Archive for May, 2011

South Sudan news update – Abyei will make or break CPA


The blatant violation by regime troops and loyalist militias of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between Khartoum and the SPLM/A led Southern liberation movement 10 days ago has again highlighted the reckless disregard by Khartoum’s ICC wanted leader Bashir and his goons. Tens of thousands of refugees are streaming away from the state and Abyei town moving further South, after Northern military units and their allied militias overran the SPLA detach stationed in Abyei and reportedly in Darfur style raped, looted and burned to clear the area for the imminent occupation by Misseriya tribesmen.

A ruling of the International Arbitration Panel at The Hague and the provisions of the CPA did little to stem the regime’s greed to return Southern land into their fold, to continue the exploitation of mineral resources and their long standing policy of treating their African compatriots with contempt if not hold them in slavery conditions.

The East African countries which had in 2009 signed on to the peace treaty have already expressed their grave concern to Khartoum, and while presently opting for diplomatic pressures and mustering global opinion against the regime have not ruled out to come to the assistance of the South with military support, should Khartoum not withdraw their marauding troops and militias from Abyei forthwith.

Uganda in particular, but also Kenya are said to be increasingly upset that their continued engagement with Bashir’s regime has not resulted in Khartoum changing political course and while Bashir has in past visits to East African countries not faced arrest on behalf of the ICC, this lenient handling may soon be a thing of the past for him as he has once again exposed himself as a warmongering hardliner, even if some reports are true that this was only done to prevent his own overthrow by the more hardline Islamist elements around him. East Africa and other allies of Southern Sudan are also said to be concerned about Khartoum being prodded by their political godfathers into stirring fresh conflict with South Sudan, so that East Africa could on a broader basis be drawn back into wars and to create an enabling environment for Al Qaida sympathizers and affiliates to carry out attacks from their present strongholds in parts of Somalia and other ‘friendly’ regimes. This is supported by growing evidence that Eritrea’s posturing and rhetoric has of late increased again and that the resilience of Al Shabab and other Islamist militias, in the face of a largely underfunded and under-facilitated African Union mission in Somalia which has been unable to take the fight to the militants and militarily rout them out of their safe havens, has kept the balance of military power in Somali on knife’s edge.

Sources in Juba have in the meantime confirmed that SPLA units based in Abyei and nearby have undertaken a re-grouping exercise and are being reinforced should the invaders attempt to push further into Southern territory, but also pointed out that unlike the regime’s units they were still exercising restraint and not commence immediate offensive operations to clear the area again. This, the source pointed out was done to show their East African allies that the SPLM led government in Juba was indeed primarily seeking global and regional diplomatic intervention to have Khartoum withdraw behind the CPA demarcated lines and be compelled to compensate those who have suffered, instead of taking the ‘bait’ and being drawn into another round of armed conflict even if provoked by the Bashir regime.

Other sources are already talking about a fresh ICC investigation into crimes against humanity and war crimes inflicted by the loyalist militias in ‘Darfur style’ on the innocent population while at the same time making added efforts to have African governments change their tune vis a vis the ICC arrest warrant for Bashir in the light of these latest atrocities committed.

Political analysts in Juba also confirmed that preparations for the Independence celebrations on 09th July remained on course but with substantially increased security for the event to prevent any disruption by Bashir’s goons.

Watch this space.  

Kenya breaking news – Serena Hotels holds Annual General Meeting


East Africa’s leading hotel, resort and safari lodges company, Serena Hotels, is holding their annual general meeting today at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, preceded by a meeting of the Board of Directors at their Kenyan flagship property, The Nairobi Serena Hotel.

While the group is traditionally reserved about giving extensive advance information on performance – after all the shareholders expect to be told such news ‘fresh’, information has nevertheless been obtained that the record performance of Kenya’s tourism industry in 2010 has translated into an equally impressive result for Serena, bringing smiles to institutional and individual shareholders. The audited results of the financial year of 2010 are posted on the group’s website, accessible via Many of them started to arrive at the venue early, with over 700 of them expected to participate in the AGM, making it one of the most keenly awaited meetings of its kind in corporate Kenya. The company is ‘cross listed’ already in Tanzania with the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange, something expected to happen in the not too distant future also with the Uganda Securities Exchange in Kampala. Major shareholder remains the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, in short AKFED, with 37.23 percent but ‘ownership’ has spread deep into both institutional as well as private share portfolios as a result of the company’s sterling financial performance even during the most trying years for Kenya Tourism in the past. Other major shareholders are French development and finance corporation PROPARCO with 7.35 percent, Standard Chartered Nominees with  5.79 percent, Jubilee Insurance Company of Kenya with 5.6 percent and their sister company Industrial Promotion Services with 5.19 percent while the rest are spread widely across Eastern Africa.

