Archive for November, 2011

Kenya news update – Financing pact for ‘Southern Bypass’ signed between Kenya and China

The Peoples Republic of China has yesterday signed the financing deal with the Kenyan government to begin the process of constructing a southern bypass around the city, which will run nearly 30 kilometres from the citys outskirts along Mombasa Road, giving through traffic to the Rift Valley and beyond the long awaited escape route. Traffic in Nairobi is a nightmare at best of times and roads are turned into massive parking lots at worst of times, so the new highway will bring much needed relief to commuters streaming daily to the Central Business District, as well as the heavy vehicles in transit across the city from the port of Mombasa, for which the same traffic nightmare persisted for too long.
Chinas financial outlay through soft loans will be nearly 17 billion Kenya Shillings, covering some 85 percent of the expected cost of the project, while the Kenyan government will have to find the balance to make the project a reality.
Only last year was it reported here that the World Bank had pulled out of the deal, citing incompatible partnerships in connection with the winning company of the tender at the time. New tender documents are presently being prepared and adverts for expression of interest are expected to go public by latest mid December, so that the process to select a main contractor can be sped along and construction commence as soon as possible.
It is understood that environmental and conservation groups are monitoring the process carefully and have expressed their concern that the Nairobi National Park might be hemmed in making migration already greatly reduced as it is all but impossible in the future, as the route cuts across the crucial wildlife corridor across the Athi Plains. Watch this space.

Kenya aviation news – KAA CEO faces ‘contempt of court’ charges over destruction of homes

Institutional arrogance and contempt for the people whose lives dreams he helped destroy two weeks ago when demolition teams wrecked hundreds of homes worth hundreds of millions of Kenya Shillings, are likely to claim the first victim, as the Managing Director of the Kenya Airports Authority by some now called the damaging director will face contempt of court charges.
The High Court in Nairobi had issued orders back in September, preventing any demolition of residences and properties on what is clearly disputed land, claimed by developers as well as the KAA, which incidentally stood by idle while these developments and construction were ongoing, but the Provincial Administration with heavily armed forces shielded the bulldozer teams and opted to disregard court orders.
If found guilty of such contempt of court charges, Mr. Stephen Gichuki could be facing more legal action to find him personally, but also the KAA liable for the damages, which could potentially bankrupt the Kenya Airport Authority, and him individually too, as the latest speculation is that combined damages might run into more than a billion Kenya Shillings. Whichever way the principal case is going though, which is to determine ownership, perceived ownership, possession and the legality of evictions, the barbaric destruction of hundreds of homes left a sour taste in the mouths of Kenyans and once again showed the arrogance and impunity of the Kenyan government when dealing with such issues, in the face of existing court orders. Watch this space as this unsavoury saga continues to raise political heat and fallout.

The Somalia conflict – Al Shabab, a killer of people but also a killer of the environment

