for ‘buffering’ restricts capacities and is therefore beyond the means of many users with high utilisation. MTN only a few weeks ago broke into the 3.5G market when upgrading their hitherto GPRS and EDGE wireless connections to the faster standards and Airtel, previously known as Celtel and Zain, too has now added a 3.5G network. In many cases though the ‘faster’ network coverage is still restricted to Kampala and major urban centres leaving the more outlying areas still ‘stuck’ with lower speed transmissions.

FORIS however was therefore understandably reserved in explaining their present coverage and reach, leave alone in the capital city but across the country, so that frequent travellers upcountry could retain and access their connectivity en route, while also being guarded about their own capacity limitations on usage at present.

Inspite of having mobile communications technology now since 1995 in Uganda, there are still many parts in Kampala and more so the rest of the country, which are ‘blank’ and where coverage either does not reach or the signal strength is too low for ‘normal’ operations, causing dropped calls and inexplicable disconnections from the internet, clearly showing the need for the Uganda Communications Commission to further strengthen their regime on mast sharing and even mandate local ‘roaming’ within the country to permit subscribers access to services country wide.

 

BY SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT ON MEDIA AND FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE UGANDA WILDLIFE AUTHORITY JOHN NAGENDA

Read the content of John’s regular Saturday column in the New Vision of last Saturday titled: ‘who is the rapist in the UWA affair’ … and I again say that greed and envy are might drivers … enjoy this insight from a man in the know, learn more on the background of this sad story and who in John Nagenda’s opinion the ‘rapists’ are… www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/20/729356

 

COURT RULES IN FAVOUR OF UWA STAFF

(20th August 2010)

As was expected by many informed observers watching the current saga at the Uganda Wildlife Authority unfold in the public arena, the High Court in Kampala yesterday granted an injunction in favour of the applicants, led by the UWA Executive Director Mr. Moses Mapesa, to restrain the recently appointed chairman of the UWA board from appropriating himself powers not provided for by law, interdicting Mr. Mapesa and his fellow senior colleagues, opening and operating bank accounts and other issues the applicants had cited in their application. It is understood that the principal case will be heard as of 13th of September but until then the board is under the present order now directed NOT to interfere with the applicants.
Predictably the chairman was quoted in the media of ‘not knowing about this’, a suggestion raising eyebrows in the public, as having known that court was considering the case informers surely were attending the court session and reporting back promptly once the injunction was granted – although maybe not having been served with the papers by the time the statement was made.

Meanwhile did the minister and the board of UWA ignore summons by parliament to appear before them yesterday, with the minister’s office claiming he was upcountry. In a turn of events the speaker of parliament also suspended parliamentary proceedings until the 13th of September, allowing MP’s to return to their constituencies and stand in party primary elections, a prerequisite to be able to stand again for elections come 2011.

It could not be ascertained if this also affects the work of parliamentary committees or only applies to the formal sittings of parliament in the main chambers. The chairman of the parliamentary committee on tourism was quoted in the local media confirming that the summons had been ignored and would be re-issued, also citing the possibility of the minister really being in his constituency. Watch this space for more breaking news and updates, as and when available.

 

UWA’S MAPESA NOW GOES TO COURT

(19th August 2010)

The man whom many still consider THE Executive Director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, Mr. Moses Mapesa, sacked last week by the chairman of the board, has gone to court as was expected, to jointly with others equally sacked senior officers obtain a court order against what they termed ‘illegal’ action.

A range of allegation was made in to court when submitting the documents which seek to reverse the sacking and suspensions until a substantive case can be heard. A judicial review of the board’s appointment by the minister is also being demanded, alleging the minister broke the law when appointing what amounts to ‘incompetent’ board members failing to have the qualifications required.

Amongst the constraints the applicants requested the High Court to place on the board are also to refrain from negotiating and meddling into contract awards, existing tenancy agreements, interference in the financial affairs of the wildlife authority or opening new bank accounts which they [the board] would then illegally operate under no mandate. It is alleged that should the High Court not grant an immediate injunction irreparable harm could be done to UWA. A hearing has been schedule for later today, Thursday 19th August and the outcome will be reported just as soon as a decision has been made.

Should this decision go in favour of the applicants it is however not clear if the chairman and the minister would respect the decision and restore Mapesa and his sacked and suspended colleagues to their offices, but defying such a court order could result in further ‘contempt of court’ charges and action which would undoubtedly bring about yet more fallout from this unsavoury saga. Watch this space.

 

UWA SAGA TAKES NEW TURNS AND TWISTS

(18th August 2010)

As officials from the Ministry of Tourism and members of the Board of the Uganda Wildlife Authority were summoned to appear before a parliamentary committee this week, revelation began to emerge over alleged irregularities by members of the board and an alleged  patronage appointment of the chair himself by the minister.

Against past practise was the previous board not given a second term of office and principled and respected city lawyer Andrew Kasirye subsequently replaced by a Dr. Muballe, who appears to be the minister’s personal physician according the local media reports in the Daily Monitor. This would, if found correct, be a ‘double bogey’ as it could suggest deliberate patronage besides raising issues on the qualification of a medical doctor to hold the chair of the country’s national wildlife conservation and management body.

Added revelations in the local media also speak of sudden raises in sitting and other allowances for member of the board, something it now appears was firmly opposed by both Moses Mapesa when he was in office as Executive Director of UWA and, more important, the ministry’s Permanent Secretary who is also the official accounting officer, but overruled by the Minister himself. According to investigative reporters of the Monitor the new chairman now earns nearly three times the monthly stipend compared to his predecessor and three times the amount of ‘sitting allowances’ which are due whenever the chairman is ‘on duty’, seemingly now a daily event.

Other allowances were reportedly doubled for ‘ordinary’ board members while the chairman is now also drawing sharply increased entertainment allowances, fuel allowances and ‘airtime’ from UWA at a level which would suggest he has made himself ‘Executive Chairman’, a standing not provided for under the relevant laws which govern the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s operations.

To make matters worse, the present ED appointed by the Board without allegedly following the due process of recruitment, had only joined UWA as legal counsel last year, was then promoted to chief legal counsel before being promoted three times in recent weeks by the board. This situation reportedly incensed some development partners and key donors who at present still quietly, but depending on the findings of the parliamentary committee and their own investigations may soon openly raise the questions of qualification, oversight, controls, transparency and protocol.

Other damaging revelations came to light in the local media over alleged ‘familiarisation visits’ by board members to the national parks, which included inexplicably family members too over a nearly three week long trip.

When responding to local media organisations both the minister as well as the chairman of UWA’s board were reportedly defiant and in a combative mood, a situation which may be redressed however when the pair have to defend themselves in the light of growing allegations and suggestions of improprieties before parliament.  Meanwhile has the Daily Monitor’s investigative team unearthed yet more background information on the turmoil at UWA, which can be sourced via http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/980714/-/item/0/-/y25hwyz/-/index.html Watch this space.

 

UGANDAN GETS ROYAL RECOGNITION IN UK FOR CONSERVATION WORK

In a show of positive news about the Ugandan conservation fraternity it was learned that Mr. Jim Muheebwa of Nature Uganda received the prestigious Whitley Award from Her Royal Highness Princess Anne in a ceremony last week in the premises of the Royal Geographical Society in London.

The conservation prize was granted for the work done by Jim in the conservation of Uganda’s national bird the Crested Crane, which numbers have over the past 15 to 20 years been seriously reduced as a result of encroachment on wetlands and swamps, one of the main habitats of the colourful birds. Sightings in Kampala for instance, 10 years ago still very common, have reduced to one every once in a while, or in a blue moon as we often say here, underscoring the urgency of Jim’s tasks and objectives.

In response to receiving the award Jim committed the use of the 30.000 UK Pound prize money to be used for further conservation work aimed at restoring habitat for the Crested Cranes and the protection of the species right across Uganda.

 

PRESIDENT MUSEVENI TAKES FIRST STEP TO RE-ELECTION

It was reported in the local media that President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has taken the first formal step towards his re-election next year when an aide of his visited the NRM party head quarters in the Nakasero area of Kampala, where he collected the nomination forms for the position of president of the party, which suggests that once ‘M7’ as he is affectionately known in Uganda, has retained that position he will also be nominated by the NRM as candidate for president of the country. Party grass root elections for delegates to the national conference took place last month and the process of democratic elections for party positions is expected to unfold in coming weeks. A recent opinion poll by the country’s leading newspaper the New Vision put the president in a commanding lead over his nearest rival, and the opposition suffered further setbacks when another member of the fragile ‘Inter Party Cooperation’ grouping pulled away from the loose alliance, arguably leaving the field clear for President Museveni to secure a further term of office, come the 2011 election day.

Emerging ‘warnings’ to intending visitors to Uganda can also be discounted, as both party nominations and elections but also nominations for parliament and president, due later in the year, are expected to be conducted in a mature fashion, while security organs too are playing their part to prevent any emotions from spilling over. Come one, come all, Uganda is open for business – local politics notwithstanding.

 

Kenya News

SAFARILINK DOUBLES DIANI FREQUENCY

One of Kenya’s leading ‘safari’ airlines, SafariLink, has just announced that they will go double daily from Wilson Airport in Nairobi to the Ukunda airfield along the famous Diani Beach south of Mombasa. They had previously operated a codeshared flight with Air Kenya every afternoon, while leaving the morning flight to them, but recent developments necessitated SafariLink to introduce their own morning flight, conveniently timed for passengers wanting to spend time at the coast.

Inaugural flight will be on 01st September until which time the codeshare with Air Kenya will continue it is understood. The good news for travel agents and tour operators is the continued payment of a 7 percent commission for ticket sales on both resident as well as foreign visitor tickets.

The morning flight will leave Wilson at 0945 hrs local, arrive at 1115 hrs and then have an eta at Wilson again at 1300 hrs, while the afternoon flight will operate out of Wilson at 1400 hrs and come back at 1700 hrs. These timings will allow passengers on the morning flights from the various national parks to conveniently connect to the coast while coast passengers on the morning flight can reach their park destination on the afternoon departures. For full details on SafariLink’s domestic network and schedule visit their website via their new website www.flysafarilink.com through which direct bookings can also be done with ease.

 

AIRTEL HITS KENYAN MARKET WITH TARIFF CUTS

The new owners of the former Zain Africa network, Bharti of India, have wasted little time in Kenya to flood the market with lower tariffs, just as soon as the Kenya Communications Commission had mandated a broad lowering of the crucial interconnection charges, which determine how much one operator has to pay another for calls made into ‘other’ networks. The new tariffs have according to a source in Nairobi ‘rocked’ the market by making calls substantially cheaper and there is now speculation if Airtel, under which brand name Bharti of India trades, is also going to lower their internet charges on a broad scale, which could trigger yet another round of marketing stunts, tariff cuts and goodies thrown at subscribers in order to capture market share. Meanwhile in Uganda it was largely the opposition by market leader MTN which had wanted to take their grievance over mandated interconnection charges cuts to court which prevented call charges to reduce, but be assured that Airtel here will find a way too to inject a renewed fight for market domination in order to bring lower tariffs to Ugandans too.

Hot on the heels of this development then came cries of foul by Airtel, formerly known as Celtel and Zain, that market leader Safaricom was interfering with their operations by blocking calls into the Safaricom network by Airtel subscribers and filed an immediate complaint with the Kenya Communications Commission when the extent of the problem became known on Thursday and Friday last week. Predictably Safaricom rejected all complaints blaming Airtel for the sudden increase in voice traffic after their much lower tariffs had come into effect last Wednesday, an opinion not shared by experts and heavily critizised too by the Kenya Consumers Federation which all but accused the market leaders of stifling competition and standing in the way of giving Kenyans the best possible deals when using their mobile handsets.

In a related development the share price of market leader Safaricom promptly dropped by 5 percent following the public spat in the media by the two companies as Airtel recorded one of the biggest rush sales of SIM cards to new subscribers ever recorded by them during their entire period of operation in Kenya.

 

NEW HOTEL OPENS IN WESTLANDS / NAIROBI

The ‘Sankara Hotel’ has opened its doors recently in Nairobi’s Westland’s area of the city, offering an additional 156 rooms and suites in a market buoyant with confidence of sharply rising demand for meetings, conferences and conventions coming to Nairobi. The recent peaceful conclusion of the referendum on a new constitution has rekindled global confidence, a much needed ingredient for the tourism industry but in particular the MICE market, which habitually shuns unstable and politically unpredictable destinations in favour of stable and predictable ones.

A number of new added hotel projects is reportedly underway in Nairobi but the Sankara, the first of several to come on line in coming months and years, has beaten some of their upcoming competitors to the finishing line, albeit several months after the initially announced May opening. The new hotel is located not far from the long established Jacaranda Hotel and several nearby major shopping malls, which helped to establish a new ‘sub business hub’ outside the central business district with easier parking and still more manageable traffic patterns and all the attractions and services otherwise previously only found in the heart of the city.

Room rates start reportedly in the 280 US Dollar region – rack rates it should be pointed out – but contract rates for tour companies and corporate businesses will undoubtedly reflect a more realistic level of charges. The hotel offers several categories of rooms from ‘standard’ all the way to a presidential suite.

 

KENYA WILDLIFE SERVICE TRANSFERS BUFFALOES FROM SOLIO TO ABERDARES

The proposed translocation of several hundred buffalos presently found on the private Solio Game Sanctuary near Nyeri has now started in earnest. This correspondent has some time ago made reference to these plans, which were endorsed by KWS in order to reduce competition over food sources on the nearly 18.000 acres Solio ranch, which is mainly known to be a breeding centre for the Eastern Black rhino species.

The buffalos will be sent a short distance to the Aberdare National Park, which has plenty of capacity to eventually see initially 200 of the animals being relocated there and the forest environment is thought to be as good a home for the buffs’ as their present location on Solio. The exercise kicked off last weekend and it will probably take as much as three weeks to complete phase one.

There is still speculation about where a further about 400 more buffalos are supposed to go and KWS is internally evaluating data before making their final decision public. Some more may still go to the Aberdare National Park but destinations further away have not been ruled out simply because of the longer distances. Watch this space for updates in coming weeks.

Notably, six of Uganda’s eight Southern White rhinos were brought to the country by the Rhino Fund Uganda from Solio some years ago and while the two at the Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe are living a celibate live almost as brother and sister, the other two females on the Ziwa sanctuary have lived up to expectations and have produced one offspring each already with more ‘additions’ to their families expected next year.

 

KENYANS PREPARE TO CELEBRATE THE ‘SECOND REPUBLIC’

A public holiday has been declared for Kenya on the 27th of August, when President Mwai Kibaki will formally sign the new constitution into effect in a ceremony which was long, some say far too long in the making. The Friday ceremony will mark the end of a long and often acrimonious process to give the country a new supreme law, trim the powers of what amounted almost to an ‘imperial presidency’ of almost absolute rule, and reshape the face of politics with the introduction of a second ‘upper’ chamber.

Kenya, a magnetic name around the world for big game safaris and enticing beaches along the Indian Ocean shores, had a chequered political history going back to the early – and often termed the ‘golden years’ – of founder president Jomo Kenyatta, but then eventually slid into a one party state which brutally oppressed dissent before the global community prevailed and multi party politics were once again allowed in 1992.

The country’s second president’s quarter century tenure finally came to an end when Daniel arap Moi was compelled to step down after serving the maximum two terms permitted under the multi party election laws, making way for Mwai Kibaki, who was voted into office with a huge majority in 2002 under a loose coalition of both former Moi opponents and supporters, who split away from KANU when Moi ‘directed’ the party to put his handpicked successor on the ballot.

Challenges for Kenya remained however since then too, and during Kibaki’s first term attempts to make good of election promises for a new constitution bounced when first bickering and infighting hampered the writing of a draft constitution which was then also rejected in a referendum in 2005.

Finally however, though much longer than the 100 days promised by President Kibaki when he took office after country wide post election violence in early 2008, did a draft emerge and was in a referendum endorsed by a sound nearly 70 percent majority of Kenyans, most of whom had vested their hopes for better politics and a better economic future when they voted ‘YES’.

A grand military parade will allow the Kenyan public to witness the coming into effect of what is now already termed as the ‘second republic’ and the ‘wananchi’ will undoubtedly enjoy a long weekend of celebrations and merry making, before on the following Monday reality will once again descend on them. The main celebrations will be ‘copied’ across the country at provincial and district headquarters, although under the new constitution provinces and districts as administrative organs and areas will cease to exist to make way for ‘counties’, necessitating a complete restructuring of the country’s administrative structures.

Meanwhile will an independence day celebration also be repeated, when a group of climbers will hoist the Kenyan flag, as others did before them on the 12th December 1963 when Kenya attained Independence from colonial masters Britain, and this will again be done on the 27th of August 2010 to commemorate the long way Kenya has come since the country was ‘born’ nearly 47 years ago.

Congratulations here once more to the Kenyan people who conducted the referendum polls without violence and where for once the losing side immediately accepted defeat and vowed to work hand in hand with the ‘winning side’ for a better Kenya. In fact, everyone was a winner that day and will again be on the 27th – Karibu Kenya 2.0!

 

BLOOD IVORY INTERCEPTED AT JKIA

Security operatives successfully intercepted a shipment of ivory and rhino horns at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport last weekend, when sniffer dogs, now regularly used to screen cargo shipments as well, detected two tons of blood ivory and as many as 5 rhino horns ready for shipment to Malaysia, from where the consignment was then allegedly due to be onshipped to the final destination.

Kenya has put a series of added measures into place to prevent shipping of illicit animal products, some of them known to this correspondent but for good reasons not explained in public, to avoid tipping off smugglers as to exactly what is going on in terms of screening and detection measures once a cargo shipment is delivered to the handling company at the airport.

This latest success has boosted morale amongst the staff of the Kenya Wildlife Service, who have been fighting daily battles against an increase in poaching for ivory, rhino horn and other trophies much in demand in the Far and South East where weak legislation still permits the handling, processing and possession of ivory carvings, animal skins and the use of rhino horns or lion bones for ‘medicinal’ purposes. There the global community must now aim to strengthen a legislative regime which bans citizens from those countries to be engaged in any form of ‘legal’ trade in items clearly poached in Africa, if the wildlife, in particular elephant and rhinos, are to have a long term future and can survive this present onslaught.