Serena’s ‘Collection’ has expanded from its erstwhile home patch of Kenya, where the company started out in the mid 70’s with properties in Nairobi, Mombasa, Amboseli and the Masai Mara, to Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Mozambique. Serena Hotels offers one of the widest choices for  luxurious city hotels, top of the range beach resorts and uniquely positioned and superbly appointed safari camps and lodges in the most fascinating national parks across the Eastern African region.

Serena has in the recent past opened two sensational safari camps in the Selous Game Reserve south of the commercial capital of Dar es Salaam and will within weeks open another ‘signature collection’ camp at the shores of Lake Elementaita, located between lakes Naivasha and Nakuru and home to tens of thousands of the lesser flamingo, painting the lake shores in pink colours.

Reporting ‘live’ from Nairobi / Kenya today.

Stop mouthing off about Gulf carriers – go match them!


In recent months were more than the usual periodical spats observed between European airline chiefs and CEO’s of some of the Gulf region’s leading airlines. Using different forums suggestions were made by the Europeans about the growing ‘threat’ by Gulf based carriers, siphoning traffic from the traditional aviation hubs by using their government ownership and backing to implement strategies of global expansion with and through lower fares, increasingly bypassing the traditional Euro-American traffic flows and re-writing the aviation history books for the 21st century.

The Gulf airlines in turn, sitting ‘pretty’ as it is, countered the arguments by suggesting to their European counterparts to start lowering their cost structures on a broad basis and more important for travelers look into their service structure, on the ground and in the air and make improvements rather than just mouth off.

This correspondent, by all standards a seasoned traveler, recalls past trips through some of the European hubs which were marked by congested lounges, once a heaven of peace and tranquility, back in the old days anyway, but now crowded by travelers holding C class tickets and joined by others with the privilege of access courtesy of their frequent flyer cards. Considering the fact that these lounges are the showcases in the very home hubs of the respective airlines – and I want to exclude the Brussels Airlines lounge at the Brussels Airport’s international departure gates, which while it could still be larger at least resembles the classic ‘lounge’ even during peak traffic times [I am told that an expansion may be on the cards] – some of them nevertheless now appear quite hectic and overcrowded.

Why am I writing about this? Well, a recent simple and relatively short trip to an assignment turned into something quite different and I found myself bound for Dubai, once again having the opportunity to sample the Emirates Terminal 3 and doing some comparisons.

Our aircraft parked on an apron position and by the time Business Class passengers disembarked, the First Class passengers had already been whisked off to the terminal. Our bus was dedicated for C-Class passengers only, and when the last of my fellow travelers were on the bus the doors closed, we drove off and other busses then rolled up behind us to take care of the rest of the passengers. I say this as in many European airports there is little distinction being made between premium and economy class passengers when being bussed to or from an apron position, but showing that it actually can be done proves that the very substantial difference in airfare does actually bring equally substantial results in customer care while still on the ground.

Hence, the terminal entry was swift and the comprehensive security check on arrival, thorough as it was, went quickly in the absence of queues at this point. This central entry point screening probably also explains why at the boarding gate no more security checks are needed, something which has been witnessed all too often at European and other gateways, where the added layer of repeat checks tends to upset travelers, in particular the frequent travelers who know that elsewhere it is less of a hassle and CAN be done in a more user friendly fashion.

While at the main level of terminal 3 in Dubai the usual shopping frenzy went on, a floor up Emirates has its lounges, for their First Class and for their Business Class passengers. The facilities in these lounges are legion and have been described many times before, so I do not need to go into that but for a different aspect of these lounges. It appears that Dubai is becoming a hugely popular ‘hub’ for corporate meetings where ‘face to face’ is required to ensure privacy and such meets do take place not only in Dubai proper but evidently also now at the airport itself, where the two premium class lounges for First and Business expand across the upper level of Emirates’ own Terminal 3. Associates from different flights can meet in privacy ‘airside’ and then fly on or back to where they came from and no one is the wiser for it.

Even during  the ‘rush hour’ there is still space to be hand in plenty and quiet corners can be found, meeting rooms are available as are of course food outlets, bars, business centres and the quintessential shower and changing rooms where one can on arrival, or again before boarding the onward or return flight, can make oneself presentable.

So when the former ‘mainstream’ airlines are now mouthing off and to an extent are staring at Emirates, Qatar and Etihad like the proverbial rabbit stares at the snake, it is probably time to examine and re-assess service levels and the service quality vis a vis such airlines and get even or better instead of exhibiting a sulking mood. And as an advert in Kampala tells ‘why go East first when you can go West directly’ – sometimes there are amply and convincing reasons to do just that. Few would after all consider flying to a European airport for such meetings but willingly consider Dubai which beckons on the horizon with superior facilities and often double daily flights from most regions of the world.

