Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean report Third Edition April 2010

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

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Third edition April 2010

Uganda News

NEW BOSS FOR UGANDA TOURISM

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

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

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

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

NEMA’S CAPACITY QUESTIONED

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

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

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

OIL COMPANIES COME UNDER SCRUTINY

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

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

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

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

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

FLY 540 EXTENDS ALL INCLUSIVE FARES TO NAIROBI

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

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

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

RIDICULOUS AIRLINE CHARGES RULED OUT IN EAST AFRICA, FOR NOW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KARUMA CONSTRUCTION TO START IN JULY

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

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

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

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

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

4G COMING TO UGANDA

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

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

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

ICLANDIC ASH CLOUDS FALLOUT REACHES EAST AFRICA

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

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

TRAVELLERS ‘STUCK’ AS FLIGHTS REMAIN ‘AWOL’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

this article from the Kenyan Daily Nation

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

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

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

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

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

EAC CLARIFIES ON PASSPORTS

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

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

Kenya News

FLASH NEWS – CARGO CHARTER LEAVES NAIROBI FOR AMSTERDAM

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

KENYA AIRWAYS SPREADS THEIR WINGS YET MORE

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

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

NEW GUIDE BOOKLET AWAITS TOURISTS AT MOMBASA AIRPORT

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

PARLIAMENT PUTS DOWN FOOT ON KAA

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

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

GREEN ENERGY THE WAY FORWARD

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

NO VAT ON CRUISE SHIP SERVICES

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

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

WORLD BANK TO PAY FOR CONSERVATION PROJECT FALLOUT

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

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

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

Tanzania News

MORE TREMORS AS ‘OL DONYO LENGAI’ STIRS AGAIN

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

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

TANZANIA ELECTION DATE SET

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

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

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

Rwanda News

RWANDAIR ADDS TWO B737-500 TO FLEET

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

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

KIGALI TO HOST CONTINENTAL INVESTMENT MEETING

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

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

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

Southern Sudan News

RAILWAY COMING BETWEEN UGANDA AND SOUTHERN SUDAN

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

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

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

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

VOTING ENDS IN SOUTHERN SUDAN

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

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

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

Seychelles News

NATIONAL HERITAGE WEEK IN PROGRESS

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

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

AIR SEYCHELLES FLEET UPDATE

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

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

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

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

ANTI PIRACY SURVEILLANCE TO MOVE CLOSER TO SOMALIAN SHORES

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

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

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

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

CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ELECTIONS CHALLENGED

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

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

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

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

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

AIR SEYCHELLES PROVIDES EXEMPLARY SERVICE OVER ‘ASH DISRUPTIONS’

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

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

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

Sun International Zambia scoops

Best Hotel Stand at ZITE

Produced by Sun International Zambia April, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sinazongwe Road

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

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

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Third edition April 2010

Uganda News

NEW BOSS FOR UGANDA TOURISM

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

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

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

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

NEMA’S CAPACITY QUESTIONED

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

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

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

OIL COMPANIES COME UNDER SCRUTINY

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

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

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

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

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

FLY 540 EXTENDS ALL INCLUSIVE FARES TO NAIROBI

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

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

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

RIDICULOUS AIRLINE CHARGES RULED OUT IN EAST AFRICA, FOR NOW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KARUMA CONSTRUCTION TO START IN JULY

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

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

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

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

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

4G COMING TO UGANDA

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

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

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

ICLANDIC ASH CLOUDS FALLOUT REACHES EAST AFRICA

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

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

TRAVELLERS ‘STUCK’ AS FLIGHTS REMAIN ‘AWOL’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

this article from the Kenyan Daily Nation

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

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

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

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

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

EAC CLARIFIES ON PASSPORTS

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

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

Kenya News

FLASH NEWS – CARGO CHARTER LEAVES NAIROBI FOR AMSTERDAM

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

KENYA AIRWAYS SPREADS THEIR WINGS YET MORE

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

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

NEW GUIDE BOOKLET AWAITS TOURISTS AT MOMBASA AIRPORT

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

PARLIAMENT PUTS DOWN FOOT ON KAA

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

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

GREEN ENERGY THE WAY FORWARD

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

NO VAT ON CRUISE SHIP SERVICES

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

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

WORLD BANK TO PAY FOR CONSERVATION PROJECT FALLOUT

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

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

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

Tanzania News

MORE TREMORS AS ‘OL DONYO LENGAI’ STIRS AGAIN

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

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

TANZANIA ELECTION DATE SET

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

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

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

Rwanda News

RWANDAIR ADDS TWO B737-500 TO FLEET

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

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

KIGALI TO HOST CONTINENTAL INVESTMENT MEETING

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

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

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

Southern Sudan News

RAILWAY COMING BETWEEN UGANDA AND SOUTHERN SUDAN

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

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

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

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

VOTING ENDS IN SOUTHERN SUDAN

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

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

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

Seychelles News

NATIONAL HERITAGE WEEK IN PROGRESS

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

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

AIR SEYCHELLES FLEET UPDATE

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

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

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

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

ANTI PIRACY SURVEILLANCE TO MOVE CLOSER TO SOMALIAN SHORES

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

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

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

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

CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ELECTIONS CHALLENGED

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

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

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

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

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

AIR SEYCHELLES PROVIDES EXEMPLARY SERVICE OVER ‘ASH DISRUPTIONS’

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

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

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

Sun International Zambia scoops

Best Hotel Stand at ZITE

Produced by Sun International Zambia April, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sinazongwe Road

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

3 Comments

    1. Hello there, not sure about sweet, but at least honest … all my previous columns and articles appears on the Africa Travel Association web magazine and on eTN, but I have now started, after much prodding from ‘followers’ to put my weekly material on a blog site. Thanks for visiting

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