Congratulations to the vigilant staff at the airport, both at the air cargo handling area as well as general security posted there, and hopefully harsh sentences for the two individuals nabbed in the process of the operation and their soon to be arrested backers and masters.

 

KQ TO ASSIST IN ANGOLA VISA ISSUES

Following complaints from passengers to Luanda, the latest destination in the growing Africa network by Kenya Airways, has the airline reacted promptly to assist would be passengers to secure Visa for Angola. The nearest diplomatic mission appears to be in Dar es Salaam, and rules in place would require travellers to first apply in person at the Angolan embassy there, a cumbersome and costly process, indicative of how restrictive travel across the continent can still be when Africans from one country want to visit another African country for either business or pleasure. While no details are available as yet, since the news just broke leaving no time to ascertain further circumstances of what exactly KQ is going to do, more information can be accessed via the Kenya Airways website on www.kenya-airways.com

Well done Pride of Africa for the untiring efforts to connect Africa ‘directly’ and a reminder to the Angolans to at least open a consulate in Nairobi to ease the Visa application burden, or better, grant Visa on arrival as it should be.

 

POTENTIAL CATERING STAFF STRIKE IN KENYA CAUSE FOR ALARM

Airlines using the market leader NAS for their catering out of Mombasa and Nairobi are faced with a potential strike by NAS’ unionised staff, after the trade union has issued a strike warning to the company, which in turn informed all their airline clientele.

This being ‘high season’ with travel in and out of East Africa the airlines have been busy to make contingency plans and while carriers coming to Nairobi and ‘turning around’ have the option to bring catering for the return flight with them on the inbound journey, this adds extra weight to the plane and reduces otherwise the uplift capacity for cargo bound to Kenya. Watch this space for upcoming information which will as usual be published by ‘flash traffic’ or ‘breaking news’ via Twitter (@whthome or  with instant postings on the eTurboNews website and on my blog www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com

 

Tanzania News

CLIMATE CHANGE CENTRE TO BE ESTABLISHED NEAR KILIMANJARO

The Tanzanian government has last week announced that they will, in conjunction with development partners and international organizations, establish a climate change research centre near Africa’s highest mountain, only in the news last week when a team of European climate change researchers flew a balloon across the face of the mountain to gather vital data on air pollution.

It is understood that the European Union will be a major contributor to the building and equipping of the new centre, which will – when complete – serve several functions. Besides the quintessential research the new facility will also serve as an education centre for the population living near the mountain and depending on its long term ability to provide melt off water for domestic, agricultural and industrial use, but in addition there are also plans to turn it into a centre for tourists where visitors from abroad can lean about the findings and research carried out by the centre, the already visible impact of climate change on the mountain’s ice caps and mitigative measures developed by the centre’s research team.

As mentioned last week again, in recent decades Kilimanjaro’s glaciers have progressively shrunk, ever faster in fact over the last decade, and unless measures of mitigation can be found and a global climate agreement be reached in the discussions now ongoing in Bonn / Germany ahead of the Copenhagen follow up summit in Mexico City later this year, there could be devastating consequences for the millions of people living on both sides of the mountain in Tanzania and Kenya, their thriving agricultural farms and the tourism businesses in parks surrounding the mountain on both sides of the border.

Readers are requested to make their voices heard about such pressing issues and contact their local members of parliament or write emails to relevant international bodies to impress upon the ‘negotiators’ during the present round of talks the great urgency to make significant commitments towards a reduction of green house gasses in coming years well beyond of what is currently on the table, should mankind indeed be able to save the planet and keep it ‘liveable’ for future generations.

 

SERENGETI MUST NOT DIE, OR MUST IT

Stroking top politicians’ egos is a favourite pastime of sycophants in the run up to any election, but Tanzania is taking it to a completely new level now by stubbornly sticking to a road project right across the Northern Serengeti, inspite of having a much more feasible route around the Southern end of the national park, which would serve substantially more people but is being dismissed as ‘the boss’ had spoken on it and pronounced his verdict, in the face of competent advice and a firestorm of negative publicity now unfolding across the globe.

The full extent of his relentless march towards this highway is only becoming clear, when information so far not published in the public domain is considered.

A recent meeting between leading tourism association TATO and consultants working for the road project lent credibility to allegations, that governmental organisations have been muzzled, while even the consultants themselves showed little interest in the stakeholder discussions and consultations when one of two teams did not even show up, later claiming to have missed their flight. TANAPA was apparently not permitted to participate in the stakeholder consultations and remained AWOL, as did other bodies under governmental control. Yet it is these very consultants which are responsible to prepare the road design and formulate an Environmental Impact Assessment with emphasis on the social component and impact of these plans.

It is the latter which makes their attitude ever more intriguing as the alternate Southern route reaches probably in excess of 2 million more people while tapping into a rich agricultural area with presently little access to key markets, denying the farmers there an opportunity to turn their lives around by starting to earn some real money, could their produce only reach places like Arusha, Mwanza or beyond.

A further dead giveaway for the allegation that the consultants had made up their mind already in favour of their political paymasters was that they gave the assembled tourism stakeholder a full 7 days, yes SEVEN DAYS, to produce detailed scientific data in support of their claims, with one of them being overheard to have stated ‘the FZS document is based on hearsay, politicised and of no consequence’, yet it is the Frankfurt Zoological Society with the longest research programmes and data at hand, and therefore without argument in the mind of many, though not apparently in the mind of some of the consultants’ staff, the most competent body to offer empirical data, gathered over decades and presented in a format which in any other forum would stand scrutiny of other experts.

It also emerged that sections of the road, namely the Western part of it, were already sanctioned several years ago without any apparent involvement of stakeholders from the tourism and conservation fraternities, making the process of the present ongoing ‘consultations’ a mere window dress if not a face altogether. Giving a 7 day deadline before they were to report back in full to their masters, the consultants made a mockery out of the process of public hearing, the filing of objections and a process of reviews on such objections, and counterproposals like the Southern route, and exposes the system in Tanzania for what it is: ‘Once the BOSS has spoken and given his directives all other views and voices must fall silent, voluntarily or else be made to fall silent by other means’ to achieve the declared objectives, in this case the proposed killer highway. The projected decrease in the number of wildebeest, zebras and other species, contained in the published study by the Frankfurt Zoological Society’ paints a stark picture on the proverbial wall and to dismiss it out of a false sense of political loyalty, or political sycophancy, is just one more reminder how far the founding fathers’ principals and ideals are now being shoved aside and trampled upon for the sake of short sighted and questionable projects ultimately not beneficial to the majority of the people of Tanzania.

No one is suggesting – as has the pro-project propaganda tried to portray – that those people should not have a road and they would be condemned to eternal poverty by ‘foreigners’, to the contrary, the Southern route would give access to over 2 million more people and still link the very communities to the rest of the country. But that is clearly not how leading politicians feel, as allegations over campaign funding by the key beneficiaries of this road routing keep lingering and those concerned have at no time been dispelled to disproven. The anti NORTHERN ROUTE highway coalition is now embarked on lobbying such institutions as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, European financial institutions and their respective home governments in America, Europe and the rest of the world to lean on the Tanzanian government to halt any decision in favour of the presently proposed routing until a fundamental new review has been conducted by independent consultants free of the pressures by their paymasters, while at the same time re-opening the discussion about the SOUTHERN ROUTE in earnest.

Regular updates on this issue are also available on Facebook, and through it on other media, which also give the option of signing relevant petitions and participating in email campaigns. Look it up via the following link http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/STOP-THE-SERENGETI-HIGHWAY/125601617471610?ref=ts

 

Rwanda News

FORMER TOURISM AND CONSERVATION CHIEF NAMED IN TOP THREE

Rosette Rugamba, immediate former head of ORTPN and then Deputy CEO of the Rwanda Development Board in charge of Tourism and Conservation, and now Managing Director of her own tourism business at Songa Limited, has been selected as one of only three participants by the African Leadership Initiative.

The ALI East Africa Foundation is conducting its third intake since 2002 and the newly named Fellows were selected for their talent, their achievements and ability to provide future leadership for their country’s business community and civic society.

The ALI East Africa Foundation is supported by amongst others the ‘Aspen Institute’ from the United States but also has corporate supporters from the wider region and the ‘Letsema Foundation’ of South Africa.

Figures provided to this correspondent speak of over 200 existing Fellows under the AIL East Africa Foundation while well over 1300 fall under the global umbrella of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. Congrats Rosette for continuing to be a shining example of what a focused and determined mind can achieve.

 

AVIATION MEETING IN KIGALI DISCUSSES FUTURE REGIONAL INTEGRATION

Civil Aviation Authorities from across the East African Community met in Kigali last week to discuss further cooperation and integration of air space management in the region, with particular focus on Rwanda and Burundi. The aim is to promote the Unified Flight Information Region programme, in short UFIR, which would pool resources and jointly manage and process relevant information from the member states to make air transport safer and more secure. Special emphasis was places on the use of Burundian and Rwandan airspace by aircraft flying in and out of the Congo DR and it is expected that additional monitoring equipment will be put in place in the near future to permit for greater surveillance capabilities and detect airspace incursions.

Ultimately though it is the professed aim of the East African Community to unify air traffic control, not just for the upper airspace which already is well advanced in its integration but also the control of other movements by aircraft while flying across the region, before they are being ‘handed over’ to the respective towers for their final approach.

Once again however did aviators contacted by this correspondent point out that pending questions over the often critizised non tariff barriers MUST at last be tackled by the EAC to bring ‘errant countries’ in line with the political goals of the East African Community, whereby aircraft and airlines registered in one memberstate ought to be accorded the same status and treatment, including  landing rights at ALL licensed airfields, aerodromes and airports, uplift of passengers and cargo, processing of clearances and the fees charged, as airlines registered in that particular member state.

 

GORILLA TOURISM SHOWS RESULTS FOR LOCAL ECONOMY

The Ruhengeri / Musanze area of Rwanda is best known around the world for being the access point for tracking the famous mountain gorillas living up the volcanic mountains which form the ever present back ground against the horizon.

Over the past 5 years alone the number of tourist quality hotels and safari establishments has more than doubled, providing added job opportunities while a large number of cooperatives have sprung up which provide local crafts and curios to the hotels, lodges, markets and shops where foreign tourists can then purchase genuine items produced in the area. Porter services, operating in form of cooperatives, too allowed people to earn a living every day by carrying the backpacks, water bottles and camera cases for tourist visitors tracking the gorillas or taking hikes up and around the mountains, a service incidentally highly recommended, not just to spread some income into the communities but also to ease ones’ own burden of carrying something, which originally weighs two or three pounds but in the end feels like the proverbial ton.

Other businesses too were boosted by the rollout of the electricity grid into the area and the construction and upgrade of roads, which also benefitted farmers who now have easier access to the markets near and far.

Meanwhile in a related development has the RDB – Tourism and Conservation released the tourism earnings in the first half of 2010, standing just under 90 million US Dollars. This is nearly 10 percent up compared to last year and on track to bring substantially higher earnings from tourism into the Rwandan coffers this year.

Ms. Rica Rwigamba, head of the tourism and conservation division of RDB, released these details last week to the media and attributed the strong growth this year also to the establishment of state of the art conference and meeting facilities, which attracted business travellers to a greater extent into Rwanda, now that regional and continental meetings could be held in Kigali. She did however also point out that more beds in the 4 and 5 star bracket were needed to cater for future growth. The ongoing project by Marriott Hotels and the planned renovation and expansion of the former Novotel, now Laico Kigali, will undoubtedly assist in meeting these objectives and adding room numbers to the market in coming months and years.

Meanwhile has the Rwandan Commissioner General of Police held a meeting with nearly 100 hotel and hospitality business owners and managers in Kigali last week to emphasize on the need to keep their premises secure and their patrons safe, by installing state of the art screening equipment on all entrances and step up surveillance in house through the use of technology now available in the market place. The business community at large was also urged to cooperate closely with the Rwandan security forces to prevent any harm coming to visitors and local hotel and restaurant patrons alike.

Similar meetings have involved transporters and operators of cross country busses too who were also reminded to step up security for passengers travelling on their vehicles and check boxes and luggage before loading on board of their busses.

 

NYUNGWE FOREST LODGE DOES WELL AFTER 6 MONTHS

Having opened for the public in March this year the Nyungwe Forest Lodge has steadily picked up occupancies over the past five months and received some very positive reviews from visitors, going by the ‘comments’ section on their website www.nyungweforestlodge.com

Located in the Nyungwe National Park the lodge has been described as a hidden gem, while the park itself of course is an absolute gem too, considering that 13 species of primates, including chimpanzees, are found within the forest. If that is not enough yet to attract visitors to the forest national park, there are plenty of other game found plus over 275 species of birds resident in the forest, some 24 of them endemic to Nyungwe, while more than 240 tree species and more than 140 orchid species wait to be seen and recorded by tourists during their hikes into the forest. Yet one of the most amazing features are the very large groups of Black and White Colobus Monkeys, which at times number several hundred at a go, in total contrast with other locations in Eastern Africa where tourist often are lucky to see several at a go.

The lodge, owing to the elevation, operates a heated swimming pool, attractive to take an early morning swim regardless of the crisp early day temperatures at this altitude, and the capacity is 22 guest rooms plus two suites with two bedrooms and a sitting room each, every one of them featuring individual fire places. All facilities like bars, restaurants, conference rooms and public areas are accessible for guests using wheelchairs it was pointed out.

 

The picture above shows the unique setting of the lodge where right next to the pool the forest starts already, allowing for easy bird watching after taking a dip.

The Nyungwe Forest Lodge belongs to the Mantis Group and is a ‘Member of Boutique Hotels’ worldwide with Rwanda after South Africa and Zambia the third African country featuring in the Mantis Collection, otherwise found at key upmarket tourism and adventure destinations across the globe.

More information via www.mantiscollection.com, worth a visit …

 

RWANDAIR TAKES DELIVERY OF THEIR SECOND B737-500

 

The Rwandan national airline has confirmed that they have taken delivery of their second leased B737-500 last Friday. More routes and frequencies can now at last come on line as planned, the fleet now comprising a turboprop aircraft for domestic services, two CRJ and two 737 aircraft. This latest addition to the RwandAir fleet will like the sistership operate with a two class configuration of 12 business and 90 economy seats.

The leases for the two B737-500 were undertaken by GECAS, a leading aircraft leasing company based in the US and will run for a year, until the two brand new B737-800 ordered directly from Boeing will be delivered in the third and fourth quarter of 2011. It has been confirmed during the delivery ceremony that RwandAir will commence flights to Kinshasa / Congo DR soon, likely twice a week initially, and is also eyeing flights to Dubai via Mombasa four times a week from early October this year onwards. Watch this space for breaking news and up to date information from the East African and Indian Ocean aviation sector.

 

Ethiopia News

ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES SEALS FINANCE DEAL FOR NEW AIRCRAFT

Information was received last week from Addis Ababa, that Ethiopian Airlines had earlier that week signed a deal worth more than 1.5 billion US Dollars with the American Export – Import Bank. The funds will be used to pay for 5 B 777 and 10 B 787 aircraft presently on order from Boeing Corporation and due for delivery over the coming years. While the B 777 aircraft are according to the source in Addis following the delivery schedule with no delays expected, the 10 B 787 aircraft delivery is still somewhat uncertain, considering the massive delays in pre-production and flight test schedules over the past two years. This however now finally seems to have stabilised somewhat and the airline, after getting reportedly huge concessions from Boeing over the delays, is confident that their still ‘secret’ delivery calendar will now finally hold up. The new aircraft will, when delivered, take over from the ageing B 767 which will progressively be phased out once the new deliveries begin to take shape.

Ethiopian, together with Kenya Airways, South African Airways and Egypt Air, has established itself as a leader in African aviation and is offering their passengers a multitude of cross Africa and intercontinental destinations via their hub in Addis Ababa.

 

Seychelles News

AIR SEYCHELLES ADDS NEW DESTINATIONS, PEAK SEASON FLIGHTS

Information received from Mahe tells the story of the archipelago’s national airline on the ‘prowl’, adding a stop enroute to Singapore in Chennai / India in both directions from 01st November this year. The service is operated on B767-200 aircraft and the latest information from Mahe is that the Chennai – Singapore ‘leg’ of these flights do not at present have traffic rights to pick up passengers and cargo between India and Singapore, something which should in due course be changed.

This latest route development comes hot on the heels of much improved and very cordial relations with India, from where the islands’ tourism sector is trying to attract more visitors to come to the archipelago for holidays. The Seychelles notably do not require Visa for Indian citizens to be obtained in advance, although a return ticket, proof of booked accommodation and evidence of sufficient funds will be required at the airport immigration desk on arrival in order to be granted a tourist pass.

The airline will also operate added Christmas and New Year flights according to the same source for their flights to Mauritius and Johannesburg to cater for the ‘overflow’ in bookings exceeding available seats in both directions. The ‘Creole Spirit’ flying high indeed.

 

BHARTI / AIRTEL TO BOOST SEYCHELLES TELECOMS CAPACITY

The CEO of Bharti, one of India’s leading telecoms companies which recently acquired the Zain Africa network, during a visit last week to Mahe promised to substantially boost investments in better telecom services, including a fibre optic cable connection. The absence of such a link has made the Seychelles rely on slower and much more expensive satellite connections, preventing a much wider penetration by wireless connectivity to the internet to much of the population so far.

However, the recent acquisition of Zain’s Africa operations by Bharti has also raised the stakes for the other telecom providers on the Seychelles, notably Cable and Wireless, as new roaming agreements to the new Airtel destinations on the continent are now in the offing, providing connectivity where hitherto mobile phones remained silent due to lack of contractual relations.

Bharti will reportedly invest at least 10 million US Dollars in network improvements as it now owns 100 percent of Telecom Seychelles following a recent acquisition of the remaining shares of TSL. First of the new services was the launch of WAP across the archipelago permitting subscribers to the Airtel service to roam the net via mobile handset. Way to go.

 

SEYCHELLES AND MAURITIUS SEEKING SEABED EXPANSION

The two Indian Ocean countries are in the final stage to prepare their bid to request the United Nations for an expansion of their underwater ‘territory’ along the so called ‘Mascarene Plateau’, which links the two island nations along the ocean floor.