When Kenyan troops entered Somalia in hot pursuit of Al Shabab operatives, who had staged several abductions of foreign nationals from Kenyan territory and constantly engaged in cross border raids into refugee camps or against Kenyan military and security outposts, they found moon-like landscapes, bare of forests and trees.
While tropical forests, protected by law, extend on the Kenyan side of the common border with Somali right down to the Indian Ocean, across the frontier in Al Shabab controlled territory the cutting of trees for profit through charcoal exports exposed the level of moral, ethical and political corruption within the Al Shabab leadership. They clearly are ready to sacrifice not just human lives for their misguided concept of life under their draconian stone-age rule, but also show their contempt for the environment and long term ability of the land to survive, protect biodiversity and maintain natural balance. While across the East Africa region re-forestation is on the cards, to restore water towers and maintain suitable micro climates, in Somali, under Al Shabab (mis)rule, these aspects of global concerns clearly mean nothing, a dead giveaway of their bankrupt minds and visions, more so as the civilized world meets in Durban to discuss measures to combat climate change, while Al Shabab is engaged in measures to support and accelerate climate change.
Of course, these radicals, who regularly behead the innocent for as simple an offense as not wanting to fight for them, or are known to stone women to death for having been raped by members of their own militias and then daring to complain, have total disregard for environmental concerns, as became evident after Kenyan troops liberated large tracts of Somalia, formerly under Al Shabab occupation.
When the former pirate and militia haven of Ras Kamboni fell to the advance of the liberation forces, the full extent of the environmental destruction became evident, after more than 500.000 bags of charcoal, ready for export, were found in the harbour. Al Shabab reportedly extracted taxes from charcoal dealers to the tune of half a million US Dollars a month in Ras Kamboni alone, before allowing the essence and foundation of life and survival in the wider area namely the forests to be converted into wood fuels and exported to the Arabian peninsula where ready markets, knowingly or unknowingly, helped to finance the militias from Saudi Arabia over Yemen to the Gulf states of Oman, the UAE and beyond.
Benefitting not just from the proceeds of piracy, aka ocean terror, but also from the environmental destruction of Somalia on an unprecedented scale, raises the parallels with the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which tacitly allow the production of drugs, to finance their ill intended activities there too.
Other ports en route to Kismayu are said to have equally large charcoal consignments in store, waiting to be exported, adding urgency to the coalitions growing demands to impose a total sea and air embargo on Somalia, to disrupt trade which benefits the militias by giving them income and economic clout.
Meanwhile have the stakes been raised though with the re-entry of Ethiopian troops into Somalia, a development predicted here when Kenya first crossed the border. The AU force, comprised of mainly Ugandan and Burundian troops, now coordinates their movement with their Kenyan and Ethiopian allies and troops loyal to the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu and are pushing from at least three fronts against the various militias and war lords to extend greater central control over the war-torn and lawless country.
However, there are emerging indications that this coordinated action has activated the covert support by the regime in Khartoum, which is rumoured to use a recently opened new road between North Sudan and Eritrea, incidentally financed by Qatar, to open a new supply line after the Eritrean ports have come under increased surveillance by members of the naval coalition. Eritrea itself has been reported by Kenya to the UN Security Council over allegations of having flown supplies to Al Shabab and in fact continuing to send supplies by sea and air in the face of an existing embargo. Ethiopia is also closely monitoring Eritrean proxy groups as well as their common border, and has used its latest entry into Somali to attempt and wipe out rebel bases inside Somalia, which have long been used to stage cross border raids, again allegedly supported by the Eritrean government, which has become an outcast regime in recent months and years.
The advances from all sides towards the Al Shabab capital of Kismayu is progressing at the moment, though hampered at times by heavy rainfall, leaving the militias in what hopefully is the final fight for their own lives. Staring at defeat on the battle field will likely be causing their attempted withdrawal by sea across to the Arabian peninsula where in particular in Yemen friends are ready to give them shelter and time to regroup. En route though will be members of the naval coalition waiting for them at sea as well as the eyes from the skies, which can be used to engage them and destroy them before reaching safe shores across the Gulf of Aden.
The question though, if Al Shabab is deliberately engaged in a policy of burnt earth to leave uninhabitable large tracts of land behind, should they as expected be driven into the ocean by the combined onslaught of coalition forces, will have to wait for an answer for some more time, while the evidence of their environmental crimes unfolds with every further mile the Kenyan troops push towards Kismayu. Watch this space.

East African Community Summit expected to turn down Khartoum’s membership application

The spat earlier this week between the regime in Khartoum and the government in Nairobi, which blew up when the High Court in Nairobi issued instructions for an arrest warrant against North Sudans regime leader, wanted by the International Criminal Court, alongside several of his henchmen, for alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes, has proved to be the nail in the coffin for their application to join the East African Community. Uganda and Tanzania had already made it clear that they would categorically oppose the application and Kenya is now equally miffed after the Kenyan Ambassador was given marching orders by the regime in Khartoum. There are however more fundamental reasons for rejecting this particular application, as for one the now separated state shares no borders with any EAC member countries, a crucial requirement for joining. In addition, the constant repression of womens rights, the application of Sharia law in contrast to civil law across the East African Community, language barriers and incompatible goals have also been cited as reasons for rejecting the application, giving the new country of South Sudan reason to smile, especially considering the recent military aggression by Khartoum in territories claimed by the South. Ethnic cleansing is in progress in such regions as Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where the populations aspire towards freedom and liberty from a slave like regime with bombings by the Sudan Airforce also reported inside South Sudans territory, facts which will not go unnoticed by the Head of State Summit in Bujumbura this week. Said a regular source from Juba: We have observers in Bujumbura and are lobbying that our own application is being entertained. We are Africans, we are part of East Africa, we spent years in exile in Kenya and Uganda before the CPA in 2005 and Khartoums most recent actions, militarily as well as boycotting us economically, have combined with the expulsion of the Kenyan Ambassador to shut the door in their face. Such a regime does not belong in the civilized community of East Africa and they have to fundamentally reform from top to bottom before they should be considered. In fact the world should take notice of the brutal oppression of Africans in Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile where they are driven off their land in the tens of thousands to ethnically cleanse those areas to prevent a yes vote for freedom and liberties when their referendum time finally comes. Harsh words but well deserved adds this correspondent in closing.

