Weekly tourism news round up from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region – Second edition February 2011

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Twitter: @whthome

Blog: www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com

Second edition February 2011

 

Uganda News

LAKE FERRY RESUMES OPERATIONS

The Ministry of Works and Transport finally conceded that serious errors were made in the past agreement they had signed with a private sector company to run and maintain the ferry. Built by government and paid for with taxpayers money the ferry was to address serious safety and scheduling concerns the public had in regard to transportation from the mainland to the Ssese Islands on Lake Victoria, and indeed the maintenance work for the vessel got delayed more and more, having been taken out of service in August last year. Inspite of repeated assurances that the ferry would return to service – and as predicted here – it took until late January to complete the engine overhaul, undergo a special maritime inspection at the Tanzanian lake port city of Mwanza and then final clearance from the Ugandan authorities, before services resumed earlier this week.

Government is presently operating the vessel directly and inspite of rising protests from regular ferry users has already given notice that they intend to re-privatise the service, albeit under a better contract to avoid the protracted wrangles which had emerged between the operators and the ministry.

There seems broad agreement amongst regular traders and visitors to and from the islands that government should retain the operation outright, to ensure fair tariffs, regular operations, keeping the mandatory insurance cover intact and assuring observation of all required safety measure.

Lake accidents happen regularly on the many Ugandan lakes, often claiming double digit numbers of casualties due to poor training of crews, lack of safety and communications equipment and regular overloading.

 

UWA SUPPORTS LAKE MBURO COMMUNITIES

Over 177 million Uganda Shillings were yesterday handed over to communities living outside the Lake Mburo National Park by the Uganda Wildlife Authority as part of their mandated gate receipt sharing scheme. The funds will be used to complete projects the communities had agreed with UWA in the past to improve the lives of those living near the park, so that tourism benefits can percolate down to those who otherwise often just see the tour vehicles rush by but otherwise rarely see ‘something in return’.

Revenue share is part of the provisions of the Wildlife Act under which the authority operates and hundreds of millions of shillings have in the past been shared with communities all over the country living around ‘protected areas’.

 

Kenya News

NEW EMBRAER E190AR JOINS KENYA AIRWAYS’ FLEET

 

A brand new E190AR (advanced range) was delivered to the Kenyan flag carrier recently, bringing the total of their Embraer aircraft to now 6 – with more expected in due course. The new airliner, equipped with ‘in-seat screens’ for the inflight entertainment of passengers, offers 9 business class seats and 86 economy class seats as per the configuration chosen by KQ. The aircraft is being deployed already on the routes from Nairobi to Kigali, Bujumbura, Lusaka and Maputo, giving superior inflight comfort to passengers.

 

Tanzania News

RESORTS ACCUSED OF LITTERING AND POLLUTION

The Zanzibar Association of Tour Operators has during the recently concluded annual general meeting made a range of allegations towards a number of resorts and private residences along the island’s beaches. The asked government to take corrective action against open disposal or rubbish, littering and pollution of the ocean’s water through the discharge of untreated runoff water and sewerage from resorts, hotels and private residences located at ocean front.

ZATO reportedly now has 37 full members and is a designated counterpart in the dialogue between government and the private sector, facilitating the regular exchange of views and working hand in hand to achieve orderly growth for the sector. The AGM was formally opened in the presence of the Zanzibari Vice President in a show of support for the organisation and to commit future cooperation at the highest levels of government.

 

LOW FARES BY FLY540 RATTLE TANZANIAN COMPETITION

The recent introduction of flights between Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s Indian Ocean port city, and Mwanza, the Tanzanian Lake Victoria municipality, has hit the market with a ‘bang’ as the fares charged by Fly540 are reportedly as much as 50 percent lower than the ones demanded for by for instance Air Tanzania. While Precision Air, which incidentally is preparing for an IPO on the Tanzanian financial market, is downplaying the competitive threat, Air Tanzania, struggling as it is against its financial expiry, seems more concerned about the latest entrant on the domestic market in Tanzania. Left with reportedly only one operational aircraft the erstwhile national airline has seen its fortunes plummet, its markets taken over by Precision – and now Fly 540 overtaking it too and been subject to a range of allegations over financial dealings, exposed by WikiLeaks documents in recent weeks.

Considering the cut throat competition on the Kenyan domestic market, where of late Kenya Airways has gone on a major marketing offensive for their routes between Nairobi to Mombasa and to Kisumu, which has already led to the takeover of EASAX by Fly540, it will be interesting to see how competition will play out on the Tanzanian market. Watch this space.