Last week two delegations from the Seychelles and from Mauritius defended their claims in New York before the United Nations Commission on Limits of Continental Shelves, staking out their claims and providing documentation in regard of the proposed future joint management of resources  and proposed exploitation of any minerals or raw materials found there on the ocean floor and below.

It is remarkable that the two countries have opted to have joint jurisdiction over about 400.000 square kilometres of seabed but also a sign of their close cooperation in political and economic affairs of mutual concern and interest to both of them, once the commission consents to the proposals, at which stage it will become a globally binding treaty.

Preparations have been ongoing for the past more than two years and it is understood that the Commonwealth Secretariat in London was supportive of these demands and helped in shaping the documentation now awaiting the UN’s decision while other friendly countries too offered advice and technical assistance to achieve the Seychelles and Mauritius objectives.

 

Southern Sudan News

KHARTOUM REGIME TRIES TO PAINT DOOMSDAY SCENARIO FOR INDEPENDENCE

Noises from the regime in Khartoum are intensifying ahead of the January independence vote by the people of the Southern Sudan, attempting to portray a gloomy picture of projected economic failure and civil unrest, should the South indeed – as is massively expected – vote to become a newly independent country.

Leading figures from the South last week boycotted a meeting called by Khartoum’s leader Bashir, during which the referendum was a key agenda item, as several appointments towards the joint commission from the Northern side are still outstanding.

Meanwhile have concerns be expressed by the people of Abyei, and of the Nuba Mountains, that they too demand international supervision and mediation in the run up to their referenda, also due next year and aimed to determine where the populations wish to go, South – again as expected going by sentiments heard and seen by this correspondent – or else remaining with the Northern oppressors, which would be as good as delivering themselves to a permanent status of second class citizens, hardly tolerated on their own land. It is in Abyei where the Northern regime is trying to ‘stuff’ the area with hitherto non resident members of the Misseriya tribe, who when the British colonialists carved out Abyei from the South were predominantly known as cattle raiders and slave capturers whereas the Dinka Ngok clans of the Dinka tribe were forever recognised to be the true inhabitants of this region before being displaced during the occupation of the area by the regime troops and militias.

The calls for international intervention grew louder last week when SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum all but said that complete deadlock had been reached over the Abyei referendum, not a surprise as the North seems determined to grab the oil rich area for themselves by corrupting the process towards the referendum and introducing ‘voters’ who basically do not belong there. In retaliation have northern politicians last week also accused leading SPLM figures to openly work towards secession while still in a coalition government in Khartoum and demanded stronger ‘protection’ from the regime ahead of final agreements in regards of the January 2011 vote. Watch this space.

 

 

And in closing once again some interesting material taken from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’, produced by Gill Staden in Zambia and giving news from ‘further down south’, at least from where I stand (or sit, but essentially live, ever so slightly still in the Northern Hemisphere by some 30 KM as the bird flies) …

 

Livingstone Rowing Regatta

The Zambezi International Regatta returns to Livingstone for the running of the fourth Oxford v Cambridge v South African Universities boat races at the Zambezi Boat Club in September 2010. The event has been held previously in 1904, 1905 and 1907. The last occasion included Brown University from the USA.
This year is the Centenary of the World Professional Sculling Championships held on the Zambezi River. The event in 1910 was hosted by the British South Africa Company to ensure that the development of Central Africa included the sports world as well. They put up a purse of £1,000 to the winner. Richard Arnst (NZ) and Ernest Barry (Eng) the two top professional rowers of their day competed in the race which was won by the New Zealander (funnily enough sponsored by the city of Sydney). In the 2004 regatta Ernest Barry’s nephew rowed an exhibition race on the Zambezi, and his great-nephew rowed for the Cambridge crew.
It is planned to bring the crews back again in 19 – 26 September 2010 to compete for various trophies on Saturday 25 September between 0900  hours and 1500 hours (the rafting event will be held in the gorges  between rapids 1 and 7 on Tuesday 21 September). Viewing of the races will be done from the Zambezi boat club and VIPs and sponsors will be  entertained on board the luxurious African Queen, African Princess and  Lady Livingstone launches.
The crews have already been put together and they are looking forward to the competition which has gained international recognition. In the past we have had Olympic Gold Medallists (Luka Grubor, Andrew Lindsay  in Sydney, Ed Coode in Athens for Great Britain and Jake  Wetzel in  Beijing for Canada) and reigning World Champions and Gold Medallists  in Beijing (Peter Reed, Andrew Triggs-Hodge [GB]) and Olympic Silver  Medallists (Colin Smith [born in Zimbabwe]Josh West, Matt Langridge  and Acer Nethercott in Beijing) rowing in the crews.
This year we have  Kieran West (gold in Sydney) amongst others coming along to row.
We would be delighted to hear from anyone who would like to assist in helping run the event on a voluntary basis especially people with safety  boats and we are also looking for sponsors to help with  running costs to ensure that the centenary is carried out in style. 
There will be a number of events which need local competitors to take part:
Mukoro race
Single kayak race
Double kayak race mens
Double kayak race ladies
Double kayak race mixed doubles
Raft race – sprint- crews of 7
Please get hold of Peter Jones at the River Club or the committee of the Livingstone Tourism Association if you need any further information. It will be a great week celebrating the diversity of Zambia’s sporting history.

LAKE SNIPPETS – Levels, lions and lower prices

Marineland Harbour reports that there was concern that after the floodgates closed, the continuing flow of water over Victoria Falls would result in another increase in the lake level, but much to everyone’s relief this didn’t happen. In fact, after stabilizing for about 10 days, the lake level started to decline further and by the end of July it had dropped in total by nearly 1 metre.  The annual bush fires have now started and there are some large clouds of smoke back across the escarpment.  Very shortly the Zambian bush fires will blow smoke in, but already there have been a few days where the Matusadona mountains were completely obscured.
Lions are being frequently sighted on the Makuti / Kariba road.  If you are driving to Kariba, watch out for them near the the last section of the Kiburi escarpment towards the Moto River, just after the Roads Department camp where the big pile of tarmac stones is stored. Marineland reports that its company driver sees lions in that area almost every time he goes to Harare in the truck. There is also a report of a herd of sable being seen nearer to Makuti, so look out for them as well.  (I am very disappointed as I drove this road last week with my eyes peeled for those lions and didn’t see them.  Gill)

 

Starvation Island revisited

 

I stood, rather pensive, watching the guys launch the boat, not because of any issue with them, but because I was about to embark on yet another trip across lake Kariba to Starvation Island. The Island

has become such a part of my PDC life having experienced some near death experiences there during the five years since we first introduced the dogs. The last time I had been there was in April and it was the memories of the appallingly rough crossing that was making me rather agitated. The Lake at least looked calm enough this time!

We do not have dogs on the island at the moment, however we do have a certain responsibility towards this programme. This particular visit was prompted by the need to check on a feeding programme for the resident impala and waterbuck that were dying of hunger as the result of exceedingly high water levels in Lake Kariba. The panacum grass they rely on for food had been covered by the lake waters. The feeding programme was initiated and spearheaded by nearby Bumi Hills Safari Lodge.  They had raised considerable support from the Zimbabwe people and were busy sending bales of grass and feed over to the island on a daily basis in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority, who control the area as part of Matusadonna National Park. It made no sense for us to duplicate efforts and so, with support from Sea World, we combined our efforts. The bales of grass had been delivered and I wanted to see what was happening.

Everything was well under control with the Management of Bumi Hills doing an excellent job. They collected the ZPWMA scouts in the morning and then ferried several boat-loads of grass and feed to the island. By this stage they had three “drop zones” established and it was interesting to see the impala and waterbuck observing from a distance as the food was spread around. The ZPWMA scouts patrolled the island while the boats went back for more feed, checking for any new carcasses and snares.

Several animals have died, though not too many, thanks to this concerted effort. With the lake waters now receding, we hope that the worst is over. There is enough food to last up to the end of August and hopefully by then the impala and waterbuck will be able to feed themselves again properly.  However, the situation will continue to be monitored.

Back in Hwange, Jealous was busy trying to keep up with the Kutanga pack. After losing their pups in June, they were now fully nomadic, covering enormous distances each day in the search for food.

The GPS collar on Bulls Eye was filling in all of the gaps and indicated that the territory being used by the pack was approaching 2000 square kilometres! A typical territory size just ten years ago was 750 square kilometres. With Greg, Jealous had witnessed the pack kill a sub adult female kudu late one evening, which is a good meal for a pack of six hungry dogs. However rather than wait around as they would normally do after such a feast, they moved some ten kilometres away, possibly getting into another area for hunting while they still had the energy to do so.

Wilton and his Bush Camp team had another very busy month with the camp hosting two schools from outside of our normal programme area in addition to the local schools. It was a pleasure to host the children from Hwange Orphans (funded by Christian Care) and Acacia Primary School from Zambia. This was the second time that we had had children from Christian Care and the first from a school outside Zimbabwe, quite a success and the children from Zambia didn’t want to leave! A THANK YOU card displayed in the office speaks volumes on the impact the camp had on the children.

During Wilton’s post camp visits he discovered that the children had talked enthusiastically to their parents about their experiences. One boy from Ndangababi School said his father had made a comment that “the bush camp should be a forever thing as the children had opened up their mind on nature and conservation issues.”

(Acacia School is the private school in Livingstone.  They read about my visit to the Foundation and decided to take the children.  As the article says they had a great time and intend to make it an annual trip for the children. Gill)

KARIBA…don’t miss the 49th INVITATION TIGER FISH TOURNAMENT   6th, 7th & 8th OCTOBER 2010!  www.kitft.co.zw 
 

Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Third Edition August 2010

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Third edition August 2010

Uganda News

ANTI HUNTING LOBBY SENSES NEW CHANCE TO STOP THE BLOOD SPORT

The anti hunting lobby in Uganda has taken fresh hope, following reports last week that the top management of the Uganda Wildlife Authority was suspended from office to clear the way for an investigation into alleged extortion of bribes from hunting firms. While the ‘real’ culprit, former ‘conservation coordinator’ – and what a misnomer that is in this case – James Omoding left UWA by handing in his resignation a few weeks ago, effective immediately, his bosses are now reportedly accused of having been too lenient with him when the information became known. Omoding may of course still face criminal charges for having allegedly solicited bribes, but for the hunting companies too this could spell doom as not just the corruptee but also the corrupter can face court action in Uganda under existing laws. Therefore, should the case end up in court, and the current new board of UWA seems determined to start their tenure with such a bang, the hunting companies could face a fine, jail and cancellation of their agreements with UWA if found guilty. Several anti hunting lobbyists have been in touch with this correspondent to point out once again, that should that be proven, hunting should be prohibited immediately to make way for a long term moratorium, which ought to be used for honest dialogue, the public evaluation of any and all data from the so called hunting pilot project which quietly, almost stealthily transformed into hunting proper, and a detailed country wide survey be conducted of game numbers to ascertain scientifically if hunting, and for what species, can potentially be allowed again, if at all that is. Hunting crept back through the new Wildlife Act’s ‘wildlife use rights’ section, and when first proposed the then CEO of UWA publicly promised to avail the study and results or the ‘pilot scheme’ to tourism and conservation stakeholders. This, according to many, however never did take place and although Moses Mapesa has repeatedly in the past made comments that the dialogue was held, no evidence to that effect was ever made public, as to the where, when and the list of participants, to ascertain once and for all which side was telling the truth. Evidence was also submitted to UWA in the past that the endangered Sitatunga gazelle had been advertised by the hunting firms, but also no visible action appears to have been taken then against the culprits. Hunting is hugely controversial amongst conservationists, and while proponents constantly point to the benefits, it is alleged that those are for few, while the excesses of ‘canned hunting’ in Southern Africa have certainly raised the emotions to boiling point. Watch this space. UWA BOARD ‘EATS’ OWN DECISION, NAMES NEW ACTING ED The Uganda Wildlife Authority Board did not exactly convince onlookers, when a day after appointing the UWA Director of Finance, Mr. Joseph Tibaijuka as Acting Executive Director, they turned 180 degrees and sent him on forced leave too, with the Chairman of UWA quoted in the local media as feebly saying it was ‘not appropriate to appoint the Finance Director as Acting ED’ – a thought clearly coming to him and his fellow board members a day too late … At the same time of announcing their turnabout they also sent two more senior staff on forced leave, amongst them the Director Tourism Development Ms. Eunice Mahoro, leaving observers both bemused as well as confused over the true reasons for the drastic action suddenly unfolding now. One regular source working closely with UWA on these issues suggested that the board better find hard evidence for what they are suggesting to the public by their action while also saying: ‘they are new, they may want to make an impact, leave a mark, or stamp their authority on UWA’s management from the word go. The old board served for one term, this is also somewhat unusual, so what is really going on in UWA. Are people right now being railroaded for expediency sake or are there truly things going on the public did not find out about. Mapesa was a tough counterpart when dealing with him and never gave us the impression he was on the take or otherwise ‘dirty’. Let that audit complete now to get some answers but if the chairman does not find the dirt he is looking for, then his own tenure is under the microscope too’. Mr. Mark Kamanzi was meanwhile named as Acting Executive Director of UWA and will now be finding it paramount to keep morale amongst staff intact and high to meet the daily challenges in the field the authority is faced with besides pleasing his new masters to avoid the same fate which befell others before him, should he not ask ‘how high’ when his masters tell him to jump. All these developments however now also brought the Ugandan parliament into the fray when the committee on tourism demanded that the minister and the board chairman of UWA appear before them and explain the circumstances of their various actions in recent days. Information given to the media also confirmed the statement made by the chair of the parliamentary committee for having said: ‘if Mapesa was sacked illegally we will re-instate him’. Watch this space as this hugely damaging saga continues. Also find more details and background on this story in an article in the last Saturday Monitor: http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/976242/-/item/0/-/1tpsj1z/-/index.html and yet more revealing revelations from the Sunday Monitor illuminating the undercurrents, why an otherwise honourable man is being sacrificed and put to the sword while Uganda’s key conservation body is driven to the near brink and having development partners and donors now asking questions as to who is in charge and running the organisation while closely monitoring and considering the long term implications of these developments to their assistance and support programmes http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/976562/-/x3avtt/-/index.html http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/976566/-/x3avtx/-/index.html

FERRY GROUNDING ANGERS USERS

MV Kalangala was last week taken out of service for what was described ‘routine maintenance and inspection’, leaving many travellers stranded as they were unaware of this development. What angered regular travellers to and from the Ssese Island group on Lake Victoria however, was the fact that the ferry was tied up at the pier without any visible activity underway, leaving shippers of cargo and goods to the islands equally outraged, as they had to hire expensive lake boats – often in the news over accidents and poor safety standards. The weather at present and the prevailing strong winds across the lake are posing a danger for smaller lake boats and added to the anger by the public, many of whom were according to local media reports demanding the vessel to be put back into service immediately or else maintenance to start promptly and not delaying the work. Couldn’t agree more …

UN MAKES ENTEBBE REGIONAL AFRICAN PEACE KEEPING BASE

 The international airport in Entebbe, for many years now the regional supply and aviation logistics base for the ongoing UN missions in the Congo DR, Sudan including Darfur and Burundi, has now been elevated into the global body’s main operational peace keeping base in this part of Africa. Added scope, according to a reliable source, will be training and pre-deployment preparations of troops and personnel, and staff numbers, civilian as well as military contingents attached to the various missions the UN is currently involved in, now stands at a staggering 60.000 across the region. Should the UN in fact get involved again in Somalia, as is quietly expected and hoped for by the African Union as well as in political circles in Uganda, which currently carries the troop deployment burden together with Burundi, added numbers of troops and support personnel could in fact filter through Entebbe in coming months and acclimatise and train in Uganda. The UN mission operates dozens of flights every week with aircraft both stationed in Entebbe as well as those flying in and out of the country, to keep their forward bases in Congo, Burundi and Darfur supplied and their base, storage and supply facilities are now occupying much of the ‘old’ part of Entebbe International Airport, visible for anyone coming to or from the passenger or cargo terminals. Already now has the UN’s staff based in Entebbe, and their activities including the employment of local Ugandans in various capacities, boosted the Entebbe economy substantially, with rented houses and apartments now going at a premium, while restaurants, supermarkets, entertainment hot spots and the nearby attractions like the Botanical Garden, the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, Ngamba Chimpanzee Island and the further out in the lake Ssese Islands all feature on the ‘must see’ agenda of staff based in Entebbe or transiting through. Watch this space.

MORE GORILLA ‘BABIES’ BORN IN BWINDI

 Information was now confirmed that two gorilla babies were born in July this year, one each in the Mubare and Habinjanya groups of Bwindi National Park. The ‘Mubare’ addition has been identified by the trackers and rangers as a young male, while the second baby’s gender could not be ascertained yet. UWA has provided back ground information that the Mubare group now stands at 5 / 6 members after the ‘new arrival’ with one group member regularly migrating in and out of the family, apparently paying regular visits to a neighbouring group. The Habinjanya group now counts 20 gorillas in their midst (yes and in the mist too for those in the know). Tracking to gorilla groups with new born babies is said to be more difficult as they migrate a lot across the forest to find fresh food and shield the young one’s from prying eyes until the little ones’ are grown up a little. A naming of the babies is expected to be announced soon. Meanwhile, find more details and stay up todate on gorillas in Uganda via their Facebook pages or http://www.friendagorilla.org It is there that specific details on each of the habituated gorilla groups can be found, their movement tracked and donations be made from as little as US Dollar 1 (ONE) to make friends with a particular gorilla. Go visit and support gorilla conservation in Uganda. Webare Nyo Nyo Nyo – thank you.

RE-APPOINTMENT OF CAA CHAIR AND MEMBERS IRES PARLIAMENTARIANS

When the Minister for Transport and Works finally appointed Eng. Baliddawa to a further term of office recently, alongside other board members, it prompted an outcry from some members of the parliamentary oversight committee on transport but also members of the public accounts committee of parliament, who accused the Minister of ignoring their objections and termed the fresh appointment ‘illegal’. As reported in the local media they accused the CAA Board Chairman and some of the re-appointed board members of irregularities over contract awards, although clearly the minister thought otherwise when he signed the appointment instruments. The move to restore a fully functional board was generally welcomed by the aviation fraternity though, as the previous term of office of the board had expired many months ago, leaving the CAA management without the benefit of receiving advice and / or oversight. Eng. Baliddawa can look back at a long and distinguished career in aviation and is generally considered as a sound choice for chairman, but in the run up of general elections early next year every such appointment now tends to be politicised beyond reason irrespective of a candidate’s obvious qualifications.