A case to ponder about while travelers watch, wait and decide which of the contenders is really going to be the next ‘world’s favourite airline’.

Uganda news update – President submits list of ministerial appointments to parliament


President Museveni made his cabinet announcement yesterday with a number of significant changes, entrusting key ministries to women who now hold 10 of the total of 29 cabinet ministerial seats including such portfolios like Finance, Health, Education, Trade, Energy, Information, President’s Office and Gender. The list has been officially submitted to parliament for the mandatory vetting of ministerial candidates, a legal requirement and the preserve of parliament to clear or reject candidates. Due to travel more details will be submitted upon my return from safari.

It was also learned that government intends to triple power subsidies for the coming financial year to cushion the population against rises in the cost of electricity before the new hydro electric power plant at Bujagali goes into production with a first 50MW output, due to rise over the next year to 250 MW output when fully installed.


Seychelles aviation news update – Emirates set to recruit more Seychellois



As the award winning national airline of Dubai moves from its present 12 flights per week between Dubai and Mahe to double daily in the very near future, Emirates is also making good of a commitment made when announcing the upping of its frequencies, that they would employ substantially more Seychellois citizens for a range of positions. This started with the promotion of two Seychellois in their Victoria office, where Lisa Chetty was promoted to Finance and Administration Manager for the Seychelles while Denise Rassool has taken over as Sales Manager. The two are pictured above when the announcement was made yesterday.

On 11th June Emirates will hold an ‘open day’ for young Seychellois intending to make a career in the aviation industry at the Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Resort, when officials and recruiters from the airline’s head office in Dubai will be at hand to lay out career plans and then select suitable applicants for a full interview. Those young Seychellois selected will then undergo the full training course as flight attendants in Dubai and will be based there as expatriate staff. This according to a source in Mahe provides exciting prospects for the many who will be getting the ‘nod’ from the recruiters and help the archipelago to further provide job opportunities for those who have completed their education programmes but also for others wishing to switch to more lucrative jobs.

Currently some 55 Seychellois are already working with Emirates in positions from ground staff, cabin crew and even B777 captains and this number may double once the current recruitment exercise has been completed.

Well done to Emirates on this occasion and all the best to the applicants for their ‘appointment with fate’ in two weeks time.


Seychelles aviation breaking news – Etihad to join other Gulf airlines on Seychelles route



Information was confirmed overnight that Etihad, the national airline of Abu Dhabi, has also decided to add the Creole Island Paradise of the Seychelles to their list of destinations.

From November 01st Etihad will fly initially four times a week with an Airbus A 320 to the archipelago, joining the double daily flights by Emirates and the now daily flights by Qatar Airways.

Etihad’s decision was greeted with enthusiasm by the island’s tourism and business fraternities and warmly welcomed by the Seychelles Tourist Board.

Almost 1.100 seats are being added from November each week, helping the archipelago to fill beds in new resorts now coming on line and becoming more visible around the world as Ethihad will start to market their new destination.

The recent Royal Honeymoon as driven interest in the Seychelles to near frenzy levels, as not only British couples but couples from all over the world are now seeking to ‘copycat’ the young Royal’s honeymoon choice and North Island, the actual location of the honeymoon, appears to be awash with enquiries.

Abu Dhabi, part of the UAE and seat of the Presidency of the UAE, has in recent years become  a strong partner of the Seychelles, and business links and investments on the archipelago have grown in leaps and bounds, with a warm friendship also developing between the Ruler of Abu Dhabi and the President of the Seychelles James Alix Michel.

An entire range of holiday options is now being prepared to be launched by Etihad Holidays, giving a variety of choices of different levels of accommodation in different islands.

Ethihad’s Airbus A 320 will offer 16 premium seats and 120 economy class seats on the route and will operate as flight number EY 621/2 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, although the airline left their option open to add more flights as market demand takes up the available seats.

Rwanda aviation breaking news – Rubavu / Gisenyi new domestic RwandAir destination


The national airline of Rwanda has now set the inaugural flight date for Rubavu / Gisenyi, their second domestic destination in Rwanda, for 02nd of June, at which time they will commence 4 weekly flights. The destination is only a ‘stone throw’ away from the border with the Congo DR, the nearest town being Goma only a few miles distant.

The operation will connect the capital city of Kigali with the municipality of Rubavu / Gisenyi and passengers can look forward for a swift – just over 20 minutes by air only – and safe journey every Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. The airline will use their Bombardier Dash-8 for the service and arrival and departure times are coordinated to allow for onward connections with other RwandAir flights to regional and continental destinations.

Happy Landings!

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