 

PRECISION AIR RETURNS TO BUKOBA – LOOKS AT EXPANSION

The rise of Precision Air to the level of a quasi national airline – in view of the decline of Air Tanzania over the past year – has brought new connections to the Tanzanian travelling public. It was learned earlier in the week that Precision has resumed their scheduled services linking Mwanza with its ‘opposite number’ Bukoba once again, the two lake side municipalities being separated by Lake Victoria. As reported here, when Precision phased out their Let 410 aircraft the Bukoba aerodrome was not equipped to handle the larger ATR 42, but with a runway extension now completed and the general facilities of the Bukoba airport upgraded, flight operations with the larger aircraft are now possible. The ‘maiden’ flight to Bukoba was incidentally operated by an ATR 42 with the fitting name ‘Bukoba’ to the delight of the crowd and officials from Bukoba greeting the ‘inaugural’ flight.

At the same occasion the company’s top management also confirmed that they were expecting the delivery of a leased B737, allowing them to ‘spread their wings’ across the wider region with flights to Johannesburg, Pemba and Nampula in Mozambique, Moroni in the Comoros, Lubumbashi in Congo DR and Lusaka in Zambia.

Precision Air’s key shareholder is Kenya Airways but an IPO has been scheduled already during which the present owners will divest  an initial 30 percent to be floated on the Dar es Salaam stock exchange, which will allow Tanzanian individuals and businesses to share in the success of Precision Air, give them greater financial strength and cement its present market position as Tanzania’s leading airline. What a success story it has been up to now and only the sky is the limit for future and further growth and expansion. Watch this space.

 

LEGAL CASE AGAINST PRECISION AIR TERMED ‘FRIVOLOUS’

A case filed in the Tanzanian High Court in Dar es Salaam a few days ago, against the country’s leading airline Precision Air over an alleged claim of about 230.000 US Dollars, has been called ‘frivolous’ by regular aviation observers in Tanzania. Due for a hearing on the 11th February, when undoubtedly more light will be shed on the validity and origin of the claim – the lawyers of the plaintiff have refused to answer any questions – the case was brought by a local company reportedly acting on behalf of a German firm. The case appears aimed to get a court order to wind up Precision Air and an advert placed by the plaintiff’s solicitors in the local media was inviting third parties with an interest to support their claim to come forward within a week prior to the court hearing.

Reliable sources in both Kenya and Tanzania however did point out that the timing of the ‘case’ is indicative of the plaintiff’s thinly concealed attempt, to throw the proverbial spanner into the works of the imminent IPO, the shareholders of Precision Air were planning to launch shortly, as the Dar es Salaam stock exchange would likely have to halt the process while ‘winding up proceedings’ were before court, and only restore the IPO to the market once the case has been resolved.

There is wild speculation what or who in fact may be behind this legal case, timed with the final stage ahead of the planned IPO, and most speculation goes into the direction of attempting to cause maximum damage to Precision Air’s reputation – which if true and proven could make for yet another interesting case in court, should Precision Air seek legal redress and compensation.

Kenya Airways, presently holding some 49 percent in the airline, is according to past information aiming to reduce their share to about 30 percent after the IPO has been launched, but sources from Nairobi have maintained that the commercial cooperation between the two airlines would not only be maintained but more likely increased further in coming months and years.

Precision has in past years become Tanzania’s number one airline – partly due to the rapid decline of national flag carrier Air Tanzania, but also because of the well planned fleet and network expansion, which saw several brand new ATR aircraft join the fleet over the past few years. The airline connects all major airports in Tanzania with the commercial capital of Dar es Salaam and also operates regular flights into the region, many of which are code-shared with Kenya Airways.

Watch this space as the case unfolds.

 

TAA FAILS TO CONNECT TAXIWAY TO NEW HANGAR

The 5+ million US Dollar maintenance hangar, built by Precision Air and due to be ready by latest March this year, will most likely have to stand idle for some time longer as the Tanzania Airports Authority, responsible for the management and infrastructure at Dar es Salaams’ Julius Nyerere International Airport has failed to make good on their commitment, if not duty, to link the new hangar with an access to the main taxiway.