TOURIST BOARD OFFICES ESCAPE FROM ‘DUNGEON’ – MOVE TO KOLOLO

 The new offices of the Uganda Tourist Board, aka Tourism Uganda, have finally moved to their new location in the upscale Kololo suburb on Acacia Avenue, not far from the Protea Kampala Hotel and the Metropole Hotel, after years of ‘hiding’ in a much critizised ‘basement’ location. For many years the supposed showcase for Uganda’s tourism industry was located in the lowest floor of Impala House on Kimathi Avenue in the city centre, often overlooked and when found giving a rather not too inviting impression to their visitors. UTB also operates two ‘window shops’ at the Entebbe International Airport’s arrival lounge and the Garden City shopping mall, making contact for arriving tourist visitors easy and simple. The new premises are now fully operational and open for ‘business’ – aimed to bring more tourists and commercial visitors to the ‘Pearl of Africa’. Well done indeed to Cuthbert and his team for this achievement.

EMIRATES COUNTERS BLACKBERRY WOBBLES WITH ADDED US FLIGHTS

 The current undertones when talking about the UAE, caused by intermittent talk of a card house property market, the near failure of some state controlled companies during the global economic crisis and most recently about UAE’s plans to ban the use of BlackBerry phones effectively ‘grounding’ communications while in transit in the UAE, has not deterred Emirates (the airline) to go double daily with B777 equipment from the end of October to Houston and Los Angeles. This offers even better connectivity to travellers to the US, and in particular those two destinations, and while some travellers will be put off by the ban intended on BlackBerry communications, others will not mind that at all considering the service levels on board and the ease of connectivity via Dubai. A source at the Emirates Kampala office has confirmed that Los Angeles will go double daily ‘first’ on the 31st of October while Houston will follow suit on November 01st. The same source was also reiterating that Emirates had during the recent Farnborough Air Show in Britain signed added orders for another 30 of those wide bodied aircraft. The new flights are on sale with immediate effect from Entebbe but also the other regional Emirates destinations like Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Addis Ababa, through where the Emirates flights to and from Entebbe route.

Kenya News

KENYA AIRWAYS GETS EXTRA B737 FROM KLM

The cooperation between KQ and KLM has again shown to bear fruits when a B737-300 arrived in Kenya, still painted in KLM livery, to join the fleet of the ‘Pride of Africa’. The aircraft will according to a well placed KQ source be deployed on the Nairobi to Mombasa route but is likely to appear also on some other regional destinations, a boost to KQ’s expressed plans to offer more flights on routes with growing demand. The arrival of the extra aircraft – we could not ascertain as yet how long the lease will last – will also serve notice to KQ’s competitors on domestic and regional routes, where other privately owned airlines like Fly540, Jetlink and East African Safari Air have made inroads in KQ’s previously dominant position and cemented their own positions with more flights and faster and more comfortable newer aircraft, also saving on fuel. KQ in their latest press releases had to acknowledge a reduction in domestic traffic, attributed to the fact of having withdrawn from Lamu due to availability of a suitable aircraft, and from Malindi – something according to another source under active consideration to maybe resume flights there. Kenya Airways is expecting more aircraft later in the year, including two E190 Embraer jets, but clearly wanted to add capacity to their fleet as the market shows strong signs of traffic growth, without leaving the field to their domestic and regional competitors while waiting for aircraft deliveries to take place. Watch this space for the most up todate information from the regional aviation scene.

SQUABBLES, ACCUSATIONS TRADED OVER ‘KOGELO CENTRE’ IN KISUMU

 The paternal home of US President Obama near Kisumu / Kenya has come into the headlines again for all the wrong reasons. This time it is a set of accusations, counterclaims and a government graft probe which brought the intended tourism attraction into the news, when a government minister called for an immediate investigation over the use of a grant worth 10 million Kenya Shillings apparently misused for putting up, according to the minister, a ‘shoddy building’. Community leaders too have divided into two different camps, squabbling over the donation of land some consider unsuitable, again suggesting that vested interests have overtaken the initial grand vision of honouring the past of the present US’ president. Notably, the US Ambassador to Kenya has seemingly gotten involved in the dispute by seeking to mediate between the two opposing camps, but only time will tell how to put the PR for the centre back on the straight and narrow after these potentially derailing developments.

POTENTIAL AIR BERLIN PILOTS’ STRIKE PUTS MOMBASA FLIGHTS IN DOUBT

Pilots of Air Berlin, presently operating charter flights to Mombasa and intending to add scheduled flights between the German capital and the Indian Ocean resort city of Mombasa, have voted almost unanimously for strike action, should the airline’s management not make an improved offer in their present round of pay and term / condition talks. Strike action could start any time from now although added talks are scheduled according to a source in Germany for later in August and September already. It appears that while most areas of dispute can be resolved amicably the pilot’s demand for a third pilot on board for long haul flights is a position the airline vehemently opposes for cost reasons. Tour operators sources in Mombasa were not able or willing to comment as yet what an impact a strike would have on their tourism business, should one or several of the Air Berlin flights be affected by industrial action. Said one regular: ‘I have not even heard about this yet, let me find out more from the airline’s representative first before I can make a comment’. The news come hot on the heels of the airline announcing a rise of over 6 percent of passengers in a month on month comparison with the same period last year and continuously high loadfactors in excess of 80 percent for all their flights. Air Berlin has in recent years established itself, through mergers and internal growth, as Germany second airline after market leaders Lufthansa.

Tanzania News

TANZANIA TOURIST BOARD ADMITS TO MISSING 2010 TARGETS

 Officials of TTB have in recent days scratched their heads when the available half year figures of arrivals and revenues from tourism to Tanzania suggested that the targets initially set for this year will most likely be missed substantially. Estimates presented last year for 2010 spoke of reaching a million visitors and revenues in excess of 1.7 billion US Dollars, but the present trend indicates that the country may now only receive some 800.000 visitors and correspondingly lower revenues than forecast. Experts are divided over the reasons for this development, as neighbouring Kenya – which kicked of a marketing storm last year and early this year around the world – are already having their eyes set on their best tourism year ever. Suggestions have been made that the stand taken by the Tanzanian government and delegation at the global CITES meeting earlier in the year in Doha has influenced many would be travellers and more so travel and tour agents to send less visitors to Tanzania to express their disagreement on the proposed large scale sale of ivory, while other observers have pointed to the hugely controversial planned highway across the Northern Serengeti, which has conservationists from around the world up in arms. The coordinated campaign against this project may well have resulted in revealing and damaging articles and publicity against Tanzania’s government stand on the planned road, and may be just one added cause why less people are visiting Tanzania this year while tourism generally in the region, in particular in Rwanda and Kenya is showing a sharp upswing. Budget constraints for marketing too have been cited by usually well informed sources from Arusha, who claim that while Kenya and Rwanda in particular, have spent big to reap big. However, this logic has not apparently been understood in Tanzania as yet, and the present election campaign too has taken focus off the sector at a time when it is most needed. Watch this space.

CROSS KILI BALLOON FLIGHT COLLECTS CLIMATE CHANGE DATA

 A recent successful attempt to cross Mt. Kilimanjaro via balloon was finally able to reach elevations suitable to collect weather and climate data supposed to flow into a wider study of the effects of global changes for the mountain and its immediate neighbourhood. A team from the Southern German university of Freiburg, together with Swiss colleagues, managed to reach over 5.500 metres elevation and drifted across much of the mountain’s side but failed in the face of prevailing winds to reach the top of the mountain peak, which stands at 5.895 metres above sea level. However, in the process of the flight the researchers were able to use their equipment on board to measure particles high up in the air but nevertheless thought to be of crucial importance for interpreting and forecasting future changes of weather and regional climate. Since mid of the last century, when the icecaps – immortalised by the 1936 book ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’ by Ernest Hemingway – were still covering well over 10 square kilometres, the present icefields are thought to be just over 2 square kilometres wide and have shrunk visibly, putting the water supply of an entire sub region into future doubt, as melt off reduces as the ice gradually disappears. This correspondent has raised this issue already nearly a decade ago, at the time earning little but derisive comments and contempt but having been more than vindicated since then as the glaciers, not just on Kilimanjaro but also on Mt. Kenya and across the Rwenzori Mountains have visibly and progressively shrunk ever faster. The six ‘passengers’ in the balloon included two Swiss pilots, the two scientists from Germany, a cameraman and a journalist, the latter two covering the story for the media, hoping to raise further awareness of the present impact of global climate change and convincing the habitual deniers that indeed mother earth is sliding ever faster towards rising temperatures which in turn may irreparably change life as we know it. The flight, according to sources in Arusha and Moshi, was cleared by the Tanzanian Civil Aviation Authority although a rather inept sounding staff of Kilimanjaro National Park tried to kick up dust by claiming he knew nothing about it and ‘flying over the mountain is prohibited’. The team is supposed to also fly across Ol Donyo Lengai in coming days, an active volcano some distance between the Ngorongoro massif and Lake Natron, to gather added data on volcanic ash and gas concentrations found nearby, which might give added clues to the impact of volcanic eruptions on weather changes. The entire ‘expedition’ is scheduled to last between two and three weeks, following which they will return to their universities to process the gathered data and then interpret them before publishing their findings.

Rwanda News

NO TOURISM DOWNTURN BEFORE AND DURING ELECTIONS Information was received from Kigali, that the arrivals recorded in the run up of the presidential elections last week were in line with ‘normal’ figures of tourists and business people coming to the ‘land of a thousand hills’, supporting a previous opinion voiced here that there was no cause for any concern over visiting Rwanda during this historic period. Feedback from Ruhengeri and Kigali also tells the story of satisfied clients who experienced the country immediately prior, during and after the election and were full of compliments over what they saw from their safari vehicles or when stopping to take fuel or have a rest stop, peaceful and orderly conduct of the elections and not a sign of troubles anywhere. General consensus was that visits to Rwanda are possible at any time and that political events were not deterring tourists from coming. Rwanda is for the current year 2010 looking at a new arrival and spending record from tourism and from half year figures available the country is very well on course to achieve this objective. Next week will the annual Rwanda Trade Fair take place in Kigali, as are a series of similar events presently unfolding across the entire region. Come on come all, said a regular source from RDB – Tourism and Conservation, we are open for business 24/7 every day of the year. Well said!

Seychelles News

VICTORIA SET FOR INTERNATIONAL CARNIVAL FESTIVAL

March 04 – 06 next year will see the inaugural Victoria International Carnival Festival unfold, aimed to bring in participants from the key carnival countries and carnival cities around the globe to the Seychelles. The new ‘invention’ will work towards bringing yet more international ‘flair’ to the archipelago and each of the invited countries and cities were requested to prepare two ‘floats’ to be used for display and in a major parade, which will traverse the Seychelles capital city and for which tens of thousands of residents and tourist visitors are expected to line up along the route. More details will be made available through the Seychelles Tourist Board on request or via their website www.seychelles.com

SUBIOS 2010 OPEN FOR REGISTRATION NOW

The annual ‘sub Indian Ocean surface’ underwater festival, due to be held between October 01 – 03, is now formally open for intending participants to register with the festival organizers. SUBIOS is one of the major annual activities in the Seychelles bringing together photographers and film makers of underwater activities, and the prize winners in the past have included well reputed names. For more details on this year’s festival visit http://www.subios.com where entry details, terms and conditions can be sourced. More information can be obtained on the site of the Seychelles Tourist Board via http://www.seychelles.com. Entry deadline has been given as the 17th September, i.e. a month from now, so some urgency ought to be attached to downloading and completing the relevant forms and returning them to the organizers.

AIR SEYCHELLES PROMOTES ‘GREEN AWARENESS’

Visitors to the archipelago, flying on Air Seychelles, can now watch a short film on environmental protection measures and what tourists can do themselves while on holiday to avoid damage to the pristine environment they find across the islands. The initiative was supported by the airline, hand in hand with the Seychelles Tourist Board, and turned the idea by conservation NGO ‘Sustainability for Seychelles’ – aka S4S, into reality. Other partners funding the production of the DVD, it was learned over the weekend, were UNEP, GEF and private sector partners like the Constance Ephelia Resort. Passengers on board of long haul flights to Mahe can learn a lot about the Seychelles being one of the ‘greenest’ destinations around the globe and the efforts undertaken by government, the business community and civil society across the archipelago to keep it this way. Air Seychelles only recently was in the ‘good’ news when formally signing on to the EU’s carbon emission trading scheme, which will officially come into effect by next year, again leading from the front unlike many other foreign airlines still pondering how to get either around the new rules or else diddling with compliance requirements.

Southern Sudan News

KHARTOUM TIGHTENS FOREX RULES

Travellers leaving from the Sudan are facing yet more restrictions on the amount of foreign currency they can purchase, according to a source in Juba. Already suffering from a shortage of hard currency the situation seems to have grown worse in recent months, and questions are being asked in the South where all the forex earned from oil sales has gone. Allegations frequently emerge that the regime in Khartoum has mortgaged much of the oil proceeds to acquire arms and ammunition in defiance of a UN embargo, but insiders in Juba regularly in contact with this correspondent often argue that this is of no concern to the Bashir regime, said to re-arm on a large scale to be ready for another round of war, should they not be able to keep the Southern oil wealth under their control when the independence referendum has been concluded. At the same time the Central Bank also suspended operations of accounts for a number of government agencies and bodies, most notably of the country’s Civil Aviation Authority, of the Stock Exchange and more worrying expatriate organisations. Having no access to their funds will make operations for the CAA hugely difficult, something those at the Central Bank in Khartoum do not seem to appreciate, but the blocking of expatriate organisations accounts is more ominous as oppressive and muzzling policies are thought to be behind this particular move. Southern Sudanese travellers, as well as leading business figures in Juba openly called to defy this move saying as a presently semi autonomous region, en route to independence, they are not subject to the regime’s command and control economy and dictates, while several were seemingly prompted to send messages to the effect ‘independence for us in the South cannot come soon enough’ … Indeed it can’t, adds this correspondent.

JUBA – NIMULE TO UGANDA ROAD ON COURSE

Information was received last week from Juba, confirming steady progress along the route of the newly constructed road between Juba and Nimule, near the border with Uganda. Officials from USAID, the main funding agency for the project under a bilateral grant, GoSS and state officials were joined by stakeholders from the transport sector to inspect the progress of construction of the 200 KM road works. Once completed the new road will not just ease transport between Uganda and the Southern Sudanese capital of Juba, but also link the areas in between to markets for agricultural products and livestock while making the delivery of supplies to these areas easier and more affordable. Southern Sudan presently imports over 90 percent of their daily requirements from Uganda and the link between Gulu and the border too us being worked on to create a lifeline for trade and travel between the neighbours. Kampala is linked to Gulu by a recently upgraded all tarmac highway and travelling times between Kampala and Juba, when the new road is open for traffic, will reduce to a daylight trip, making visits easier and supporting in particular visits to the Nimule National Park where, besides game and the appealing vista a long stretch of white water is of particular scenic beauty for tourists. It is notable though that the regime in Khartoum never made an honest effort to construct this road, arguably to keep the then ‘occupied’ and for sure oppressed South focused by force towards the North while keeping links with the Southern neighbours of Kenya and Uganda at a minimum. And they still seem surprised in Khartoum that the Southern population is so yearning for independence .

And here is a goodie travel report taken from Gill Staden’s ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ – always appreciated and a lot more next week from ‘further down South’ …

Chinhoyi Caves

On my way from Harare to Kariba, I stopped off at Chinhoyi Caves. The caves have a sunken lake inside. It is very pretty. Anyhow, for a bit of a break en route, I thought I would give the caves a whorl … They are about 5 km east of Chinhoyi Town, which is 120 km from Harare or 240 km from Kariba Town. I was a bit shocked when I found out that it was going to cost me US$8 to enter the caves, but paid it anyway. Zimbabweans pay US$2, Internationals pay US$10. A short walk from the office, there are some stone steps heading into the caves. It is a bit dark so you need a torch to see properly. There are over 200 steps down … and worse still, there are 200 steps up … I reached the bottom and took some photos. Then I noticed a couple of signs: one stated that swimming was prohibited and that scuba divers should not stir up the mud … Very confusing … Anyhow, the caves were interesting, but not US$8 interesting. I can tick that one off and won’t need to go again.

Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Second Edition August 2010

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome Second edition August 2010

I WISH A PEACEFUL AND BLESSED MONTH OF RAMADHAN TO ALL THE MUSLIM FAITHFUL AROUND THE GLOBE, AS THEY COMMENCE THEIR ANNUAL FAST

ERITREAN NATIONAL FOOTBALL TEAM TURNS UP IN ADELAIDE While playing in an East African football tournament in Nairobi last December, the Eritrean national side, underdogs on the pitch, nevertheless stole the headlines, when they reportedly walked out of the team’s hotel and went into hiding. The defection, accompanies by full mouthed denials from government mouthpieces in Asmara, however soon became fully evident, when they eventually sneaked from their well concealed hiding place to the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees office in Nairobi and were then granted refugee status, however then bussed by the Kenyan government to a remote camp where they awaited news of any country to accept them and grant them asylum, which was in the end taking nearly half a year. That measure, according to a source in Nairobi, was ‘necessary to protect them as someone could have come from ‘there’ and try to grab them’. The team now made yet more headlines when they turned up last weekend at a sports stadium in Adelaide / Southern Australia, as they were apparently given green light by the government in Canberra to settle ‘down under’. Several of them are said to be eyeing a new footballing career in their new adoptive country, and having played at national level are having good chances to secure contracts and make a decent living instead of those days in Eritrea, where according to Australian press reports they lived in daily fear for the freedom, liberty and lives and are worried that the rogue regime may take it out on their relatives and families, still living under the yoke of their ‘jailers’. Football association officials were also quoted in the regional Australian media to welcome their arrival and once all issues concerning their status and eligibility to play have been cleared – the Eritrean FA may still try to throw some spanners in the works – they would undoubtedly enrich the coming footballing seasons considerably with their skills. (Information tip off courtesy of a FB contact in Adelaide – thanks Margit)

Uganda News

NEW EAST AFRICA WEBSITE LAUNCHES In2Eastafrica is the name of the newest kid on the block in promoting travel to and across Eastern Africa, following its launch last week. After the sad demise of SafariWire a couple of months ago this seems an earnest and well prepared attempt to capture the attention of wannabe travellers as well as of advertisers making use of the new site, which features destination information, travel updates, details on economic issues related to the tourism industry across the region and a wealth of other useful details. The new site also features content drawn from this correspondent’s regular weekly articles and features and is available via www.in2eastafrica.net

TURKISH PROMOTES NEW US DESTINATIONS Information was received that Turkish Airlines will soon commence additional flights into the United States, offering convenient added onward connections from their current three East African destinations Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Entebbe via THY’s hub in Istanbul. It is understood that they will initially operate five weekly flights from Istanbul to Washington DC’s Dulles airport beginning in November this year and initially four flights a week to Los Angeles, the latter one planned to start however only in March 2011.