Uganda aviation breaking news – JET A 1 fuel runs out again at Entebbe

In another stunning development has Entebbe International Airport once again run out of jet fuel, causing airlines to implement emergency planning measures to find fuel enroute to or from Uganda. Tomorrows South African Airways flight has already been scheduled to fly home to Johannesburg via Nairobi, to take fuel on board there, and other airlines too are said to be scrambling to liaise with their flight operations departments to either carry additional fuel on board when coming to Entebbe, a costly proposition considering the added weight, or else having to incur the cost of technical landings en route to refuel for a flight to the final destination.
Aviation sources have expressed their anger and frustration with Shell, but also with the Ugandan Civil Aviation Authority, which licenses the fuel depots operators and managers, for again failing to avail enough reserves of jet fuel. Other sources from the Kajjansi airfield, regular sufferers of Shells erratic supplies of AVGAS, have opted not to comment, which in itself is comment enough of what they think of Shell and Totals professionalism and ability to do their jobs right.
That said, another source close to the regulators in Entebbe, made no sense when saying: with all the new flights coming to Entebbe now it is a bit of a problem to have enough fuel, especially considering that it is the very CAA which is promoting Entebbe as an airport of choice and has finally been managing to bring in new airlines, only to see them suffer by finding no fuel, for the umpteenth time. Frustration galore plus passengers upset for the added time needed to land elsewhere in search of fuel, potentially causing missed connections at the other end of a flight. Watch this space!

Seychelles aviation news update – Helicopter Seychelles, back in the skies and there to stay


The recent return to the skies over the Seychelles archipelago by Helicopter Seychelles has according to the companys CEO Capt. Shaun Tinkler-Rose already made a difference through medical evacuation flights at night, which the airlines Agusta helicopter is capable of performing. In a communication received through a regular source on Mahe the airline executive had this to say: Weve been absolutely delighted with your response to our re-launched services and the support that has been proven by bookings. For that, we thank you so much! The 24 hour service with Medevac backup at night has proven itself very successfully a few times already within the Agusta fleet, obviously this was a service that was severely lacking here in the Seychelles in the past. Consequently after judging the current market we can now refine our published rates to reflect the actualities that have emerged from our first few weeks of operation. The NEW Charter Rates document setting our specimen prices for main routes has been very well received. You will note that our Bell 206 JetRanger prices remain competitive, these have been tweaked to be a little lower as you may notice. Furthermore we are pleased to bring our prices for the night-flying twin-engine Agusta 109 into a range which is more accessible to a greater number of potential consumers. This should help with a service that is needed in the Seychelles and should not be only for a limited few. We are now entering a period of consolidation bringing in more pilots and specialist staff. We have also begun a dialogue with helicopter manufacturers to supply us with new larger machines to expand our existing services and we are planning to launch these new helicopters into our service in the medium to long term, but please bear with us as this will not happen overnight. Well keep you posted! We are also looking into something completely different watch this space? We are committed to achieving fair pricing and an unparalleled customer service, then maintaining it. We listen carefully to your concerns and have structured much of our new service around your requests. Please continue in feeding back your ideas (good or bad) to us. With thanks again for your support, and kind regards.
The news about the relaunch of Helicopter Seychelles, after the breakup of the earlier merger with Zil Air, was reported here a few weeks ago and it is rewarding to see how the company has once again established itself firmly in the Seychellois skies. Happy Landings!

Seychelles tourism news – Abu Dhabi embassy launch and inaugural Etihad flight to Mahe make front page news


The start of flights between Abu Dhabi and the Seychelles by national airline Etihad, combined with the official opening of a new embassy by the archipelago for the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi, a few days ago prompted one of the Gulfs leading newspapers to publish an extensive supplement, plus making it headline news on the front page, that The Seychelles have arrived. The supplement in particular raised the profile of the archipelago as one of the worlds greatest island destinations and will, beyond a doubt, help to fill seats on the 4 weekly flights by Etihad from Abu Dhabi to Mahe.
A beaming Alain St. Ange, Chief Executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board, was needless to say at hand to witness the opening of the new embassy, notably making specific reference in his address to the placement of a tourism attache amongst the missions staff. Almost two years ago, in January 2010, when launching the tourism ambassador scheme, he also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Seychelles foreign ministry, paving the way of progressively placing qualified staff in key missions abroad as tourism attaches and this, combined with a whirlwind marketing and media campaign, which started then and is still gathering strength as it goes along, has raised the profile of the Seychelles in new and emerging tourism markets. The Seychellois citizens abroad, appointed as tourism ambassadors are working hand in hand with STBs tourism offices abroad and the marketing staff back at the Bel Ombre offices of STB, strengthened by the presence of the new dedicated attaches in key regions of the world.

The event was further enhanced by the presence of President James Michel, who actually holds the portfolio as Minister of Tourism, signifying the importance the Seychelles government attaches to the sector, which has generated more investment, more jobs and more foreign exchange earnings than fishing or trading, the other two main pillars of the archipelagos economy. Wherever President Michel travels on official missions abroad, the tourism sector is part of the delegation, leaving no opportunity to promote the Creole hospitality and the unique attractions of the islands, where over 50 percent of the country is dedicated to nature conservation. Seychelles, truly Another World.

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