Precision Air over the weekend made their frustration known when conducting a guided tour for the Minister of Transport of the new facility, prompting the minister to shake his head in disbelief according to an eye witness, before promising some immediate follow up. Said the same source to this correspondent: ‘just imagine, Precision is now the main Tanzanian airline, invests over 5 million US Dollars in a maintenance facility which is supposed to create high value jobs for Tanzanians and keep foreign exchange in the country by doing heavy maintenance at home instead of flying their aircraft abroad, and the airport authority is sleeping and not linking the new building with the rest of the airport to allow planes to be taxied or towed there. At times I think this company is being systematically sabotaged by envious and backward forces who do not understand the nature of aviation in today’s economy.’

Another regular source from the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority would only confirm that they were made aware of the problem but was unable to give a time frame when the hanger would be connected with a taxiway so that it could commence maintenance work, as the oversight was with TAA and not TCAA.

Only recently was it reported here that French aircraft company ATR had opted to establish a manufacturer supported maintenance base in Southern Africa, inspite of having many of their aircraft fly in Eastern Africa and there is of course now speculation if the current development had anything to do with their decision to ‘go South rather than East’ with their AMO facility.

Should indeed there be such a link between the two issues, the loss for the Tanzanian economy would be even greater, although having the hangar completed and equipped, and NOT being able to use it for some more time, will surely cost Precision a fair penny.

Said another aviation source from Nairobi when contacted on the issue: ‘that is an interesting theory and worth looking into. If there is any evidence of back room dealings and as you put it possible sabotage of Precision, it should be fully looked into and any culprits be brought to book.’

In a related article last weekend was it reported here that a legal case for a winding up of the company was brought in the High Court in Dar es Salaam, timed precisely with the final stage of the preparation for an IPO, compelling the Dar Stock Exchange to put a preliminary halt to those plans as is apparently required under law, since any company with a pending winding up petition in court cannot ‘go public’ with their shares. One too many coincidences or something rather more sinister? Watch this space for further updates.

 

RENEWED CONTROVERSY OVER HUNTING IN TANZANIA

Information was received from Dar es Salaam that government will open tenders for hunting block concessions on the 10th of February this year, when bids will become known for the now 190 hunting blocks created across the East African country. While some areas are set aside apparently for subsistence hunting of game to help feed the nearby populations – a buffalo permit for such reportedly goes for only 100.000 Tanzania Shillings while a foreign hunter has to pay almost 2.000 US Dollars for the same ‘privilege’ – others are exclusively set aside for the foreign clientele of hunting companies.

In an almost bizarre twist have in connection with the bid opening announcement a number of hunting companies complained to government that ‘there is hardly any game left’ in the areas they ‘occupy’ under their present concessions, a question a conservation source in Dar said should be directed at themselves and their ‘trigger happy clients’ in particular in areas where ‘royalty from the Mid East come in and blast away at anything which moves’. It is understood that almost two dozen such ‘empty hunting block’ owners are planning to vacate their concession in view of the cost involved to keep it up and running when in fact no more revenues can be extracted in the absence of roaming wildlife.

Government sources however were swift in putting the blame for the lack of game in some areas on the increase in poaching, itself an interesting explanation as the same government keeps singing its own praises how much they do in anti poaching measures – claims however disputed by most conservationists and CITES, which had a year ago published a damning report about the laxity in Tanzania over enforcement of existing rules and regulations and for being a convenient transiting country for blood ivory and live animals and birds from other countries on the continent. It is here in particular that Tanzania has to return to basics of wildlife conservation and allocated sufficient funding from tourism receipts to anti poaching units, both inside and outside the protected areas – a task made harder by the ongoing controversy over the routing of a new highway through the most sensitive migration area of the Serengeti, which has seemingly upset donors and development partners to a point of withholding further funding until the controversy is resolved.

At the same time did government departments published a figure of 25 billion Tanzania Shillings, earned from hunting activities during the period of July 2010 till end December 2010, ostensibly to defend the ‘benefits’ of hunting. Watch this space.

 

RED COLOBUS COLONIES UNDER THREAT IN UDZUNGWA FOREST

A report from researchers and scientists, released earlier this week in Tanzania, paints a gloomy picture over the future survival of the endemic red colobus monkeys of the Udzungwa Forest National Park. The subspecies, apparently only found in this part of Southern Tanzania, are under severe threat according to the publication, due to hunting for bush meat and reckless cutting of large swathes of these forests, reducing the habitat needed for the subspecies to survive.

The report also claims that for several years now no effective protection measures, or anti poaching operations, have been in place and that the same was true for stopping ‘tree poachers’ from cutting precious tropical hard wood for commercial sale.