EMIRATES TRAVELLERS SOON TO BE DENIED USE OF BLACKBERRIES IN DUBAI TRANSIT Disconcerting news have broken last week that the United Arab Emirates and neighbouring Saudi Arabia would soon ban the use of Blackberry communications over unspecified concerns and fears over ‘security’. This however is generally seen as a ‘front’ for a lot of other reasons, although these countries are not willing to admit to such while hard pressed to deny suggestions posed to them by global media organisations. Investigative journalists are already on their case to dig up what is really going on behind the scenes and who exactly is pushing for these ‘prohibitions’, but for regular users of both Blackberry phones and Emirates the ban, when effective, will mean that while in transit in Dubai they will no longer be able to stay in touch the way they are used to in most global places where Blackberry has established a presence. This development comes not long after allegations emerged that Etisalat, the national communications operator, tried to install spyware in Blackberries last year, denied by the company, the regulator and government. It is not clear if the use of mobile communications via phones in flight, while travelling with Emirates, will also be affected, which would be a further detriment for travellers to use them as opposed to other airlines. The United Arab Emirates have in the recent past come under scrutiny and been accused of living in the past, over other issues also seen as archaic or, as one travel agent regularly selling tickets on Emirates put it ‘stone age’, although adding ‘their airline is ok’. Not long ago news emerged that hardliners were proposing to ban the use of alcohol when cooking or baking for an international and expatriate clientele in international class hotels, and when a number of travellers were dragged to court over allegations of ‘public kissing and indecent behaviour’ the long promoted liberal and open appeal by the UAE as a holiday destination took a serious knock. After speaking to several regular Emirates travellers and Kampala travel agents supporting Dubai’s price winning airline, their tenor was: ‘the place is losing some of its charm, duty free is no longer cheap, well sorted variety but not cheap unless you catch a promotional bargain, the global crisis exposed their financial card houses to the point of defaults and plenty of foreclosures, and these ongoing reports about arresting visitors over allegations of kissing or booze or wearing narrow bikinis don’t help either … maybe it is time to give them a reality check now that the gloss is off … the more such reports, especially now about the communications ban, reach the global market the more people will think twice … connections via Dubai to the East are excellent, but it is a detour when going to Europe or America and if I cannot get emails and work in transit, what the h..l … is that what they want, go fundamentalist like the Saudis, ever wondered why hardly a Western tourist goes there with their draconian stuff going on?’ Such were selected sentiments, repeated several times and NOT ONE giving a positive read on these issues. Therefore, should the UAE and KSA indeed go ahead with the Blackberry data transmission ban, which is undoubtedly their right to decide so as sovereign countries, they better also be prepared for the backlash of global public opinion, which may hit their tourism, real estate, aviation, financial and general business sectors hard, should a sustained and agitated campaign be mounted against them as ‘pay back’ and there will undoubtedly be a few, or more, out there with an axe to grind and ready to start a FB campaign. Watch this space.

And in a related piece of absolute dark humour I like to share this with you – makes you think about all this nonsense even harder… Life in Dubai after 1 year….. once UAE ID card in place An Expat calling Pizza Hut in Dubai Operator: ‘ Thank you for calling Pizza Hut . May I have your…’ Customer: ‘Salam Ale koum, can I order..’ Operator: ‘Can I have your UAE identity card number please, Sir?’ Customer: ‘ It’s eh…, hold…….. ..on….. .889861356102049 998-45-54610’ Operator: ‘OK… you’re… Mr Waleed from Syria and you’re calling from Flat #402, Al Maskaan Building, Bur Dubai. Your home number is 04-3661231 04-3661231, your office number is 04-8852302 04-8852302 & your mobile number is 050-2665667 050-2665667. Where has the delivery to take place Sir?’ Customer: ‘ Home! How did you get all my phone numbers? Operator: ‘ We are connected to the system Sir’ Customer: ‘May I order your Seafood Pizza…’ Operator : ‘That’s not a good idea Sir’ Customer: ‘How come?’ Operator :’According to our medical records – you went for your check up last week to Welcare Hospital & you have high blood pressure and even higher cholesterol level Sir’ Customer:’What? … What do you recommend then?’ Operator :’Try our Low Fat Hokkien Mee Pizza. You’ll like it’ Customer:’How do you know for sure?’ Operator :’You borrowed a book entitled ‘Popular Hokkien Dishes’ from the National Library in Deira, last week Sir’ Customer:’OK I give up… Give me three family size ones then, how much will that cost?’ Operator :’That should be enough for your family of 10, Sir. The total is Dirham 112.00′ Customer: ‘Can I pay by credit card?’ Operator :’I’m afraid you have to pay us cash, Sir. Your First Gulf credit card is over the limit and you owe Citibank Credit card another Dirham 3,720.55 since October. That’s not including the late payment charges on your housing loan to NBD, Sir.’ Customer: ‘I guess I have to run to the neighborhood ATM and withdraw some cash before your guy arrives’ Operator :’You can’t Sir. Based on the records, you’ve reached your daily limit on HSBC ATM withdrawal for today’ Customer: ‘Never mind just send the pizzas, I’ll have the cash ready. How long is it gonna take anyway?’ Operator : ‘About 45 minutes Sir, but if you can’t wait you can always come and collect it on your Honda Civic…’ Customer: ‘What!’ Operator :’According to the details in system ,your Honda Civic’s Registration ie Malkia is expiring in 23 days & your Gargash Insurance has already got expired last week….. Customer:’?? ??’ Operator :’Is there anything else Sir?’ Customer: ‘Nothing… by the way… aren’t you giving me those 3 free bottles of cola as advertised?’ Operator : ‘We normally would Sir, but based on your records you’re also diabetic…. … ‘ Customer:#$$ ^%&$@$% ^ tm kiere…..abe ytga…npiye! !!!!!!…… ……. . Operator :’Better watch your language Sir. Remember on 15th July 2008 on Dubai Hatta Road, when you wrongly overtook the BMW & you were convicted of using abusive language also on the policeman… ?’ Customer (fainted) Operator: hello hello, are you still there…. Well, they asked for it…

ENTEBBE TO BECOME NEW CODESHARE DESTINATION FOR CONTINENTAL Brussels Airlines and Continental – a leading US airline recently merged with United to create another global aviation giant – have signed a full code share agreement to cover flights between Newark / New York and Brussels but also for flight beyond on both sides of the Atlantic. Both carriers have been working closely together in the past but the formal agreement to code share will be a bonus for travellers of both airlines, as they can enjoy more perks and most important, more destinations. Entebbe, but also the other East African Brussels Airlines’ destinations like Nairobi, Kigali and Bujumbura will now appear in the Continental schedule and the flights will as before be operated by Brussels Airlines, now flying 6 times a week into the region and soon it is understood going daily between Europe’s capital city and East Africa. In addition Brussels Airlines will be able to offer initially 5 added destinations via EWR to such cities as Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, Houston, Dallas / Ft. Worth and Cleveland while Continental will add 9 European cities and eight West Africa destinations served by SN to their schedule.

AUGUST / SEPTEMBER ‘THE EYE’ NOW OUT The latest edition of Uganda’s premier ‘insider guide’, THE visitor’s bible for where to go, where to eat, what to do and how to get around Uganda, is now again available on the web via http://www.theeye.co.ug. Printed copies are distributed only in country for FREE through selected outlets and the main hotels, but intending visitors can get their own preview on the internet and prepare themselves accordingly. The print version is also now focusing on the different towns outside Kampala and the main categories of information are now centred on the municipality, like Jinja, Kabale, Fort Portal, Mbarara and so on rather than having to sieve through the entire booklet. The Eye is a MUST READ publication for visitors to the country and information is updated every two months with the latest phone numbers, locations and data and current events.

FORMER UGANDAN PRESIDENT BINAISA PASSES AWAY At the ripe age of 90 did former Ugandan president Godfrey Binaisa pass away last Thursday 05th of August 2010. Godfrey Binaisa was notably the only surviving past head of state in Uganda and had lived for the past few years in Kampala, where he enjoyed the privileges of a former president as provided for by law. He served the country for 11 months after the overthrow of notorious dictator Idi Amin between June 1979 and May 1980 before being removed from office when he tried to send a powerful top army officer abroad as ambassador. He was then succeeded by a ‘presidential commission’ which remained in office until the rigged elections in 1981 returned the other notorious Ugandan dictator Milton Obote to power, leading to the liberation war which ended with Yoweri Kaguta Museveni taking office after defeating the enemies of a free Uganda. The late Binaisa was accorded a full state funeral according to governmental house sources and President Museveni himself led the nation in mourning. Sincere condolences to the family of the late Binaisa and may he now rest in eternal peace.

UGANDAN SAB MILLER SUBSIDIARY ACCUSED OF BEING UNSENSITIVE ON ENVIRONMENT The Rwenzori Bottling Company, a long time and in fact the first ever supplier of mineral water made in Uganda to the country and the region in plastic bottles, has now finally added 5 gallon bottles for water coolers, 15 or more years since the first coolers appeared on the local market. Yet, unlike all the other suppliers which offer bottles against a deposit, compelling customers to return their empties or lose as much as 9 US Dollars per water container, Rwenzori against professional advice by environmentalists has decided to go ahead and use ‘disposables’, which are thought to further litter the already under strain environment. Plastic bottles constitute a substantial component of waste disposal, and while some few efforts are being made to collect the bottles and re-process them, many simply end up thrown away or worse burned, with the gasses then emitted posing further risks to environment and human health. This is a startling development, considering the involvement of the global Coca Cola company and it is hoped that pressure, from consumers, NGO’s and the holding company in Atlanta will soon show results to have the ‘unfriendly’ bottles removed and substituted against what other mineral water companies use for the dispensers. In addition, the shrink wrappers used by this and many other companies to ‘seal’ the bottle tops and prevent contents from being polluted or adulterated, too are found flying all over the place, and the twist caps and bottles themselves have even been found in the hitherto still pristine environment of the country’s national parks as well as floating in rivers and lakes. It clearly is now time for the water industry – otherwise crucially important to deliver clean potable water to the population – to get together and find a way out of the plastic bottles by adding a deposit on them to compel a return or else find other means of safe water delivery without adding to environmental pollution – and no, the disclaimers do not hold ‘water’.

WILDLIFE AUTHORITY TOP MANAGEMENT SUSPENDED News broke overnight that the recently installed board of trustees has suspended the Executive Director of UWA Mr. Moses Mapesa together with the Director of Conservation Sam Mwandha to allow a ‘forensic audit’ to be conducted over a number of unspecified allegations made against the officers. An inside source overnight spoke of apparent issues over the handling of disciplinary matters, the new board chairman was not happy with. At least two other senior managers had recently resigned from the authority not long after the new board came into office. The Uganda Wildlife Authority, a statutory body under the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry has been benefitting from major World Bank funding over the past 15 years to turn the financial page towards long term self sustainability, and great progress has indeed been made in recent years. Controversial issues were considered to be hunting, where a long time ‘pilot project’ of late seems to have been expanded to other parts of the country, without having taken the route to discuss the implications of the pilot study first with stakeholders, something UWA has repeatedly denied but no records were ever availed of the alleged public consultations. One website promoting hunting has recently mentioned that their trips to Uganda were ‘suspended for the time being’ giving the first indication that not all may be well in this regard. Moses Mapesa in particular had in past years – he served with UWA in various capacities from its inception before becoming Executive Director some years ago – build a solid professional reputation and served on many international panels and bodies dealing with conservation. Watch this space as the saga unfolds.

FUEL PRICES GO UP – AGAIN Alongside low supplies to the market for all white fuel products, including AVGAS once again, have prices quietly crept up too over the past week, with some petrol stations now charging a whopping 3.000 Uganda Shillings per litre of petrol, while paraffin, used in many rural and even urban households, now costs as much as 2.000 Uganda Shillings a litre. The rise in fuel prices has already resulted in a hike in cross country transport fares, and although the value of the Shilling versus the US Dollar has marginally improved last week, rising international crude oil prices, added cost for shipments to Mombasa through pirate infested waters and – some say artificially – low supplies resulted in the commodity prices to go up. Safari operators sampled yesterday were saying they had sufficient supplies in stock to operate all their safaris without any problems and as they quote safari rates in foreign currency also did not anticipate any sudden price hikes for their services. Good to know.

Kenya News

ADAMSON MEMORIAL GATHERING SCHEDULED FOR MERU The Meru Conservation Area, which also includes the Kora National Park, will be the venue from 19th of August for a broad gathering of conservationists honouring the memory of the late George Adamson. Made immortally famous across the globe through the film ‘Born Free’, the late George and his late wife Joy were engaged in pioneer efforts to train and release lions back into the wild after being born in captivity or brought up from early stages in captivity. ‘Born Free’, starring Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, has since its initial release in 1966 become an adventure and wildlife ‘classic’ and raised awareness towards wildlife conservation and the huge efforts undertaken by the couple. Joy herself lived for many years also on Lake Naivasha, where her home ‘Elsamare’ is now a conservation and education centre and a magnet for visitors from around the world. Both George and Joy were murdered, George by ‘shiftas’ attempting to rob visitors arriving in his camp on that fateful day of 20th of August 1989, when he true to his nature rushed towards the scene of the gun shots to bring relief and help, only to get shot himself in the process. His wife Joy was murdered in her ‘Shaba’ camp on 03rd January 1980 by a member of her staff, shocking her friends and the global conservation fraternity, but it was George’s death which brought the era of ‘Born Free’ finally to an abrupt end. Conservationists, friends of the late couple and members of the tourism fraternity are set to visit Meru between the 19th and 22nd of August – a organized trip is available from Nairobi as per attached – to honour and commemorate the work the Adamson’s have done in their lifetime and celebrate their devotion to conservation. George’s book ‘My Pride and Joy’ and the dozen books written by Joy herself also gained global acclaim and are still much in demands by tourist visitors coming to see the very sights of those long gone days.

KENYA SHOWS MATURITY AT THE POLLS The harsh lessons taught after the last general elections showed results, when Kenyans last Wednesday went to the polls for the first time since those ill fated days to cast their vote over a new proposed constitution. Final results from Nairobi indicate that a two third majority voted in favour of constitutional reform while a mere on third of the voters rejected the draft. The new constitution, following this overwhelming endorsement by Kenyans, is due to be enacted soon, and although even proponents in the ‘yes camp’ admit that there are flaws in the draft framework, these can be resolved as Kenya moves on under the new supreme law, the first major constitutional reform ever since independence in 1963. What is most noteworthy though was the maturity shown at the polling stations and when counting the ballots, as nowhere across the country were any serious incidents recorded. Kenyans lived for weeks in fear after the last general elections and government was well prepared this time through a visible security forces presence in known political hot spots, ultimately not necessary as none of the two camps showed any appetite to once again resort to violence in order to ‘change’ results. The losing ‘no’ camp has already let it be known that they will respect the verdict by voters, although accusing the ‘yes’ camp to have used state resources to tilt the results in their favour, but the clear two third majority was clear enough and was not likely influenced by ‘dishing out favours’ as alleged by the defeated opponents of the new draft constitution. These developments are good news for the Kenyan tourism industry and were also greeted with relief by the hinterland countries which depend heavily on the constant flow of supplies from the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa by rail and road. Senior tourism stakeholders were jubilant and welcomed the final results with relief, saying this was positive news for the sector and helpful to once more portraying Kenya as a desirable destination with a conducive peaceful environment for foreign tourists. Well done Kenya and now for better times ahead.

NEW KENYA CONSTITUTION TAKES EFFECT ON 27TH AUGUST The administration in Kenya has set Friday, 27th August as the day when the new constitution will be signed into effect by President Mwai Kibaki during a grand ceremony in Nairobi. The day is expected to be announced as a public holiday, giving Kenyans a ‘long weekend’ to celebrate the onset of a new period in their so far chequered history, which after the death of the founder president and ‘father of the nation’ Jomo Kenyatta, saw a coup attempt on August 01st 1981, then descended into a one party and literal police state before the onset of multi party politics – under severe pressure from foreign countries – then opened the political spectrum. Yet, pre election violence during those early days from 1992 onwards maintained oppression and it was only when former president Daniel arap Moi had to leave office, having completed his permitted two terms of office, that the scenario of local politics began to reshape. However, corruption scandals kept rocking President Kibaki’s first government and in 2005 a first attempt to introduce a new constitution ‘bounced’ following widespread bickering in government and across society. The post election violence, following the end December 2007 general elections, then saw Kenya descend into a state of near anarchy, rocking the country and the region. The intervention of former UN supremo Kofi Annan eventually helped to establish a coalition government, the first ever in post independence Kenya, and their promise on taking office, to draft a new constitution and take it to the voters, was last week finally fulfilled, offering the assurance of better days ahead. A number of foreign dignitaries, including heads of state from the region, are expected to witness the momentous occasion when President Kibaki will affix his signature and presidential seal on the new constitution. More than two thirds of voters have endorsed the new supreme law in a referendum last week, which – although hotly contested in the run up – unfolded in a mature and peaceful manner. This appears to have disappointed some global media organizations which had dispatched large teams to cover any potential outbreak of violence, only to then sit on their hands and witness how well voting and counting went. Once the new constitution is formally brought into effect the President, Vice President, Speaker of Parliament and Deputy Speaker of Parliament will then once again take a formal oath of office under the new constitution following which all member of parliament too will have to be sworn in afresh. Parliament will then fast track a number of new laws to operationalise the new constitution, said to be about 50 and all drafted already by the Kenyan Attorney General’s office in anticipation of the big day. One of the major changes will be the option of dual nationality for Kenyans, the introduction of a second legislative chamber, the abolition of the post of Prime Minister and changes in the appointment of members of the judiciary, all aimed at giving more power to the legislature and trimming the previous almost absolute powers of the presidency. All the best wishes to Kenya and her people and peace and prosperity for the future.