Researchers and conservationists also pointed out that the Udzungwa Forest – as were others neighbouring them – were traditional water towers and that the rapid deforestation could have a potentially disastrous effect on the dams and hydro power generation depending on streams and rivers originating in these forests.

Tanzania has been under sustained scrutiny over failed anti poaching measures and the illicit trade in tropical woods but other than official denials and statements to the contrary little evidence can be found that the country is making a concerted effort to stopping these activities and bringing the culprits, their buyers and the financiers to book.

One conservation source in Arusha added this upon discussing the issue: ‘some areas lack management plans and local administration may not be aware or sensitized to the natural treasures in their areas or how to protect them, even not that they have to protect them by law. Tanzania is a big country and the more remote parks are faced with greater challenges compared to those on the Northern circuit. There is more attention on what is happening because of sheer numbers, but the lesser visited parks are lacking such publicity or international spot light. Only when researchers unearth bad things happening there do we Tanzanians often have a chance to learn about it and do something about it. Our government really needs to move from lip service to action. Saying so many percent of our land are protected is not enough when actually there is no protection in some parts. Maybe some parks could be privatised to raise more money for conservation, but considering our budget shortfalls in so many areas, what other options are there left. I think biodiversity can pay for itself, through discovery of medicinal plants for instance which can provide cures for many diseases like people to in the Amazon and careful sustainable harvesting of resources’.

Seems a tall order for all conservation minded Tanzanians ahead of them to deal with such unregulated and accelerated exploitation of resources especially ‘away from prying eyes’, adds this correspondent.

 

Rwanda News

RWANDAIR’S BRAZZAVILLE FLIGHTS SET FOR MARCH

Next month will see the launch of RwandAir’s 13th destination across Africa when flights to Brazzaville / Congo will commence. Depending on demand the airline will use either a B737 – two brand new B737-800’s are also due to join the fleet later this year – or their proven workhorse CRJ200. The flights will operated every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday and scheduled departure and arrival times can be obtained through the company website www.rwandair.com. It is understood though that arrivals from Brazzaville into Kigali will allow passengers to transit on to other RwandAir flights, into the region and as far as Dubai, which operates also three times a week via the Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa.

The Rwandan national airline is planning to launch more destinations during the course of 2011 as additional aircraft arrive to join the fleet and in order to increase direct and non-stop flights in and out of Kigali.

 

RWANDA PROMISES GREATER EFFORTS TOWARDS RE-FORESTATION

On the occasion of the official launch of the UN’s ‘International Year of Forests’ did Rwanda’s environment minister make a formal commitment, that the government in Kigali would restore the ancient forest belt across the country by 2035.

While this may for the uninformed observer sound like a long time, and a huge task, readers will be happy to note that these efforts are already underway in ‘the land of a thousand hills’ as Rwanda is also known by her friends abroad.

Making the Nyungwe Forest a national park three years ago started a process of conscious re-forestation in areas where too many trees had been cut, so as to preserve not only the significant bio diversity but also to protect the water catchment areas and enhance the micro climate.

It is also thought that more ‘productive’ measures in farming will enhance food security across the country by giving better yields, allowing alongside the closing of gaps in forests which generations ago continued across the country right into neighbouring Congo.

Rwanda is working hand in hand with key international partners to achieve her goals and has on several occasions in the past already been singled out as a shining example for others how best to safeguard the environment.

Tourism too has been enhanced by adding the new ‘products’ like forest canopy walks, hiking in forests with guides to explore the flora and fauna hitherto hidden in literally impenetrable terrain and even ecofriendly cycling tours have been introduced in Nyungwe for the more sports minded visitors. More information can be sourced via www.rwandatourism.com

 

RWANDAIR BRACES CAIRO UNCERTAINTIES

A special charter by RwandAir was operated over the weekend to airlift some 44 students back home, as the situation in Cairo and other parts of Egypt remains tense. The operation was supported by the Egyptian civil aviation authority and Cairo airport authorities – RwandAir is not flying otherwise to Egypt – and all permits were swiftly granted and the students then assembled and brought to the international airport, from where otherwise mayhem has been reported.

Once there the students were promptly checked in and the flight then returned to Rwanda to the relief of the students, their families and the entire country. Well done RwandAir, stepping in where others failed.

 

MOUNTAIN GORILLA TWINS BORN

Good news were received yesterday from a regular source in Kigali. Trackers and rangers in close contact with the ‘Hirwa Group’ have reported that one of the females, named Kabatwa, had given birth to a set of twins. This is a very rare event indeed, the last one witnessed 7 years ago in 2004 and therefore significant to conservationists dealing with mountain gorillas.

The two young babies are due to be named during the annual Kwita Izina festival, when every year in June new born gorillas are given names by specially selected invited guests. The festival, originally held ‘just for the naming’ has in the meantime grown to become a weeklong celebration of the mountain gorillas and of conservation, and seminars, workshops, lectures, sporting events and conservation activities are now part and parcel of Kwita Izina.

Sources within RDB – Tourism and Conservation, have also confirmed that special protective measures have been put into place immediately to ensure that ‘mother and babies’ are and will remain fine and that national park veterinarians have already visited the site to ascertain the status of the twins and mother. All the best of course to ‘Kabatwa’ who has undoubtedly scored a PR hit of the highest order for her ‘native country’.

 

Ethiopia News

ETHIOPIAN TAKES DELIVERY OF THIRD B777-200LR

Last weekend saw a third brand new extra long range B777-200LR join the ET fleet. Currently operating a fleet of 45 aircraft, Ethiopian has a further 34 aircraft on order, amongst them the long delayed B787 and other wide bodied aircraft from Boeing and Airbus. Two more of the B777 are due for delivery during the year 2011, to be followed by additional B737-800’s, the backbone of the airline’s Africa operation.

The maiden flight took off from the Boeing plant in Seattle, after taking formal delivery, and then routed via Washington where it picked up passengers for the non-stop flight to Addis. Also on board was a substantial donation of medical equipment and materials courtesy of both Boeing and the Seattle Anaesthesia Outreach organization, destined for the Black Lion Hospital in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Airlines, soon to formally join the global Star Alliance, is expected to substantially widen their network reach across Africa and the rest of the world and will undoubtedly proof to be a valuable addition to the other Star Alliance members by connecting passengers into our continent via Addis Ababa.

 

Seychelles News

SEYCHELLES WETLAND CONSERVATION EFFORTS ‘EXEMPLARY’

While observing the World Wetlands Day across the archipelago the Seychelles’ conservation efforts were described as a ‘model’ and example for others. The Seychelles are blessed with extensive coastal and marine protected areas, jealously guarded by a range of governmental and non-governmental agencies and organizations and the pride and joy of the tourism sector. In particular mangrove forests along the shores of some of the islands are closely monitored and guarded to protect the isles from erosion and to maintain the rich biodiversity found in such areas.

The main function to observe the global ‘day’ was graced by a number of government dignitaries, members of the conservation fraternity, members of wildlife clubs based at educational institutions and sections of the tourism industry and many participated, after the official part of the function was over, in the planting of mangrove seedlings.

Across the archipelago the celebration was marked by exhibitions, beach clean ups, tree planting and related activities bringing together local communities with the conservationists in the pursuit of a happy and mutually beneficial co-existence.

 

NEW SALES OFFICES FOR AIR SEYCHELLES

A new international ticket sales office is now fully operational at the Mahe International Airport, with extended office hours and a revamped interior reflecting the quality of service passengers come to expect when travelling with the ‘Creole Spirit’.

A new domestic ticket sales office has been re-launched too after a refurbishment, also offering longer office hours for travellers and –being on line – offering up to date information on flight departures or the occasional delays.

In a related development was it also announced that Air Seychelles inflight duty free service has been taken over recently by French company SERVAIR, also aimed to reposition the duty free product alongside improved catering and of course the new flat bed seats in business class. Called ‘Laboutik’ it is offering new brands and a new range of products for travellers on HM’s international flights.

Finally, the brand new Twin Otter DHC6-400 will make her commercial maiden flight on February 15th and many happy landings to the craft, the crew and the passengers.

 

ZANZIBAR VICE PRESIDENT HEADING FOR SEYCHELLES ‘CARNIVAL’

In an almost bizarre twist was it now confirmed that a Tanzanian delegation, led by the second vice president of Zanzibar (which has its own government alongside the union government), will be visiting the Seychelles for the ‘Carnival Festival’ in early March. This follows a public spat by sections of tourism operators, who had accused the Tanzanian government of being insensitive to their business by signing a memorandum of understanding with the Seychelles to promote twin centre beach and safari holidays a few weeks ago. They had claimed that the MoU was to deny them of clients at the expense of the Seychelles, a claim however put to rest by the positive experiences of similar MoU’s between the Seychelles and other African mainland countries, which worked out to the benefit of both partners by increasing ‘visibility’ in the global market place and showing how to combine the Indian Ocean islands and safaris on the mainland of Africa.