Tanzania News

ZANZIBAR’S INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT EXPANDED, RENAMED The recently expanded runway of the spice island’s international airport was officially opened last week. The rehabilitation and extension of the airport’s single runway now permits larger wide bodied airplanes to land, as operations into Zanzibar were hitherto restricted to smaller aircraft like the B737, the Bombardier CRJ and larger turboprop planes being able to land and take off. At the opening ceremony it was also announced to change the current name ‘Kisauni’ to ‘Abeid Karume International Airport’ in recognition of the first president of Zanzibar. The tourism sector of Zanzibar expressed satisfaction over the completion of the work at the airport and are now busy lobbying international tour operators and airlines to fly either nonstop or via another airport in the region to Zanzibar, so that tourists can reach the island from Europe and elsewhere without having to change planes enroute. Zanzibar only last week underwent a referendum to create a government of national unity between ruling party and the opposition, to end constant political arguments and prevent the periodic outbreak of violence prior and after elections, which had in the past led to unfavourable anti travel advisories.

NEW FOSSILE FIND IN SOUTH WESTERN TANZANIA New skeleton remains were found in the south west of Tanzania in a recent ‘dig’, which unearthed a creature with similarities to both ancient crocodiles as well as cat like features. A team from several Ohio based universities was on site and assisted by scientists from both South Africa and Tanzania and they have now revealed details of this creature, thought to be 100 million years old when this part of Africa apparently supported different reptiles and animals no longer found today. Information sent to this correspondent from Arusha also speaks about the teeth found being of an unusual shape, compared with ‘normal’ crocodiles. This latest find underscored Tanzania’s standing for prehistoric finds, of both early man as well as the creatures which roamed the region in those long gone days.

Rwanda News

PEACE PREVAILS IN RWANDA’S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 10th August 2010 As suggested by this correspondent in several articles leading up to the presidential elections in Rwanda, it was indeed the case as the ‘land of a thousand hills’ went to the polls on Monday 09th of August that voting took place in a secure and peaceful fashion right across the country. President Kagame, although by the time of going to press no ‘official’ results were available, was in a runaway lead over his challengers and is likely to be declared the winner later today, following which he will lead Rwanda for his second term of 7 years, once the formal swearing in ceremony has taken place. Tourism sources expressed their immediate delight that all went well and that none of the thousands of tourist visitors had their itineraries disturbed or were in any way affected by the elections. Said one regular source in Kigali in an overnight telephone conversation: ‘Things went very well here in Kigali, but we also asked visitors coming back to Kigali today from the Parc de Volcanoes where they tracked gorillas. They confirmed there was nothing which could have disturbed them or upset them, and they commented favourably on the organisation and orderly conduct at polling stations they saw from their vehicles as they returned to the capital. The new Rwanda stands for peace, reconciliation and to live in harmony with each other and this policy paid us off very handsomely in tourism over the past years. The sector just grew phenomenally beyond expectations. Rwanda is not risking economic prosperity through political squabbles, I am very happy that we now have this continuity at the top and can go on with firm leadership for the next seven years.’ Congratulations to President Paul Kagame and the people of Rwanda, well done indeed.

Ethiopia News

GULF AIR COMES TO ADDIS Information received from the Ethiopian capital speaks of Gulf Air to commence a five times a week service between their home base in Bahrain to Addis Ababa. Flights are due to start in December this year and are part of Gulf’s apparent plans to expand their Africa network once again. Sadly the airline did withdraw a number of years ago from Entebbe but their addition of Addis will open the option for them to eventually, depending on load factors, to continue these flights to other destinations in Eastern or Central Africa. Watch this space.

Seychelles News

NEW 10 YEAR ENVIRONMENT PLAN LAUNCHED Late last week saw the launch of the Seychelles’ new environmental protection plan preparations during a one day workshop and meeting at the International Conference Centre in the heart of Victoria. Participants from government, private sector and crucially from conservation NGS’s had the opportunity to discuss the new plan’s contents and objectives in details and then strategized over the implementation of it during the coming decade. The last 10 year plan was reportedly completed with a ‘done’ ratio of over 85 percent, leaving the challenge for the next period to do better than that when it comes to the protection of marine and terrestrial biodiversity and staying ‘green’, hugely important for the country’s tourism and fishing industry. Added attention under the new framework will also be paid to monitoring of climate change and the development of mitigative measures, improved forest husbandry and agricultural farming methods but also aiming at improving public health. Combating intrusive and alien species on land and in the sea too are a focus of the discussions, which will be ongoing till October when the new plan will be formally launched after obtaining cabinet approval. When complete the next 10 year plan will be the third put in place and advocates for best environmental practise in the archipelago are rightly proud of seeing this as a core part of government’s commitment towards maintaining growth subject to protecting the ‘green’ element long term. Meanwhile, and in a related development, are a group of Australian researchers in the country to carry out studies on early colonisation and human settlements across the archipelago, which is expected to throw more light on the ancient days of these islands and help clarify when mankind first stepped into this tropical ‘Garden of Eden’. In a related development has President James Michel formally opened the new ‘Silhouette Island National Park’ for visitors last weekend, in a ceremony attended by the archipelago’s tourism and conservation fraternity and government officials. The island is the third largest of the ‘inner’ part of the archipelago and over 90 percent of its land has been made part of the new protected area. Seychelles now is not far away from its objective to have half of its territory declared protected, and the present count reportedly stands just over 47 percent, making it the global leader in environmental protection measures and underscoring its status as one of the globe’s greenest tourism destinations.

MAHE AIRPORT PARKING / APPROACH MODIFIED It was learned that last weekend a new ‘regime’ came into place at the Mahe International Airport. Passengers to be dropped off for their flight now have a straight approach route, no longer via the parking areas and in another change vehicles of the touring companies are now also found in a separate area where their passengers will now board without interference from other traffic. This has according to one regular source been a long standing issue and had now finally been resolved to the satisfaction of all airport users.

South Sudan News

ALREADY SEARCHING FOR A NATIONAL ANTHEM With the independence referendum now less than 5 months away, a range of activities are already unfolding in the Southern Sudan, clearly in anticipation of the vote being overwhelmingly in favour of becoming an independent country. News from Juba, the Southern Sudan’s capital city, speak of earnest efforts to have a national anthem composed as various educational and other institutions have commenced an exercise aimed to producing a compelling piece fit to reflect the aspirations and heritage of Southern Sudan. A new flag, and related symbols too are said to be in the making, all under the guidance of the ‘2011 Taskforce’ which is overseeing these activities ahead of the vote on 09th January next year. This information lends more and more credibility to suggestions, that while the Southern leadership – still in a coalition government with the regime in Khartoum – has not yet officially taken a formal and public position of their recommendation on how to vote, they are privately in total favour of independence, no surprise considering the brutal oppression, exploitation and long war waged against the South by Khartoum’s regime soldiers and allied militias, which only came to an end in January 2005 when the CPA – comprehensive peace agreement – was signed between the erstwhile foes. Regular contact and visits to the Southern Sudan also affirm the overwhelming desire by the Southern people to finally be able to determine their own destiny and take their rightful place amongst the Eastern African nations.

And in closing today again some interesting material received from ‘down south’ courtesy of busy bee writer Gill Staden from Livingstone / Zambia

No Room at the Inn We arrived at White Horse Inn after a long day of watching mad cyclists, looking forward to a good night’s sleep. The previous nights we had slept on Chilo Lodge veranda and been very cold; the following night we had put up the tent in the grounds of a polo club near Chipinge; and the night before three of us had shared a room in a hotel in Chimanimani. White Horse Inn is along a quiet road in The Bvumba. The roads are twisty and either side the trees tower above. Streams trickle down from the mountains. A stunning spot. I ambled into the hotel to ask the receptionist what room we were in only to be told that they were fully booked and there was no space. This was rather disappointing, to say the least. I really could not imagine putting up the tent in the car park. After a short while our dilemma was sorted out and we were given a resident’s lounge to sleep in – we had bedding and mattresses so it wasn’t a train smash. We carted in our bags and bedding and sorted out a make-shift bed. We were just grateful that the owner allowed us to use the rooms. White Horse Inn was a house before David Graham bought it about 30 years ago. It has 12 rooms, all furnished in an olde worlde fashion. In the bar there was a roaring log fire so we settled down to warm up and to drink a few beers. Dinner was excellent. I had bream, the others had trout and oxtail. The night’s sleep was fine, even though it was on the floor. We let the cyclists go off on their fourth day of peddling while we had a shower in a now-empty room. Then I had a walk around the grounds. The gardens are very mature with huge trees, some tree ferns and even a rose garden. I wished I could have stayed another night just to sit in them for a while. So, if you are ever near Mutare and need a place to stay, try the White Horse Inn. You will love it. Email: whithorseinn@bsatt.com

From Peter Jones, River Club 1954. Alfred Hitchcock, the great film Director, with his wife and Harry Sossen, owner of the Capitol Theatre, outside the Livingstone airport 2010. John Landau (Director of Avatar and Titanic etc) with his wife, Julie. Same spot. Same tree!

Hwange Ride Hwange National Park is undoubtedly one of the world’s truly great wildlife sanctuaries. Situated in the North West of Zimbabwe it contains some of the world’s largest concentrations of wildlife on the African continent. Before being proclaimed a game reserve in 1928, wildlife in this vast wilderness was virtually hunted out, with its only human inhabitants being a few bands of San or Bushman Hunter Gatherers, who had learnt to exist in this harsh environment and commercial poachers who had all but eliminated the last remaining wildlife. However it was soon realised that to encourage and increase the wildlife population in an area where rainfall is unreliable, a programme had to be established to guarantee continuity of reliable surface water during the long hot dry seasons, resulting in the first borehole being sunk in the mid 1930s. So successful has this programme been that today Hwange boasts in excess of 50 pumped water points throughout the park, so guaranteeing that this life-giving commodity is available all year round to wildlife The Matabeleland branch of Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe have been privileged to have been involved in this game water supply programme for the past 20 years and have been supported in their efforts by numerous people and organizations locally and externally. In continuing this ongoing assistance the 23rd of July saw an array of some 60 cyclists arrive at the park clutching off road cycles, these amateurs were not racing for yellow jerseys or glory, their goal was more noble, ensuring the supply of water for the parks wildlife. They were there to take part in the sponsored Hwange Adventure, now dubbed “PUMPING LEGS FOR WATER ” Life during the harsh dry season in this part of Africa can be difficult for both man and beast and when the boreholes dry up, parks staff often have no means of providing water for the vast herds of elephant, buffalo, and the other game that abounds in the park. The economic crisis in Zimbabwe has led to serious shortages of resources needed to preserve infrastructure, especially the crucial maintenance of important water sources. These Wildlife and cycling enthusiasts, ranging between 12 and 65 years of age were committed to completing a two day 100km ride. It was not a race, just a means to demonstrate support to a worthy cause. High class endurance athletes cycled alongside novices and youngsters encouraging and supporting all towards the finish. Under normal circumstances, cycling is prohibited in the park and large areas are cordoned off to the general public, however, in this case, broadminded authorities facilitated the roll of the general public by offering these cyclists the opportunity to cycle in the park and providing them with game guards and escorts A considerable amount was raised and while perhaps not much in terms of a national conservation budget, enough to pump water for the coming dry season to satisfy the mega herbivores and other wild life. Conservation is an expensive business and when things go wrong, I feel we all have a responsibility and a roll to play. Colin Gillies Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe Matabeleland Branch

Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region First Edition August 2010

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

First edition August 2010

 

HOUSTON MARKETING’S WORKSHOPS FOCUS ON ‘SPOTLIGHT ON AFRICA & INDIAN OCEAN’

South Africa based Houston Marketing is once again arranging for a series of travel trade workshops in Southern Africa, focusing on both inbound and outbound travel, permitting to promote African destinations to a wider audience and beyond the ‘normal’ trade shows and tourism exhibitions like INDABA. They recently published a schedule of these events in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, but also of overseas activities, all of them aimed at specifically promoting travel to Africa.

Said Derek Houston to this correspondent recently:

‘The South African Outbound Market into Africa continues to increase year on year. To keep up with the demand, regional African carriers are regularly adding more frequencies and new routes from South Africa to East and West Africa, as you frequently report in eTN.

Recent Kenya Tourist Board figures showed that South African visitor arrivals were in 6th place overall for the first six months of 2010. I have personally no doubt South Africa also ranks in the top 10 for most other East African countries.

To tap into this lucrative market almost a dozen East African hotel, resort and safari operators have joined our ‘Spotlight on Africa & Indian Ocean’ road show around South Africa from October 04th to 08th. Two sessions will be held in the Johannesburg / Sandton area (which accounts for 65% of outbound Travel) before the road show visits Durban and Cape Town, covering all the major South African outbound markets.’

Derek Houston will for these road shows invite corporate and leisure travel agents, outbound tour operators, conference organisers and incentive travel companies. Over 350 travel trade participants are expected to attend the four sessions.

Additional spotlight workshops are planned in Harare / Zimbabwe on 02nd September and in Maputo / Mozambique on 21st October. Central European road shows, covering Vienna, Budapest and Prague will take place between September 13th to 16th.

Contact www.houstonmarketing.co.za for more details or write to Derek@houstonmarketing.co.za to sign up or get added information.

 

Uganda News

FLY 540 ADDING KISUMU STOP ON WEEKEND FLIGHTS

The regional ‘original’ low cost airline Fly 540 has introduced Kisumu as an add on destination to one each of their Saturday and Sunday flight between Nairobi and Entebbe, offering the first time for many a year the option to fly on a scheduled service between the two lake side city destinations. Saturday’s morning flight will route NBO KIS EBB KIS NBO as will the Sunday evening flight, giving ample time for visitors to see the sights. The cost for a regular return flight was given at US Dollar 185 inclusive of all regulatory charges and the inaugural flight will take place next weekend already, i.e. the first weekend in August. Tour packages are at this moment not available yet but are expected to be launched soon too, giving travellers a variety of options how to best to spend a day and night in each destination, either Kisumu / Kenya or in Entebbe / Kampala. Near Kisumu are Lake Victoria island resorts and fishing camps available for overnight stays as are game reserves and a national park for a day out on safari, besides also offering the opportunity to see the paternal home of current US President Obama which is located just a few kilometres from the city’s airport. The Rusinga Island Camp in particular can be highly recommended and should absolutely be part of Fly 540’s upcoming package deals and visitors can be picked up from the airport by the camp vehicle or, against some added fee, take the speedboat to the island. Visit www.rusinga.com for more details and bookings.

Visitors coming to Entebbe meanwhile can see and explore the famous Botanical Gardens, the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre with rare and exotic animals, birds, reptiles but also medicinal plants and trees, or else take a boat ride from the Entebbe pier to Ngamba Island where a large chimpanzee colony can be seen in a tropical forest and where a tourist camp also allows to spend the night. Details of this camp, operated by Wild Frontiers Uganda, can be found via www.ugandaexclusivecamps.com/ngamba.htlm.

Well done 540 for re-connecting more and more of East Africa – now let’s just do away with the nuisance Visa requirements for East African residents duly registered in one of the EAC member states wishing to travel to another, to encourage regional tourism.

 

CASSOA OPEN ‘OWN’ OFFICES IN ENTEBBE

The Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency, a body established by the East African Community, has at last been able to officially ‘open’ their own premises in Entebbe, signalling a new phase in aviation cooperation in the region. Besides the pomp and glamour though aviators sampled in the region expressed their disappointment, some of them outright disgust, over continued non tariff barriers impacting on their ability to freely operated across the entire region.

One senior management staff of a commercial airline suggested to ‘scrap all bilateral agreements just as soon as possible which are in place between the EAC member countries and replace it with a new regime of open sky policy’ before adding ‘our aviation bureaucrats need to put into action what our politicians profess to in public, and fast’. Others continue to take issue with the fragmented licensing regime, which compels airlines to obtain in a worst case five separate operating licenses, in techno lingo called AOC’s, and demanded that this too be streamlined. Said one seasoned airline staff: ‘They need to recognize an AOC for instance issued in Kenya also in Uganda or Tanzania or Rwanda or Burundi. Now CASSOA is in their new headquarters and they already give binding guidelines for licensing of airlines registered in the member states. We need to cut through the red tape now. We need to bring relief in terms of bureaucracy and cost. Right now, say look at 540 Aviation, they have operations in three countries and needed to establish companies, get air service licenses, then get their separate AOC’s, install accountable managers. All this should in the new EAC be reviewed and once you have met the standards, once you are given an AOC in one member state, that should be binding for others too.’

Operators of light aircraft, mainly used for regional charters and tourist traffic into the parks, also added comments with one claiming: ‘right now the brutal truth is that the public is being deceived. Integration right now is an added layer of bureaucrazy. The functions now overseen by CASSOA must be removed from the national regulators, permits and licenses should be granted by CASSOA and then valid across the entire region. We should be allowed to fly tourists into national parks without being treated as invaders. Stop treating us as foreign airlines when we fly across East Africa. We want clearances just as fast as airlines registered in that country would get them, not wait for 24 hours, or 48 hours or longer. What is the point of our clients wanting to fly when in the end they get there faster by road because we are not given clearance fast enough.’

Upon further probing one regulatory staff, on condition of anonymity, conceded that there were still problems over integration and cutting red tape, and blamed it on one memberstate in particular, without however being drawn into giving the name … regular readers though can probably figure that one out themselves. Watch this space as this issue is ongoing and will undoubtedly attract future attention again.