Clearly unperturbed by the shrill ‘concerns’ of a few the Tanzanian government went ahead nevertheless, as friendly countries ordinarily do, and agreed to send a delegation to the festival in the capital Victoria, comprising stakeholders and government officials from both the mainland and the ‘Spice Island’ of Zanzibar.

This will be reassuring to the two tourism sectors that official MoU’s cannot and will not be allowed to be derailed by short-sighted complaints from a few individuals trying to ride on outdated sentiments, when in fact it is only cooperation between African countries – especially under twin centre holiday agreements – which can drive the continent forward and help Africa to capture a greater share of tourism arrivals from key producer markets overseas.

So one and all, make a date with the Seychelles, for the carnival week or any time of the year, paradise awaits you.

 

South Sudan News

KHARTOUM ACCEPTS REFERENDUM RESULTS

News emerged earlier in the week from Khartoum that the regime has ‘recognized’ the preliminary results published by the SSRC – South Sudan Referendum Commission – which indicates a 99+ percent yes vote for independence from the North. At the same time have regime figures openly blamed the SPLM – Sudan People Liberation Movement for the now inevitable breakup of the country into two separate states, an interpretation which was met with the contempt it deserved by the Southern leadership, media and people. Suggestions that ‘it was never the will of the Southern people to split’ were in fact greeted with derision, considering the 99+ percent yes vote, a result which could have been neither rigged nor imposed on the people of the South Sudan yearning for freedom and liberty.

At the same time it was also reiterated by the North that a number of contentious issues were still under discussion and negotiation, such as the exact border lines (the North has arguably delayed and obstructed this exercise throughout the 5 year run up to the referendum), water rights, mineral and oil rights, distribution of assets and debts of the current Republic of the Sudan, nationality, citizenship and a range of other related issues. Also high on the agenda of the South are the rights of the people of the Blue Nile state, South Kordofan state and Abyei state, discussions on which are again being delayed and obstructed by the North in a blatant attempt to keep the people of these areas under continued ‘second rate citizenship’ and to hold on to the oil and mineral deposits in those areas. The Southern leadership has not ruled out to take unilateral decisions on the future of those three states, should no negotiated settlement be reached and as it has the support of the Eastern African nations in their demands for a free and fair decision process for the Africans living in the three disputed states, pressure on Khartoum will undoubtedly grow yet further to sit down and enter into honest and meaningful discussions very soon, so that when Independence Day on 09th of July comes calling, most if not all of the pending disputes have been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction and mutual benefit for a peaceful and prosperous future.

 

CURRENCY REVISION FOR BOTH NORTH AND SOUTH

Information was leaked earlier in the week that the regime in Khartoum was making preparations to recall all Pound notes as they were preparing to revert to the Dinar as the unit of currency, after the South becomes independent.

The Pound was introduced as a ‘common’ currency when the South became semi-independent after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in January 2005, but the recent massive slide in value and currency restrictions imposed on the South’s business community and travellers by the Central Bank in Khartoum did little to make the Pound a currency of choice for the South. They too are expected to introduce a new currency after Independence, for one to further national integration of the new country and the other reason being to avoid the North swamping the South with a currency which printing press they still control exclusively. Economic sabotage of such a scale would be made nearly impossible by the South equally rejecting the pound and having their own new unit coming out and there is speculation they may change to a South Sudan Shilling, in line with the currencies of their major trading partners in the East African Community. Watch this space as more details emerge in coming weeks.

 

NEW CAPITAL FOR NEW COUNTRY?

Reliable sources in Juba, the present capital of the autonomous region of South Sudan, have given a stronger indication than ever before that a new capital city may become reality after independence has been achieved on the 09th of July this year.

Juba, also the state capital of Central Equatoria State, is located on the river Nile where one of the rare bridges spans the river and where an international airport – albeit due to technical constraints only operating during day light hours – connects the city to Nairobi, Entebbe, Addis Ababa but also to Khartoum.

Soon after the CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement) was signed in January 2005, the Government of South Sudan was set up in Juba, although at the time there were persistent rumours, at least while ‘the father of the South Sudan nation’ Dr. John Garang was still alive, that the capital might be moved to Rumbek. Over the years though the investment in infrastructure like roads and in particular government buildings, were significant in Juba and it is only in more recent days that the idea of a new capital has re-emerged, probably as a result of major investment projects failing to secure enough land in the area around the present capital.

However, the new plans gained momentum when the South Sudan cabinet, aka ‘council of minister’ last Friday agreed to seek a new place for a new capital city ‘somewhere in the South’ – with presently only speculation fueling the rumours where it could be set up. It is however likely that a more geographically central location may be favoured to make access to a new capital easier for the populations of the presently 10 states but ultimately it will be the cost of construction and moving the capital which may be the deciding factor when it comes to making such an important decision.

Said one regular and very senior source in Juba: ‘yes, we know about cost issues and maybe private public partnership can come in and take care of some portion of the required finance. But then land in Juba is a big issue and the state (Central Equatoria) has been somewhat slow in facilitating the settlement of industries, manufacturing etc and as a central government our objective must be the good of the entire nation and not just one state alone. Investment is important for the future of our new country and land is a big issue when it comes to find investors from abroad. Our land is traditionally owned by our communities and we need to find ways and means to find solutions and compromise between them and the need for land for agriculture and other projects. You in Uganda, and elsewhere in East Africa, you have had years of peace to find investors with big projects, but for us it is new, we must give them reasons and facilitate the many issues investors seek assurance on before they bring big money in here. Constructing a new capital would be an opportunity for investment, but give us some more time, we only just had this principle decision taken and we need to study all the aspects of it, finance, land, time frame, infrastructure like roads, rail, airport but also hospitals, schools, hotels and so much more. There will be a team looking at all of this and more and when the time comes we will tell our neighbours and the world what we have decided to do.’

In closing, this is both exciting news but also cause to ponder and many of those who invested over the past years in Juba will probably scratch their heads and begin to wonder what such a decision might ultimately mean for them – a viable new alternative for additional investment, the ‘downgrading’ of what they have invested already, the creation of a ‘white elephant’ as other inland capital cities built after independence have become or the start of a bright new future with great momentum for the new country, the Republic of South Sudan. Time will tell, so watch this space.

 

 

And in closing once more some interesting material taken from Gill’s ‘The Livingstone Weekly’, including some more harrowing stories from Zimbabwe where Mugabe’s goons are now targeting the tourism industry:

 

From All Africa

www.allafrica.com 

Zimbabwe Tourism Minister saddened

Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi will always rue the day rowdy Zanu PF supporters invaded tourism properties outside Harare last week. The incident could not have come at a worse time than when the Zanu PF legislator was busy trying to woo tourists at an international convention in Spain.  Zanu PF activists from Zvimba district invaded boating clubs and tourism lodges around Lake Chivero, claiming their activities were part of the indigenisation programme.

A rowdy crowd of more than 200 activists flying Zanu PF flags and chanting the party’s revolutionary songs sealed off more than 20 properties, claiming they were the new owners.  The original owners were blocked from getting out of the premises while visitors were denied entry on the pretext that the properties were closed for business to sort out some “office issues”.

Mzembi last week told The Standard how he, unaware of developments back home, successfully launched an ambitious rebranding campaign called “Zimbabwe: A World of Wonders”, aimed at wooing Western tourists back to the country.  The following morning, he woke up to the news of the invasion that spread like a veld fire.

Shocked by the contrast between what Mzembi had said at the launch and reports from home, some delegates at the 31st anniversary of the International Tourism Trade Fair approached the minister demanding answers.

“I felt very stupid and very sad at the same time,” Mzembi said in a wide-ranging interview.

“However, the world does not care less and it is us who are shooting ourselves in the foot.

Meanwhile … from Eye Witness News (www.eyewitnessnews.co.za)

While top Zanu-PF officials have apologised for the invasions of lodges on Lake Chivero last weekend, President Robert Mugabe’s nephew has vowed to continue. 

This after youths carrying portraits of the Mugabe invaded the lodges and a bird sanctuary on Harare’s Lake Chivero last Friday. Law enforcement officers were called to intervene over the weekend.  
 

ZIMBABWE CONSERVATION TASK FORCE         

POACHERS KILL 7 RHINOS 

In the past two weeks, 7 rhinos have been killed by poachers. Last year, 22 rhinos were killed and this year has not started well with 7 dead already.

5 rhinos were killed in the Matopas National Park just outside Bulawayo and 2 in Ruware Ranch near Chiredzi. Both areas are intensive rhino protection zones and the poachers are using rifles with silencers or poison to kill the rhinos. The Director General of National Parks, Vitalis Chadenga stated that there is evidence that the poachers are well resourced and from syndicates outside the country and are working in cahoots with unruly local elements. Investigations have revealed that communities living adjacent to conservancies are harbouring poachers and in some cases, former members of the police and army have been found poaching or assisting poachers.