 

NEMA BOWS TO PRESSURE – NAMES WETLAND ENCROACHERS

Media reports late last week highlighted once again the plight of conservationists in their efforts to retain, protect and restore wetlands, around the capital city of Kampala but also across the entire country. The National Environmental Management Authority has often been harshly critizised for doing little to live up to their mandate while at the same time constant allegations speak of selective enforcement only, as and when it apparently either suits them or for other reasons, much speculated over of course. Enroute from the city to this correspondent’s residence, in the so called Konge valley, the wetlands and drainage of rain water towards the lake has been massively encroached in recent years, but inspite of regular information sent to NEMA on that spot nothing at all has been done, encouraging the rapid closing up from both ends of the swamp for commercial and farming purposes.

However, the stinging criticism has not entirely fallen on deaf ears as NEMA has now named the top 100 encroachers they are presently dealing with. The list includes some of Uganda’s leading business names, including the Speke Resort in Munyonyo, the Islamic University in Uganda, Mukwano Industries, well connected individuals and also faded socialite and former ‘Miss Uganda’ organizer Sylvia Awori, all of whom are reportedly under investigation by NEMA.

The organization itself let it be known that often their enforcement officers are assaulted by private developer’s security guards while they still wait for the dedicated environmental police unit, created last year, to become fully operational and deploy into the field alongside NEMA staff. NEMA also announced that they would soon start on yet another demarcation exercise and that following its completion land titles in wetland areas would likely be cancelled to assist in the future protection of this crucial resource.

In a related development it was also learned that the water quality in areas affected by encroachment, be it through the run off of fertilizers or the unchecked flow into the lake by waste water and in particular the Nakivubo channel, has further deteriorated, requiring Kampala Water to introduce newer filtering and water treatment technologies. The resulting added cost of producing potable water is expected to rise in the future, making all consumers pay for the environmental sins of a few. See separate article on this topic and watch this space.

 

SHERATON INTRODUCES ‘THE BOOST JUICE BAR’

Following the global trends of eating and drinking ‘healthy’ has the Sheraton Kampala now opened a fresh juice outlet in the hotel. The new ‘health bar’ will serve customers using the Kidepo Health Club, but products are now also available at the swimming pool’s snack bar and the Paradise Terrace daily from 9 am till 10 pm. The ‘smoothies’, ‘crushies’ and full flavoured and textured  fruit and vegetable juices are prepared ‘to order’ from fresh ingredients and reportedly already found a faithful following especially amongst the ladies frequenting the health club and garden eatery.

 

FLY 540 NOW ADDS ‘HOLIDAY PACKAGES’ FOR ZANZIBAR

Vacation packages are now being sold by Fly 540 on the Ugandan market in conjunction with their flights to Zanzibar, via Nairobi for as low as 665 US Dollars per person sharing, all taxes included. Destination hotel will be the Zanzibar Beach Resort and meet and greet services, return transfers in Zanzibar from airport to the resort and back are included in the package price as is a welcome drink, a daily breakfast buffet, free wireless internet access when using one’s own laptop or netbook and a dayroom on the departure day. Use of the hotel’s fitness centre and a daily animation programme are also included in the package rate. The basic package is for two nights and add on days are available at the very reasonable cost of 75 US Dollars per person, valid between now and the 19th of December for Ugandan residents. Considering that the Zanzibar Beach Resort is a four star hotel this is very good value for money – Fly 540 operates daily to Zanzibar from Nairobi and double daily between Nairobi and Entebbe, giving travellers the choice of leaving any day of the week.

 

UGANDAN FORCES ENGAGE AL SHABAB IN MOGADISHU

No sooner had the African Union Summit ended in Kampala did the large Ugandan contingent based in Somalia make good of President Museveni’s threat, to go after the Islamic terror group Al Shabab, thought to be behind the recent twin suicide bombings in Kampala.

While the UN reportedly still has other ideas and tried to insist on ‘peace keeping only’ – forgetting that presently this is a complete misnomer as there is no peace – Ugandan troops made no mistake in decisively engaging a contingent of militia fighters coming too close to their positions and made short work of them with both artillery and other means, in the process decimating the terrorists and defeating their attempt to establish a forward base near the guarded zone of Mogadishu.

The AU Summit sanctioned an immediate further 2000 troops to be deployed, presently training in Djibouti before being flown to Mogadishu, and has somewhat strengthened the mandate for them, meeting military demands. An expert panel from the AU is now also considering how many more troops are needed to expel the terrorists from not just Mogadishu but to progressively expand the area controlled by the Transitional Federal Government and pacify parts of the country presently suffering from the barbaric rule of Islamic militias and pirates.

When these news broke in Kampala satisfaction took root and President Museveni’s hard stand to pursue and bring to justice those responsible for the recent atrocities got a visible boost when the success story reached the local media.

 

PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE HEARS OF ‘POISON ALGAE’

The natural resources committee in parliament last week heard about alarming developments in Lake Victoria near the city shores, when they were told of a growth of toxic algae now polluting the waters, presumably in Murchison’s Bay and beyond. These parts of the lake near the city are considered the most polluted of all, as the so called Nakivubo Channel, built on advise of the World Bank in a straight line towards the lake against all protests at the time by experts, is emptying the city’s water run off including rubbish into the bay.

Parliament was told that as much as 14 tons of pollution are carried into the lake by the channel, as the filtering function of the surrounding swamps and wetlands has been severely compromised by wetland encroachment in crucial area and the design of the channel into the lake.

When asked on funding available it was stated that only 2.3 billion Uganda Shillings had been allocated to combat pollution but that at least a further 12 billion was needed to effectively roll out reforestation along river banks and lake shores and unspecified amounts of money for the establishment of additional sewerage treatment plants for the city, its environs and the redesign of the Nakivubo channel.

Many of Uganda’s lakes and rivers are also threatened by increased deforestation along river and lake banks, adding to the woes of these water bodies as evermore silt is being washed into rivers and lakes, eventually making them shallower and impacting on the breeding patterns of fish, a staple diet for many Ugandans. It is for such reasons that these problems are of late receiving greater attention and publicity, in order to compel governmental bodies to spend more on educational programmes and re-forestation across the country but in particular to protect river banks and lake shores.

 

ANOTHER LAKE TRAGEDY INCREASES PRESSURE ABOUT SAFETY

News reports from Lake Albert tell a harrowing story of yet another lake boat capsizing in bad weather, and in the absence of sufficient life vests costing dozens of lives again. Overloading of boats, in this tragic case once more suggested as the main cause of the accident, combined with sudden storms and often poor training of the crew on board are regularly cited by authorities, but due to the many landing sites tighter supervision is often not possible. Many boat operators are also shy to invest in life vests to be worn by each passenger and NGO’s and development partners trying to promote lake safety are struggling to keep up with demand. The ill fated boat was reportedly on an 8 hour overnight journey from a landing site on the Lake Albert shores in Hoima district to Nebbi district across the lake and ran into a strong storm. Rescue operations have managed to find a number of people alive, clinging to floating cargo and debris but over 70 people are feared drowned in this latest calamity striking lake travellers.

In contrast, boats used for tourists to explore the shores of Lake Victoria, Lake Albert and other lakes and rivers are licensed, insured, well equipped, the crew have safety and first aid training, carry life saving equipment on board and are in communications with shore by both radio and – where available – mobile phones.  

 

Kenya News

STARWOOD SAID TO EYE KENYA

Following last week’s announcement of the takeover of the Holiday Inn Nairobi by South Africa’s Southern Sun Hotel Group have further news emerged that Starwood, the owners of amongst others the Sheraton global hotel brand, too is eyeing an entry into East Africa’s biggest economy. Present global brands like Intercontinental and Hilton have been operating leading hotels in Nairobi for decades and Hilton for some time even owned and operated two safari lodges, before divesting of those interests at a time when the market had fallen a little flat and concentrating on its core business with the Nairobi Hilton Hotel. Sheraton for a brief period in the 1980’s managed a beach property in Mombasa but having failed back then to understand the market soon afterwards withdrew from the contract.

Intercontinental owns and operates its Nairobi flagship property since the mid 1970’s and recently opened a Crown Plaza hotel in the ‘upper hill’ part of the city, which it operates on behalf of an ownership consortium, effectively covering the luxury and up market segment in Kenya’s capital.

Sheraton in contrast manage hotels in Kampala and Addis Ababa, both owned by the same middle Eastern group which also owns the Djibouti Sheraton, but had pulled out of a management deal in Kenya it had entered into with a highly controversial individual claiming to own former Block Hotels – inspite of warnings by many industry observers at the time – who, according to a source in Nairobi, for a while spent more time in court and remand than behind his desk. The recent strong growth in Kenya’s convention and meeting market however has made Nairobi in particular once more interesting for the ‘big boys’ and the expected opening in 2012 of the Radisson Hotel – a Rezidor brand – will add pressure to other global players to seek out a property to either own and manage or at the very least sign a long term management contract to establish a presence in the largest city of the region.

Kempinski has over the past years built a significant presence in Tanzania with one lodge, resorts and the leading business hotel in Dar es Salaam, but not spread their wings further into the region, while Fairmont has a strong presence in Kenya with lodges and the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi, but again abandoned plans to build a hotel in Kampala, when the global financial and economic crisis made the going tough.

It is thought that with the further integration of the East African Community, and the harmonization and streamlining of the legislative and regulatory frameworks in coming years, the EAC will become a major focal point for investments by global hospitality giants, aided also by the fact that Nairobi has become THE regional aviation hub, further aided when the expansion and rehabilitation of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport has been concluded. Watch this space.

 

KENYA AIRWAYS PRESENTS OPERATING REPORT

The latest release of operational data by Kenya Airways last weekend shows that the upswing and improvements for the ‘Pride of Africa’ continues unabated. The global economic and financial crisis impacted severely on the performance of the East African economies too, and combined with at the time huge rises in the cost of aviation fuel KQ had recorded reduced cargo and passenger loads, had to cut routes and capacity but over all still managed to avoid the mega losses compared to in particular US based carriers.

Strike action last year, by many observers thought illegal at the time as the union ignored a court order, and then the European ‘ash cloud’ earlier this year too caused financial wobbles, but now it seems the airline has put all of this firmly behind and is progressively returning to its star performance of past years.

The operational report pointed out that KQ’s B777 fleet is presently undergoing heavy maintenance, and that their B767 are taking up the routes albeit with lesser uplift capacity, underscoring the urgency to bring additional aircraft into the fleet, considering the long delays with the deliveries of the ordered B787 aircraft. It was in fact the B787 which was due to replace the ageing B767 fleet progressively from 2011 onwards but the airline has remained shtumm on this issue and refrained from confirming if indeed they have made a deal with Airbus to bring A330’s into the fleet as an intermediate measure.

Hence, the routes to the Middle and Far / South East are presently down by 8 percent, largely due to the use of the smaller B767, but still up from last year overall, while it is again the African route network which shows the largest upswing. Flights to South Africa were up by 22 percent during the period under review, supported by world cup traffic, into which KQ tapped successfully by using their Nairobi hub for the onward connections to Johannesburg.

East Africa capacity by KQ on papers seems ‘down’ by 7 percent, but informed observers, including this correspondent, attribute this to the increased use of the smaller capacity Embraer jets and a greater integration of traffic into Tanzania with partner airline ‘Precision Air’, which is now playing a larger role in cross border traffic, giving KQ the ability to re-deploy their own fleet to other valuable destinations in the region. Visit the company’s website www.kenya-airways.com for more information on corporate and financial performance.

 

‘NEW’ TRAVEL NEWS APPEARS ON THE WEB

As mentioned a while ago, Tony Clegg Butt, formerly of ‘the’ Travel News, has made good of his promise to launch a new travel magazine in Kenya. The web based ‘Travel News’ is similar in editorial content selection to the former print version, which had many faithful followers across the region after establishing itself as THE travel and lifestyle magazine. However, after selling the magazine to a South African media group the new owners merged it with their own creation ‘Twende’ and then managed to run the magazine into the ground through a series of management errors, which included letting go of key creative brains and staff behind the erstwhile Twende and then committing other blunders, serving as ‘afterburners’ for their magazines’ free fall into oblivion.

The ‘old’ Travel News interestingly was never on the web, not even for a fee, and the ‘new’ Travel News will according the Tony ONLY be on the web and available there for subscribers in a marked departure from past distribution and availability channels – surely saving a forest or two in the future by NOT having use paper to print on.

Write to travelnews@triad.co.ke to be added to the distribution list, and meanwhile all the best to Tony and his team for the future – East Africa needed you back!

 

SOUTH – EAST COOPERATION ITINERARY NOW AVAILABLE

Kenya’s ‘Bush Adventures’ and South Africa’s ‘Peace of Eden’ have now published the itinerary for September, the first such cooperation between the two companies. Both companies have specialised in unique features such as survival training and teaching ‘bush craft’, taught by Masai in Kenya and Bushmen in Southern Africa to the participants of courses and activities.

Peace of Eden will offer the first of their East Africa adventures between 17th and 22nd of September, from and to Nairobi and the full itinerary and cost, excluding flights, Visa and items of a personal nature can be accessed via www.peace-of-eden.co.za/corporate-wildlife-teambuilding-experience-with-the-maasai-from-the-ilingwesi-clan-itinerary.htm

This being a unique and rather novel vacation adventure, interested parties are advised to book swiftly to be assured of a place.  Find details of the Kenyan operation via www.bush-adventures.com

 

CAMPSITE RAIDED IN MASAI MARA CONSERVATION AREA

Reports are being received from Nairobi that shortly after 8 p.m. last Monday night a group of armed raiders, thought to have crossed the border from Tanzania into neighbouring Kenya, attacked a private tented camp put up for the night by long term Kenya residents on a local vacation. After first firing a salvo of shots into the camp, a previously never experienced method of robbery, they then raided the campsite and made away with valuables.

The campsite, normally used by and popular with East African residents and Kenyan campers is reportedly located on one of the conservancies in the so called Mara Triangle, below the Ololoolo escarpment and near the common border.

According to reliable sources two of the campers suffered gun shot wounds while one of the group was fatally wounded and succumbed not long afterwards to his injuries. According to a very reliable source in Nairobi this person in fact celebrated his 60th birthday that day. An aircraft of the Flying Doctor services has since then collected the injured and brought them to a leading Nairobi hospital for treatment where they are said to be in a serious but stable condition.

A combined team of Kenya Wildlife Services rangers and other security personnel stationed in the wider area was deployed just as soon as the information reached them, and this being a full moon night they immediately began tracking the criminals who reportedly fled in the direction of the border with Tanzania. Additional security teams were airlifted into the Masai Mara or dispatched from their observation points to join in the hunt for the gang, and it is understood that Tanzanian authorities too dispatched rangers and security forces to the area close to the incident on the Tanzanian side to also join in the search, hand in hand with their Kenyan counterparts.

This is a ‘first’ of its kind of such a brutal attack, never seen before, and as and when caught the culprits will be facing the death penalty when convicted. It is presently of no consolation to this correspondent that no foreign tourists were involved in the incident. The tragic loss of life and the injuries to the survivors are harrowing and shocking as it is and being East African residents does not make this any less serious than had it been foreign tourists.

The eTN East Africa team expresses their sorrow and sympathy and extends heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those affected by this senseless act of violence.

 

KENYA REFERENDUM ON NEW CONSTITUTION EXPECTED TO BE CALM

Senior tourism stakeholders in Nairobi and Mombasa have expressed their confidence that the imminent referendum over the new constitution, due to be held on Wednesday 04th of August, and which was hotly contested by proponents and opponents for months now, will be conducted in a peaceful and mature manner and that NO repeat of the post election violence in early 2008 is expected. In fact, leading safari operators, while acknowledging ‘contingency plans’, are said to be not really concerned about the voting and counting, as the high season for safaris – especially into the Masai Mara where the annual migration of wildebeest and zebras can now be seen – is underway. While no official statement could be obtained from government other usually reliable sources connected to governmental bodies and authorities were giving reassurance and portrayed optimism, that tourists visiting Kenya would as usual be safe and could enjoy their vacation without any problems.

All indications are that the people of Kenya will vote ‘YES’ to finally get a new constitution, and while it is acknowledged even by proponents of the document that it has flaws, these can always be amended at a later stage without throwing the entire document for a second time after 2005 into the bin.

Meanwhile it was also confirmed that Wednesday will be a public holiday in Kenya, to permit citizens to vote on the new proposed constitution, while civil servants will be having three days off, to allow for travel on Tuesday to their home areas, vote on Wednesday and return to their duty stations on Thursday …

 

YEMEN AIR TO START EAST AFRICA FLIGHTS

From December this year, or so says the information passed to this correspondent by sources in both Kenya and Tanzania, will Yemen Airways be flying three times a week between Sana’a and Nairobi, before then continuing to Dar es Salaam. The return is due to follow the same routing. The airline will reportedly use one of their relatively new NG Boeing 737-800 aircraft for this service. The flight will not be operated under any code share arrangement with other airlines and offers upon landing in Sana’a connections into the region, details of which however were not available by the time of filing this report. Watch this space for the most up to date news from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean aviation scene.

 

Tanzania News

DAR ES SALAAM TO GET NEW AIRLINK WITH SOUTH AFRICA

It was confirmed last week that Comair, the franchisee for British Airways in South Africa and also operator of low cost airline ‘Kulula.com’ will commence flights into Dar es Salaam from November this year. The airline is set to fly five times a week between Johannesburg and Dar, the limit set under their present licence granted by Tanzania’s air transport licensing body, but has already stated their intent to eventually operate daily flights. It is presently not entirely clear if the flights will be operated under ‘Kulula.com’ or under Comair’s British Airways franchise, but intending passengers will probably not mind that at all as long as added options for flights are put on the market at affordable fares.

In the past South African tour operators sent plenty of visitors to explore Tanzania’s national parks, beaches and islands but the near collapse of Air Tanzania, and the resulting unsettled huge claims for tickets already paid when the airline ceased operations on the route to Johannesburg, has deeply upset the travel and tourism stakeholder affected. (Such contingent liabilities actually are one of the major reasons for the reluctance of potential core investors in ATCL the government has been wooing) However, with this new connection, operated by a rather more reliable and better reputed South African airline, this reluctance to promote Tanzania will probably be overcome in coming weeks ahead of the inaugural flight and ‘regular’ business will undoubtedly resume soon.

 

TANZANIAN POLITICAL ESTABLISHMENT TRAMPLES ON NYERERE LEGACY

 

“The survival of our wildlife is a matter of grave concern to all of us in Africa. These wild creatures amid the wild places they inhabit are not only important as a source of wonder and inspiration, but are an integral part of our natural resources and our future livelihood and well being.

In accepting the trusteeship of our wildlife we solemnly declare that we will do everything in our power to make sure that our children’s grand-children will be able to enjoy this rich and precious inheritance.
The conservation of wildlife and wild places calls for specialist knowledge, trained manpower and money, and we look to other nations to co-operate with us in this important task – the success or failure of which not only affects the continent of Africa but the rest of the world as well.”
Julius K. Nyerere, Father of the Tanzanian nation and Founder President of the United Republic of Tanzania, in his pre-independence Arusha Manifesto, 1961

 

The announcement by President Kikwete during a campaign speech last weekend, that ‘the Serengeti road will go ahead’ was a hard slap into the face of the legacy left by founding father Julius Mwalimu Nyerere, who had immediately prior to Independence in his ‘Arusha Manifesto’ vowed to protect the Serengeti and recognized its importance as a world heritage, belonging to all of mankind. It is also a stark departure from not only these but other ‘teachings’ of Nyerere too, whom Kikwete has often described as his political mentor and inspiration.

Plans to build the hugely controversial highway across the sprawling wilderness, home of the one of the last of the world’s great herds of migrating wildlife, have repeatedly been defeated in the past, but industrial mining interests, allegedly combined with huge campaign donations, are hard at work to succeed this time round. International financing institutions like the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the East African Development Bank, the European Investment Bank and others will be reluctant though to fund such a project, as their own environmental guidelines prohibit them from touching such follies and as opposition is already forming on their own doorsteps by conservation NGO’s, civil society and an unfolding letter and email campaign by thousands of individuals from around the world. Such concerted efforts ordinarily swiftly throw a spanner in the work of assessing loan and grant applications and these bi- and multilateral institutions are not likely to incur the wrath of influential NGO’s in their own ‘back yards’ when an alternative route is available.

That alternative route would benefit millions more people with access to markets and the urban centres than the Northern route but has been dismissed as ‘not viable’ by some Tanzanian governmental mouthpieces and politicians seeking re-election on the back of the president’s past campaign promises, likely uttered at the spur of the moment and now hard to disown. Yet, much of ‘official’ Tanzania certainly ignores if not outright disowns that alternative route option in the face of expert advice available to them. The ‘Southern Route’, as can be seen on websites advocating against the route through the park, is meeting the access needs of more villages and productive agricultural areas and still connect the very parts of Tanzania the present park road proposal seems to secure. The minor climb down by government last week, ‘not to tarmac’ the park section, is minimalist in its nature as a commercial road, even if only constructed with murram, will still attract thundering trucks, since at both ends of the park tarmac is beckoning for them. Other government mouthpieces are pointing to ‘existing roads through the Serengeti’, conveniently mixing the term ‘road’ with  the type of tracks established and maintained by the park authorities. These tracks are narrow, often causing even safari 4×4’s to pass each other at walking speed, while the proposed commercial road would be of standard width to permit heavy traffic pass each other, or overtake with ease. 

Notably, the Tanzanian government hierarchy is also silent to apparently most, if not all enquiries being made for a ‘statement on the record about the project’, rightly fearing that this may in time to come harshly backfire on them when, as the doomsday scenario for the Serengeti is painted in greater detail, they may one day be held accountable for their complicity in ‘killing the Serengeti’.

However, it is also established already that countries applying lesser standards for loans and known to habitually ignore the issues of environmental protection, are likely to step forward and offer funding against securing concessions and the hope of huge profits, leaving Tanzania in the end with deep holes in the ground, a wrecked and poisoned environment and the loss of biodiversity and the big herds in the Serengeti, bled dry of natural resources and likely left in greater poverty rather than less. Intriguing enough, it is one of those ‘usual suspects’ country which is constantly in the news when smuggling of ivory and rhino horn is mentioned in the media and many citizens from that country in the Far East have been arrested for their involvement in smuggling blood ivory and poaching operations, not just in Eastern Africa but also further down south on the continent, where the problem is even more acute.

It has become evident now that the ‘Save the Serengeti’ coalition needs to shift their focus to lobby their respective home governments and global institutions and have Tanzanian plans exposed, so that at least a temporary ‘pariah’ status can be attached to the country until the route for the road is shifted to the Southern side of the Serengeti, where according to information at hand a great multiple of a population would benefit from the road links – but of course lengthening the access route for the future miners, their equipment and supplies.

Tourists visiting Tanzania too should bring their voices to bear on their tour operators back home and their safari operators in Tanzania to compel them to speak up and expose the project for the what it is, a sure killer for wildlife and an insurmountable obstacle for the annual migration of the wildebeest and zebras in search of food, the lack of access to which will surely decimate the present big herds to a fraction, as the bisons’ were decimated across the North American prairies. Sadly though, the media in Tanzania and much of Eastern Africa are shtumm on the issue, apart from a few isolated articles and dissent in particular in Tanzania itself seems deliberately kept out of the media spot light, probably – as several sources in Arusha and Dar es Salaam confirmed, speaking from third party phones in a tell tale sign – to avoid political repercussions, framed up arrests and worse before the elections at the end of October. The mention by the president last week, when he pointed to opposition to the road coming mostly from outside Tanzania, is – while technically correct – also an affirmation of having successfully muzzled dissent to the project within Tanzania, leaving only web based media to give information to the Tanzanian people as their own media continue to let them down. Even media contacts, known to this correspondent for many years, have become shy to even discuss the issue by phone or exchange emails on the matter, with two giving almost identical responses: ‘you know how things are, this is election time, don’t put me at risk please. We see what is written on the internet and appreciate but Tanzanians really cannot speak up against it. Just remember what happened to the former TANAPA chief who was completely opposed to this road’.

Serengeti Shall Not Die for the last nearly 60 years was the slogan the world listened to, attracting huge funding and a huger following by friends of the Serengeti, and of Tanzania, from abroad, but for how much longer that will continue, should this project go ahead.

The project is, according the available projections and studies carried out before, a certain death sentence for the Serengeti herds migration pattern and those holding the hangman’s noose are none other than President Kikwete and his orchestra of sycophants surrounding him, and either unwilling or unable to tell or show him the errors of his way. It is therefore mega barbs for the Tanzanian establishment and their industrial and big business backers and bouquets to all those in support of saving the Serengeti from this fallacy.

In a related, and under the circumstances truly ironic development, was the Ngorongoro Conservation area, including the Olduvai Gorge, last week made a UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside the Serengeti, a status the latter will surely lose if indeed the road project goes ahead as presently suggested.

Follow the developments and new postings and articles on Twitter via @stopserengetihw or sign up to and regularly visit the ‘official Facebook’ site to post your own comments and contributions via www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/STOP-THE-SERENGETI-HIGHWAY/125601617471610?ref=ts

 

Rwanda News

RWANDAIR REPLACES FOREIGN CHARTERED AIRLINES FOR TROOP TRANSPORT

Having acquired additional aircraft in recent months the Rwandan national airline has now won a bid to fly peacekeeping troops from Kigali to Darfur, where the country maintains a major presence under the United Nations mandate. Previously foreign carriers had filled this gap and operated the regular flights, at times dogged by controversy, but now that RwandAir does have B737-500 aircraft on their fleet they were at last able to not only contribute troops but also fly them there.

It was also learned that the delivery of the second leased B737-500 was on schedule for end August, allowing the airline to roll out their planned network, frequency and capacity expansion as reported about in earlier articles. This has according to a source in Kigali already resulted in adding a Sunday flight to Kilimanjaro / Arusha in Tanzania, making it now four a week.

Meanwhile has the airline announced sweeping changes in their scheduling of flights out of Kigali and intending travellers are urged to visit www.rwandair.com for updated information, or else call RwandAir or their travel agent to avoid either missing their flight or coming way too early to the airport.

 

NAKUMATT GIVES BOOST TO GORILLA CONSERVATION

One of East Africa’s leading retail giants, Kenya’s Nakumatt, has made good of a pledge made earlier in the year to donate 1 percent of their revenue accrued during the month of June in their Kigali shop to gorilla conservation projects. A cheque was handed over last week to the Ministry of Environment and Lands to eventually benefit RDB – Tourism and Conservation in their projects and activities, worth 5.9 million Rwandese Francs.

Gorilla tourism is the highest profile tourism activity in Rwanda and conservation is a key cornerstone of government policies, aimed to maintain bio diversity and protect species from which tourism, the biggest foreign exchange earner for the ‘land of a thousand hills’ can benefit in the long term.

 

RWANDA VOTES ON AUGUST 09TH

As previously indicated, Rwanda is holding general elections across the country to choose new members of parliament and – what seems a foregone conclusion – confirm President Paul Kagame for a second term of office. Tourism stakeholders have contacted this correspondent seeking to reassure tourist visitors about to arrive in the country, that these elections will be held in a mature and peaceful manner and that no problems or any nature are expected for tourists, when coming to see the country’s cultural and natural attractions. Previous elections in the ‘new’ Rwanda, which emerged from the 1994 genocide like the proverbial ‘phoenix’ from the ashes, were also held without any significant incidents and safaris to the national parks went on as scheduled without any interruptions, as is expected this time also. Visit www.rwandatourism.com for updates and information.

 

Seychelles News

CHINA TOURIST OFFICE TO OPEN SOON

The Seychelles Tourist Board has confirmed that they are at an advanced stage to formally open a marketing office in China, to promote more tourists visit the archipelago. Excellent air connections via Emirates flights routing through Dubai are available six days a week to Mahe, soon to rise to daily flights once scheduling conflicts have been resolved. The Seychelles also discussed direct airlinks with China during a recent visit by President Michel to China and while this may still be a while off before bearing fruits it would certainly boost tourism links between the archipelago and the Far East.

Already one staff, Ms. Stephanie Lablache from STB, is attached to the Seychelles diplomatic mission in Beijing and looking after the promotion of tourism but the planned opening of a ‘proper’ tourist office will undoubtedly help the Seychelles to work the market better.

 

AIR SEYCHELLES TO COMPLY WITH EUROPEAN EMISSION CONTROLS

The EU emission trading scheme has been a challenge to airlines flying into European airspace and progressively have foreign carriers started to comply with monitoring and reporting requirements. Air Seychelles too is now ‘on board’ with this and has instituted measures and procedures to meet the European Union’s requirements, based on which continued traffic rights into the EU are anchored. The Seychelles’ national airline is expected to buy ‘carbon credits’ if necessary but may also take advantage of free carbon credits once the first schedule of reports has been submitted to the EU and reviewed by their experts.

Air Seychelles operates scheduled flights to Italy and Britain and charters as and where required from mainland Europe and Britain to the archipelago, but also currently operates a contract for the UK to the Falkland Islands, all of which fall under the EU’s new regulations.

It was learned that the reporting and data processing was outsourced to ‘Aviation Footprinter’ as a result of doing in house trials first, a decision the airline took to promote accuracy and full compliance with a variety of rules but also to obtain added data relevant to aircraft and engine maintenance.

Meanwhile has Air Seychelles also confirmed that they expect to take delivery of their first Boeing B787 ‘Dreamliner’ by 2013, when the replacement of the current fleet of B 767 aircraft will begin in earnest.

 

NAME CHANGE FOR SEYCHELLES HELI OPERATORS

Following two earlier articles on the planned joint venture by Helicopter Seychelles and Zil Air, the merger has now taken place and the new corporate identity and name was revealed yesterday, in time to be reported her in ‘breaking news’ fashion.

‘L’ Air DeZil’ was the name revealed to the public yesterday, combining Creole, English and French terminology and translating broadly into ‘the fragrance of the islands’.

Also highlighted were the key corporate values as:

Right Thinking – Right Experience – Right Team – Right Now

Good luck and happy landings and when the new corporate logo is revealed you too will be amongst the very first to see it.

 

Southern Sudan News

BORDER DEMARCATION REMAINS A CHALLENGE

As the rainy season is now beginning in parts of the Southern Sudan’s territory adjoining the North of the country, the ongoing verification exercise – dealing with the remaining 20 percent of hitherto unmapped boundary lines – is facing suspension due to transportation and access problems. It is thought that the remaining mapping however is also focused on the most contentious areas and about three quarters of the remaining work scope will be ‘hotly’ disputed, according to a source in Juba. The regime in Khartoum is already using the pause to threaten the South with a shift in referendum dates, claiming that unless the border lines are verified and agreed no vote on independence can take place, a notion firmly rejected by the Southern leadership who have already vowed that the referendum will take place as scheduled.

Some of the borders are important for both sides as huge oil deposits were found along the North / South divide and Khartoum will by hook or crook try to grab some of the oil by having border lines drawn along their own image rather than follow historical division lines, when few from the North were ever coming to the South other than to raid for cattle and slaves.

The international community has supported the peaceful progress under the CPA of January 2005 and not ruled out arbitration, should some stretches of the boundaries not be agreed upon between the two parties, similar to the Abyei case which was partly resolved before the international arbitration panel in The Hague.

Meanwhile has the regime in Khartoum poured more oil into the ‘fire’ when introducing parallels of the Ethiopia / Eritrea conflict over unresolved border issues, conveniently pushing aside the fact that an independent border commission had ruled long ago on those disputed boundaries and leaving unsaid the aggressive nature of the regime which prior to the CPA brutally oppressed the Southern population and occupied their land, inflicting a great loss of life at the time … trust know whom …

 

 

And in closing today again some interesting material, courtesy of Gill Staden who produces ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ down South in Zambia at the Victoria Falls …

 

Kariba Bush Club

I took a mad dash to Kariba Bush Club during the week.  There one day, back the next … but it was worth it.  It is such a beautiful spot on the lake. 

Kariba Bush Club is a 5-hour drive, through Choma and on to Batoka where you turn east on a tar road towards Maamba.  It is well sign-posted so impossible to get lost.  The last stretch of road is dirt so a car with high clearance is probably best. 

I arrived in the afternoon to be welcomed by Chennay who took me across the lake to the houseboat which was moored in a bay off one of their islands.  I joined the rest of the group on the boat – family and friends – who were all idling around the deck, some fishing in a half-hearted fashion.  All were enjoying an afternoon beer so I joined them with a Mosi. 

The island is stocked with game so we watched as waterbuck, eland, impala and kudu came down to drink.  The water is still high but has gone down about half a metre from its highest level.  As with all the islands in the lake, the water has covered much of the grazing along the water’s edge.  All the animals on the Bush Club’s islands have been given supplementary food to help them get through the lean times.  Once the water level has gone down and the new grass has grown, there will be plenty for the grazers to eat. 

The evening was spent chatting on the deck and enjoying the breeze from the lake.  Peter and Chennay cooked a great meal and, after that, I decided I needed to sleep.  I left the rest of them playing a ridiculous board game – apparently until midnight.   

I was the first up in the morning and as I had no-one to chat to, I decided to have a go at the fishing thing.  I didn’t expect to catch anything … and I didn’t.  I was joined a while later by Steve from England who also picked up a rod and threw a lure into the lake.  We were trying to be quiet as the midnight revellers were still sleeping.  Then suddenly Steve yelled: I think I’ve got one.  And a huge tigerfish leapt out of the water on the end of the line.  Of course, this woke everyone up, so we all watched as Steve landed a 4kg fish. 

Having roused everyone we all had cups of tea and coffee, started up the boat and trundled round the island and across the lake to the mainland for breakfast.   Peter took me for a bit of a tour to see the new ensuite tents, the children’s playground and a few other developments since I had last visited.  He told me that they can now take 78 guests, so, if you have a large family, they can all fit at Kariba Bush Club.

They have two houseboats.  The small one we used can take six people comfortably, but a few extra can find a mattress on the deck.  The other one is large and can take about 20 people and has a plunge pool. 

Then it was time for breakfast so we all tucked into bacon and eggs with lots of juice and coffee.  With a return journey to Livingstone ahead of me, I packed my car and set off with a promise to myself that I would go back again soon. 

 

Hungry lion saves rhino, causes arrest of poacher
From Patrick Chitumba in Victoria Falls

A hungry lion attacked a group of poachers who were about to kill a rhino, resulting in their arrest and recovery of an AK 47 assault rifle, a fully charged magazine and 50 rounds of ammunition.

The officer commanding police in Victoria Falls district, Chief Superintendent Regis Munyaradzi, confirmed the arrest of five poachers, who included a Zambian.

“Yes, I confirm that five poachers, including a Zambian, were arrested at a hide-out in Mkhosana Township in Victoria Falls in the early hours of Monday after failing to poach a rhino for its horn as per their plan,” said Chief Supt Munyaradzi. “We believe this could be a syndicate and investigations are under way and because of that, we are still withholding their names and the area they wanted to poach from.”

Chief Supt Munyaradzi said on Sunday night, the poachers descended on an area he declined to disclose, where they were sure of gunning down a rhino for its horn. “Luck ran out on them when a lion approached them. In fear, they ran in different directions. As a result, the lion took after one of the poachers resulting in him climbing a tree while others fled and went back to their base,” he said. Chief Supt Munyaradzi said the poacher who climbed the tree spent the night clinging to the branches so that he would not fall as the lion was waiting for him under the tree.

“The lion only walked away from the tree when there was daylight after which the poacher climbed down,” he said. Chief Supt Munyaradzi said as the suspected poacher made his way out of the park, he was seen by rangers who were on patrol. They then apprehended him. “The poacher was brought to the police and he revealed that he was working with others,” said Chief Supt Munyaradzi.

He said the police then laid an ambush at a house in Mkhosana Township in the early hours of Monday, leading to the arrest of the four other poachers and the recovery of the rifle and ammunition.

“So we are tracing the origins of the rifle as part of investigations and they will appear in court soon,” said Chief Supt Munyaradzi.

ADDS yours truly – this lion ought to be given a medal for his work as a rhino conservationist.

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