 

LIONS STARVING

44 lions are on the verge of starvation on a farm near Masvingo. The owner of the farm, Ronnie Sparrow was forcibly evicted by former ZANU PF Provincial Chairman, retired army major, Alex Mudavanhu. It has been alleged by a farm worker that one of the lionesses ate her cubs to stave off her hunger. National Parks are doing their best to feed the lions with meat from Carswell and Montana abattoirs but are facing constant challenges transporting the meat to the site. The conservation veterinary trust, AWARE together with VAWZ immobilized the 44 lions and treated them for ticks, fleas and worms. They also gave them vitamin injections and treated several nasty injuries. There is a critical shortage of drinking water for the lions and AWARE is appealing to the public for assistance in piping water from Lake Kyle which is 900 metres away.

 

THANK YOU

Finally, we would like to thank the following people who have recently assisted us with funds: John and Helen Buckle, Hugh Atkinson, Claire Ives,Terry Paul-Edwards, Neil Okrent, Samantha Vieira

Johnny Rodrigues
Chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force

Namibia to create a new ‘mega’ National Park

4th February 2011

From www.wonderlust.co.uk 

Creation of the new National Park will leave Namibia with the eighth largest conservation area in the world

 

Namibia, winner of the Top Country awards at the Wanderlust Travel Awards 2011 yesterday, has announced it is to open a ‘mega’ Naional Park.

Once the park is officially open Namibia will boast the world’s eighth-largest conservation area – comprising four adjacent parks that, to put into context, are larger than Portugal in total.

The new park, to be named Dorob National Park, will stretch from the Skeleton Coast Park’s southern border to the Northern tip of the Namib Naukluft Park.

Tracy Lederer, Product Manager for Namibia at Expert Africa said, “We are delighted with this news. The decision to protect this central area of the coast will help to preserve this unique environment. Namibia is one of the most switched-on countries when it comes to conservation, and this represents another impressive environmental initiative from its government.”

THE BULLETIN

Newsletter of  THE ZAMBEZI SOCIETY http://www.zamsoc.org

The Zambezi Society is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation working to promote the conservation and environmentally sound management of the Zambezi River and its basin for the benefit of wilderness, wildlife and people.


DEVELOPMENTS ALONG THE ZAMBEZI RIVER AT MANA POOLS

The Zambezi Society has been seeking clarification from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority on proposed developments in Mana Pools along the shoreline of the Zambezi River.   The situation is still unclear.  In September 2010, we were formally advised, along with other stakeholders, that there were four proposed riverside developments… then there was one only… and now there appear to be two in the offing. 

The Society has continued to insist that the recommendations of the existing (but still unratified) Mana Pools Management Plan be adhered to… i.e. NO further developments should be allowed along frontage of the Zambezi River, in order to protect the special ecosystem of Mana’s alluvial terraces and to retain the wilderness quality of the tourism experience along the river.  

Meanwhile, in January 2011, a visiting delegation from UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee was tasked with inspecting Zimbabwean and Zambian development and mining proposals in the area, to assess their potential impact on the World Heritage Site and report back to the world body.  Their visit unfortunately coincided with the rainy season and, as a result, conditions prevented them from accessing some of the more remote and relevant sites.  However, The Zambezi Society is pleased to report that we were able to meet with a member of the delegation and brief him on our views regarding development proposals on both sides of the river and on possible impacts to the World Heritage Site and Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve.  We await the outcome of the UNESCO deliberations.

 

   The World’s 10 Most Threatened Forest Hotspots

As UN Marks 2011 the International Year of Forests, Conservation International Highlights Forest Ecosystems on the Edge of Collapse.  

To mark the occasion, Conservation International, highlighted the ten most at-risk forested hotspots around the world. These forests have all lost 90% or more of their original habitat and each harbor at least 1500 endemic plant species (species found nowhere else in the world). If these forests are lost, those endemic species are also lost forever. These forests potentially support the lives of close to one billion people who live in or around them, and directly or indirectly depend on the natural resources forest ecosystems provide.

The World’s 10 Most Threatened Forest Hotspots are: Indo-Burma, New Zealand, Sundaland, Philippines, Atlantic Forest, Mountains of Southwest China, California Floristic Province, Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa, Madagascar & Indian Ocean Islands and Eastern Afromontane.

 

%d bloggers like this: