Weekly roundup of news from the Eastern African and the Indian Ocean region – Third edition April 2011

TOURISM, AVIATION AND CONSERVATION NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

A weekly roundup of reports, travel stories and opinions by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Get daily breaking news updates via Twitter @whthome or on my blog: www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com

Third edition April 2011

 

HAPPY EASTER AND HAPPY PASSOVER TO ALL MY READERS

 

EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY SUMMIT DISCUSSES INFLATION CRISIS

The current rise in commodity prices and the cost of fuel made its way on to the agenda of the Head of State Summit of the East African Community, where the presidents will discuss a strategy to combat price rises, and the cost to their national budgets of such an intervention. The entire region is suffering from the sharp increase of global crude oil prices, triggered by the political chaos in several oil producing countries in North Africa and the Middle East, and the fallout has been sharp and swift, as rising transportation cost continues to drive food prices up. Combined with poor harvests as a result of a severe drought in parts of Eastern Africa basic food prices for maize, matooke and other staple foods consumed in the region have skyrocketed and this has led to the populations having to tighten their belts even more, providing a fertile ground for political incitement.

In Uganda opposition (mis)leaders attempted to use the economic hardship scenario to incite the population but with limited success so far, as the ringleaders found themselves swiftly arrested and charged in court over a series of public order offenses committed by them. They are thought to be in league with a section of the media which’ reporting too borders on incitement, but worse, they have apparently also managed to spread their evil gospel to neighbouring countries where security organs are now preparing to deal with demonstrations in very much the same way as the Ugandan police has done in recent days.

Kenya has meanwhile reacted first in lowering excise duties and taxes on fuel to cushion the most recent rise by about 11 cents a litre, against which motorists already protested, while Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania are still mulling over what measure they will take, if any, to head off a further rise in inflation, which has galloped into the double digit figures in much of the region within the last month.

Unions from across the region are said to be in touch with each other to coordinate demonstrations and strike action is planned too, as demands for immediate wage increases have already been voiced by union activists.

The oncoming Easter season has brought plenty of tourists into East Africa, leaving lots of money behind, but with the onset of the low season after the Easter weekend earnings from tourism too are due to drop before business traditionally gets back into gear by July. However, should demonstrations and the almost inevitable violence inflicted alongside by political hooligans and criminal looters make global headlines, the East African destinations may well get into the ‘bad books’ of tour operators, as anti travel advisories – often said to be the bane of the East African travel industry – will quickly spring up and spread their wings.

What is clear is that this global economic phenomenon will need to be dealt quickly and lessons learned during the meltdown of 2007 / 2008 have to be applied, mainly that global cooperation will be needed to get inflation under control, spur food production to eventually lower the prices of these commodities again and bring stability to oil producing countries to end panic buying and market speculation.

The East African Community Summit’s results and declarations due out later this week will give a hint which way governments in the region intend to go and it can only be hoped that the can agree on combined and coordinated responses to deal with these challenges. Watch this space.

 

Uganda News

EGYPT AIR GETTING BACK ON COURSE

A regular source at the Egypt Air Kampala office was excited over the weekend, telling news that the airline had just taken delivery of a 6th brand new Boeing B777-300ER, which were ordered four years ago.

Instead of deferring delivery of the long range jet the airline took delivery via an international leasing company specialized in aircraft leases, an early indication that traffic levels have started to claw back, albeit slowly, to pre crisis levels.

Said the source: ‘We are happy to hear that we got a new aircraft. Here in Uganda we fly 3 times a week and we are always hoping that eventually we can go daily from Entebbe to Cairo. We are a Star Alliance member and our service levels are good, connections out of Cairo are growing to many new destinations. New modern aircraft also help us to compete favourably and Uganda is also an important market for air freight to and from Egypt. Finally the crisis is over and we are moving again so please tell the good news to everyone.’

Egypt Air flies into the region, also covering Kenya and Tanzania, although they recently halted their twice a week flight from Cairo to Juba. Traffic for MS came to a near standstill when Cairo was under curfew and crews and ground staff were unable to make it to the airport for their flights, but as the situation in Egypt has started to normalize so have traffic levels for Egypt Air.

Happy landings for the new ‘bird’, the crews and the passengers flying in the future on this latest B777.

EASTER SPECIALS NOW HIT THE MARKET IN FORCE

With just a week to go to the long Easter weekend are leading hotels and restaurants in Kampala, Jinja, Entebbe and other municipalities advertising their hearts out with special offers chasing special offers, to attract customers towards their buffets, while resorts and safari lodges are reaching the point where enquiries are politely turned down with a ‘sorry we are fully booked’ response.

City hotels in Kampala like the Sheraton, the Serena and a few others have even offered special long weekend packages, with free newspapers, access to their Spas and sports facilities and a huge breakfast buffet included in the price, something worth considering too if only to get away from having to make beds, cook and wash up at the end of the day.

Traditionally expatriates and many Ugandans are taking their families to the national parks and the safari lodges inside and outside the parks, to enjoy a few days away from the hustle and bustle of hectic the city life.

Rafting trips from Jinja down the Nile, now actually commencing from below the Bujagali hydro electric plant, have been booked up too and prebookings for horse riding, bungee jumping, quad biking, cross country biking and ‘river boat float’ trips are all described as ‘heavy’ too.

Across the border in Kenya, ‘The Pride of Africa’ has put a 3.000 Shillings all inclusive one way fare on the market for domestic ‘tourists’ to fly in style from Nairobi to Malindi and Mombasa, and beach resorts too are reporting heavy bookings, as do the safari lodges across the national parks.

In Tanzania the situation is quite similar, with the resorts along the main coast line, on the islands of Zanzibar but also the safari lodges and safari inns reporting ‘excellent bookings’ for the Easter weekend.

To all Easter travelers, have a safe journey, happy landings and get home safe with lots of good impressions.

 

UGANDA CALM INSPITE OF ISOLATED INCIDENTS

Stage managed and apparently media scripted events in recent days have portrayed Uganda as a country ‘in problems’ but far from it.

The ‘walk to work’ scheme by members of the opposition – not all of them it should also be pointed out – shows an intriguing affinity between sections of the media and some opposition leaders, almost as if a role play was being scripted overnight and then put onto the public stage the next morning. Certain media houses are now thought to be in covert league with sections of the opposition, trying to make headlines and to drive the country’s standing and reputation abroad into the ground.

Thankfully, government too has spotted these unholy alliances and taken life broadcasts of such ‘events’ off the air, while carrying out investigations just to what extend some ‘journalists’ are involved in making such ‘news’ rather than objectively reporting about it.

Be once again assured my friends that Uganda is not Egypt, not Tunesia, for sure not Libya and comparisons with the elections in Ivory Coast too are far from reality, as the elections here, with some flaws as every election around the world by the way, were won fair and square. At the time even opposition funded and commissioned opinion polls reflected exactly the eventual outcome and sore losers should take a hard look at themselves and their pathetic efforts to now re-write history by riding on the back of externally fuelled inflation and rising prices instead of working hand in hand with government to alleviate the daily challenges of ordinary Ugandans to make ends meet.

Tullow Oil has just paid a transaction tax of nearly 470 million US Dollars and a similar amount can be expected soon when their sale of some of their assets to other oil giants goes through, giving the government the financial ability to intervene in the market, stabilize prizes and benefit from a presently significant rise in the value of the Ugandan Shilling against the US Dollar once again, which should lower the cost of import for fuels, food stuffs and other consumer items.

Uganda is a stable country by any measure, blessed with nature’s good fortunes and a friendly people. Our national parks and game reserves, inspite of environmental and conservation challenges – and here of often differ with the powers that be on the way forward, and have not been arrested or interrogated for it – are worth visiting and any efforts to portray, leave alone turn Uganda as a ‘problem country’ is bound to fail.

Come visit, enjoy your stay and be assured that the few trouble seekers will not spoil the party.

 

SOFT POWER EDUCATION PRESENTING ‘MURCHISONS’ TREASURES’

The Jinja based Soft Power Education, instrumental in the rehabilitation, expansion and upgrading of local schools through tourist visitors’ contributions and volunteer work, will this Friday evening make a presentation at the Uganda Museum, unveiling ‘historical treasures’ about Murchisons Falls National Park. Starting at 18.00 hrs the opening function is expected to last until about 21.00 hrs and Soft Power Education’s founder and main lady Hannah Small and Ms. Kara Blackmore (Murchisons Project Museum Curator) will be making remarks and giving explanations about the material they unearthed, shedding light on the lengthy history of this national park where the only major waterfalls of the Victoria Nile can be found.

In regard to Murchison, SPE has this to say on their website:

In partnership with the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA), SPE is now bringing conservation to the classroom in geographical areas of specific environmental threat, in particular the region in and around Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP) We are refurbishing schools in these areas, establishing conservation education centres and providing local children with their own opportunity to enjoy the uniqueness of the area on overnight safaris. As an organization, which has evolved rapidly, we continue to constantly look for new ways for working in partnership with communities to establish sustainable opportunities through education.

Visit www.softpowereducation.com for more details on the wide range of projects this extraordinary NGO is involved in and how you can assist them to do yet more for the underprivileged in Uganda. It is also appropriate here to congratulate Hannah Small for being awarded an MBE by Her Majesty the Queen recently, for her committed work done over past decades and her passion to bring development to those most in need in Uganda.

 

MORE SABRE RATTLING BY EGYPT OVER NILE WATERS

Inspite of the political upheavals over the past few months, and a diplomatic charm offensive by the current government in Cairo with visits to Eastern African countries in recent weeks, there is another dimension to the now valid new Nile Treaty, after the signing of Burundi made the new deal ‘official’.

Yet, the latest information from Egypt is that the military, probably thinking longer term and more strategically than the current and probably inexperienced civilian politicians now in power, has made thinly concealed threats towards the ‘water producers’ in Eastern Africa. The army leadership reportedly instructed relevant units to ‘be prepared for any eventuality over the dispute on the Nile waters’, instantly raising the barometer in relations between Egypt and Eastern Africa, and the present water and irrigation minister echoed similar sentiments when first saying ‘we will ask the international community to intervene if Ethiopia does not reply’ after claiming that no answer was received to their expressed concerns over the start of the construction of a new hydro electric dam near the Ethiopian border with Sudan, which commenced last week. The minister wisely left the question of ‘direct intervention’ open, but had to admit that Egypt was lobbying hard around potential financiers of the project to withhold funds until the Egyptian side has asserted their authority under the old and outdates, and now superseded Nile treaties of 1929 and 1959. References to the possibility of ‘renewed regional conflict’ also did not help to calm the nerves in Eastern Africa, and Uganda for that matter is actively considering acquiring a fleet of modern military aircraft to be able to defend her airspace in case of such an ‘intervention’ as the Egyptians seem to keep in the back of their minds.

The unrest in Egypt could hence not have come at a worse time, leaving the army there to ‘hold the bag’ and left without political oversight and a strong hand to ‘guide’ them, they might well be capable to acting irrationally over the Nile waters, claiming ‘vital national interests’ and jump the proverbial ‘gun’ in the process without an assertive political leadership in Cairo to stop them..

The new dam in Ethiopia is expected to hold some 62 billion cubic metres of water, which while filling up when the dam is completed will somewhat reduce the flow of the Blue Nile. This branch of the river, when reaching the confluence with the White Nile in Khartoum, adds more than 2/3 of the entire water mass to the river, as it flows downstream. Watch this space as the Nile water saga continues to erupt back into the forefront of reporting.

 

DEAD ELEPHANTS FOUND IN FOREST RESERVE OUTSIDE QENP

Unsettling news came to light overnight that several dead and apparently poached elephant had been found in a national forest reserve outside the Queen Elizabeth National Park, although staff from the National Forest Authority and the Uganda Wildlife Authority appear to differ on the number. Be it as it may, whether there were 8 as claimed by NFA rangers or only 4 as claimed by UWA, the fact that poaching is happening even on that scale is alarming and unsettling, and if left unchecked could pose a growing threat to wildlife based tourism in the country.

Across Africa’s safari destinations have reports emerged that poaching of elephant, rhino and other species for ivory, trophies and skins, but even bones have hugely increased in the recent past, ostensibly driven by the greed and hunger in the Far East and South Asia, where governments do little to stop the trade by imposing new legislation on possession of illegally poached wildlife items from Africa.

Parts of Northern Uganda have of late been in the spotlight when information emerged on the soaring trade in ‘bush meat’ and thankfully the security organs working hand in hand with UWA enforcement and intelligence units made a number of arrests, but such news coming from the tourism hubs in the South West of the country must be ringing the alarm bells.

Several suspected poachers have been arrested by various security forces and are in custody while other cases are now pending in court undergoing prosecution or awaiting verdicts. Watch this space.

 

NEW TOURISM MASTER PLAN IN THE OFFING

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Ambassador Onen, has spoken out on the sectoral development, which in the recent past was marred by discontent and squabbles between public and private sector. While admitting that lack of sufficient funding was to blame for much of the woes of the Uganda Tourist Board, he nevertheless focused on the future and promised to have a new edition of the country’s tourism master plan launched later this year, addressing key and long overdue issues like marketing, human resource development – notably here there is still no covering law for the country’s sole public sector hotel and tourism training institute since being suddenly removed from the education ministry in 2008 – and also product development and refinement. While speaking to the media the PS admitted that while tourism earned an estimated 660 million US Dollars last year, services should be improved which however depended on training of staff working in the industry.

A recent global tourism report had stated that Uganda’s ranking had slipped further, with Rwanda being on top of the leader board in the region, and this was attributed to government’s failure to go beyond lip service to the tourism industry, make it a priority sector of the economy, allocated sufficient funds and ‘protect’ them similar to other key ministries, when cuts are affected. While the tourism sector for the current financial year was ‘officially’ allocated some 1.2 billion Uganda Shillings, the ‘real’ disbursement of funds is thought to be considerably less, leaving key institutions struggling to even meet recurrent expenditure and leaving little if anything for marketing, product development or the upgrade of the HTTI at the Crested Crane Hotel in Jinja.

In a related conversation yesterday with a former trade association head mention was also made about the sorry state of tourism trade associations and the apparent need – in his own words – to fundamentally overhaul both the private and public sector institutional framework to lay a new foundation on which tourism in Uganda could finally thrive. He, though wishing to be unnamed, also called for the immediate operationalisation of the tourism development fund levy and to ensure that the funds are remitted directly to a body independent from the finance ministry’s general fund, so that the sector can have the full amount collected available to run the industry. Watch this space.

 

SHERATON KAMPALA HOTEL GETS NEW SALES AND MARKETING DIRECTOR

James Rattos, long serving staff member and until very recently the hotel’s Food and Beverage Manager, has moved to take over the sales and marketing department, undoubtedly much to the relief of the Sheraton’s clientele, the sales staff and not the least this correspondent, who enjoys very cordial ties with James.

A past president of Skal International’s Kampala chapter, James is known as a dedicated ‘bee’ and everything he has done over the past decade at the hotel, since coming from Kenya, has been judged most favourably by clients and senior management, a rank he now joined with his latest promotion.

While discussing a range of innovations at the hotel it was also revealed that the business performance of the hotel, in both F&B and room sales, was ahead of forecasts and the outlook for 2011 remained positive.

The new roofed main entrance gate of the Sheraton, inaugurated on the dot of New Year, has made the arrival into the hotel much more classy and certainly more welcoming, but more substantive improvements to the outdoor grill restaurant, the main lunch and dinner venue, too has made an impact on visitors. The new raised roof and the sliding windows which keep the rain out and diners dry, has together with the new enlarged kitchen transformed the place already, tempting enough in any case to accept a long pending and very overdue acceptance of an invitation for dinner one of these days.

For visitors on business or pleasure, the Sheraton Kampala Hotel remains a favourite, for its location but also for its service and food and not to forget the crowd pulling evening programmes at the main bar especially during the daily ‘happy hour. Visit www.sheraton.com/kampala for more information.

 

NILE RIVER ACCIDENT RESCUE MISSION NOW MOVING TOWARDS RECOVERY PHASE

The latest information from Chobe Safari Lodge indicates that the wreckage of the stricken, and only recently imported river boat, has been spotted and is due to be recovered and brought back to the lodge to also provide clues and evidence in the unfolding enquiry into the tragic accident.

Sadly though, by late this morning no news of any further survivors have been received inspite of an ongoing search operation by a combined UPDF, UWA ranger and lodge staff force, supplemented by chartered aircraft searching the entire length of the river time and again between Chobe and the Murchisons Falls, as well as below the falls.

While there is still some remaining hope, it has however dwindled considerable and by the end of today the search and rescue mission is likely to turn into a recovery mission, as two of the stricken boat’s passengers are still missing. Our all prayers are with their families and friends, who remain in deep distress and have requested that the names of those missing – known to this correspondent – be withheld until certainty of their fate has been established.

A source close to the lodge has also confirmed that they will leave no stone unturned to find the two missing individuals regardless of the time needed or the cost involved.

 

MARASA COMPLETES TAKEOVER OF ‘THE ARK’ AND ‘ABERDARE COUNTRY CLUB’

Information here alluded to some months ago already has now finally been confirmed, which was bringing two prime Kenya properties into the fold of the Madhvani Group.

Following their acquisition last year of a tented safari camp in the Masai Mara, Marasa has indeed taken advantage of Fairmont Kenya Hotels wishing to scale back their presence in the Kenyan market by taking over the famous tree-hotel ‘The Ark’ inside the Aberdare National Park, which came in a package together with the base hotel ‘The Aberdare Country Club’ – a fine property near Mweiga, outside Nyeri in the central highlands, complete with its own 9 hole golf course. The club is also sporting a heated swimming pool – a necessity considering the elevation of the club – which is supplemented by a squash court and tennis courts for visitors keen to exercise their favourite sport.

More ‘down to earth’ than its erstwhile ‘noble cousin, the Mount Kenya Safari Club’ in Nanyuki which remains in the Fairmont portfolio, the Aberdare Country Club has long been one of this correspondent’s personal favourites in Kenya, as it offers nearly as many facilities as its more illustrious and better known ‘rival’ but also permits more casual house rules.

Marasa has already committed to a forthcoming refurbishment of the two added Kenyan properties, which now makes it the most successful and wide spread Ugandan hospitality business on the market. The company also confirmed that they are intent to add more properties to their Kenyan circuit in due course to establish a presence in other key tourism areas across Kenya, including the coast.

It is understood that the Kenyan government is also in the process of expanding and upgrading the airfield in nearby Mweiga, where visitors can take to the skies in gliders, or else take a ‘proper’ sightseeing flight across the central Kenyan plains and the Aberdare mountains.

Well done Marasa for doing Uganda proud and ‘reversing the trend’ by venturing into Kenya.

 

TOURISM TO BE SEPARATED FROM TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Long standing demands by the tourism industry to revert to a standalone ministry dedicated to tourism and related areas finally seem to have fallen on fertile ears, as news are firming up that the new cabinet in the making will once again, the first time since the late 90’s have a Minister of Tourism with cabinet ranking, freed from the cumbersome set up of in-house competition with the departments of trade and industry.

If this is a pointer that the powers that be have finally understood the importance of the tourism sector, and its huge potential for job creation, direct foreign investment and domestic investment, foreign exchange earnings and generally the opportunity to generate goodwill towards Uganda abroad, will remain to be seen. The forthcoming budget will undoubtedly give more concrete information just how well, or how badly, the new ministry will be facilitated and how much direct funding the Uganda Tourist Board will get, to finally get at least at level par with neighbours Rwanda and Kenya, which spend substantially more public sector money in promoting their destination overseas, and with enviable success one should add.

If controversial current tourism minister Hon. Kahinda Otafiire will remain in the portfolio, or be shifted to another position, remains to be seen, but there is hope that the recent series of gaffes by the minister may be reason enough to shift him to a less sensitive ministry where swiftly made and later much regretted utterances cannot do as much harm as it has done for the vital tourism industry.

With the anticipated split of tourism into a separate ministry the plans of a massive 60 storey trade centre at the site of the Uganda Museum may also be revisited and while the tourism ministry deserves its own building it may rather be of a smaller and more adequate and appropriate size and a different location after all.

Watch this space as the breaking news of pending cabinet appointments and ministry line up are due to be announced very soon now.

 

GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRATS TO HALT FOREST GIVEAWAY DIRECTIVE

The recent news that president Museveni had issued a directive to carve out land from the Mt. Elgon National Park to resettle several hundred families has hit a near dead end, when it became known that a group of experts, constituted by the Prime Minister’s Office, had spoken out strongly against it.

It would appear that this saga is dating back into the early 1980’s when land set aside from the then National Forest Reserve was given to influential politicians and business people, and a second such exercise again left the beneficiaries with naught and those in power with all.

It was rightly pointed out that the re-demarcation of the park was done just a few years ago, after long and protracted consultations with neighbouring communities and that it would take an act of parliament to revise the park boundaries, not likely however to muster the required majority.

Mt. Elgon is a crucial water tower for Eastern Uganda and illegal logging is already having an influence on previously permanent streams turning into seasonal water veins, while illegal land occupation and poor farming methods have increased the risk of further catastrophic landslides. A fissure of over a foot wide has in recent months opened up along a stretch of over 40 kilometres inside the park, after a section of the forest was illegally cleared, and with water retention now compromised the soil of a lower layer is now said to gradually liquefy and act almost like soap, causing the upper layer to slowly begin to slide off over a wide area.

Notably, again it is politicians aiming at garnering support by promising land who have triggered the latest round of demands for carving up the park, but this time at least brought to a halt when existing government policies prevailed – for now that is.

 

WINDOW SHOPPING ELEPHANT POISONED

The female elephant, recently risen to fame when pictures were published in the Uganda media about walking along the Katunguru roadside stores, was apparently poisoned and found dead. Local shop keepers are suspected to have had a hand in the elephant killing, robbing tourists of a magnificent attraction, being able to come fairly close to the unsuspecting animal. Named ‘Mary’ she was raised by Marcel Onen, erstwhile assistant to the founder of the Uganda Conservation Foundation Mike Keigwin.

A  Uganda Wildlife Authority official not wishing to be named spoke off the record and had this to say: ‘this is a bad day for conservation in Uganda. UWA will be hunting those responsible and people in Katunguru who depend on tourism and the money brought to the community by foreign visitors, will help us to find the killers. This is not just poaching, this was a deliberate killing by someone who was not happy to see this elephant walk casually along the Katunguru road. Other law enforcement too is now involved and they are carrying out investigations. We expect the culprits to be identified soon and brought to justice.

Poaching for bush meat is prevalent in some parts bordering national parks in the North of the country but in the South West, where tourism is a major factor in local economy, poaching for trophies has reduced considerably although it remains a real threat to wildlife managers.

Mary the elephant was also often seen near the Mweya Safari Lodge where she equally entertained tourists with her trusting behaviour, seeking the close affinity of people.

 

STATEMENT ABOUT CHOBE BOAT ACCIDENT

Chobe Safari Lodge arranged a third familiarization trip for 26 local Travel Agents on 9th- and 10th April 2011. The purpose of the tour was to create awareness of the new property and its facilities, to enable the Travel Agents to promote the Lodge with more insight, and at the same time promote their businesses.

The agents were split into groups for the Boat Ride on the Nile River, and the last group of 5 agents, as well as the coxswain, left for a sunset cruise on the boat at 5:30 pm.  This particular boat is a brand-new, double hull, vessel – built to the highest standards in South Africa, fitted with all flotation devices and life-jackets.  As per our standard operating practice, the coxswain informed all the passengers about the safety procedures and instructed them to wear life-jackets.  Unfortunately, during the launch trip, the propeller of the boat hit some submerged rocks and the engine stalled. The coxswain immediately threw out the anchor, but failed to stabilize the boat as the area had many rapids.  The unusually strong river currents made the boat unstable, thereby throwing all on board into the river. 

When the boat had not returned to the Lodge within the short trip-time of 30 minutes, the Lodge management informed the Madhvani Group’s Director of Tourism Operations, who immediately contacted both the army and the police at the highest levels. The Lodge also contacted the Uganda Wildlife Authority.  All of the concerned authorities were very co-operative and responded quickly.

As the coxswain is an experienced swimmer, he managed to swim to the river bank. With the help of Uganda Wildlife Authority staff, the Chobe Lodge team used the two other boats available at the Lodge for the night search mission and managed to rescue two passengers – one person at 10:00 pm and another gentleman at 2:00 am in the morning.

Both police and army rescue teams arrived Sunday morning.  The search party included Madhvani Group staff with a military helicopter, together with another helicopter rented by the Madhvani Group, as well as two motorized boats, 3 canoes, and experienced divers.  After intense search efforts of this remote area, they identified one lady by her life jacket and managed to rescue her at midday on 10th April 2011.

All of those rescued are safe and sound, and are back with their families.

Two people are still missing, but it is possible that they may be stranded on one of the small islands or on the river banks. The search and rescue exercise continues. The Lodge are using a hired helicopter as well as a plane for this purpose, and have also hired rafting experts, Nile River Explorers, from Jinja to join the rescue team.  UWA staff also have patrols searching the river banks.

Meanwhile, the family members of the missing are waiting at the lodge and have requested that the names of their loved ones are not released.

The Madhvani Group expresses its gratitude to both the army and police teams as well as the UWA staff for their prompt reaction and action amidst this unforeseen circumstance.

 

Kenya News

GULF AIR PLANS RETURN TO NAIROBI

A regular aviation source in Nairobi has confirmed that Gulf Air is planning to return to Kenya by mid year, apparently with an initial four flight a week. The same source also confirmed that the airline will use an Airbus A320 with a dual configuration of business and economy class.

Gulf used to fly to all East African countries but was progressively pushed to the wall in terms of market dominance, when other airlines came to the region in force, while at the same time the erstwhile shareholders of Gulf Air progressively withdrew from the airline to form their own national carriers.

Considering the number of frequencies Emirates and Qatar Airways are already operating from Nairobi to the Gulf, the presence of Oman Air and of course the flights by Kenya Airways, it remains to be seen if a four flights a week strategy will yield the results Gulf is hoping for. Air Arabia only recently announced they would go ‘daily’ too, making it a challenge for the ‘returnee’ to make a success out of their new route.

In a related development it could not be confirmed at short notice if Gulf also has plans to return to Entebbe and Dar es Salaam, and with which airlines in the region they intend to sign commercial agreements to feed and de-feed to their Nairobi flights. Watch this space for the most up to date aviation information from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region.

 

KENYA AIRWAYS PARTICIPATES IN ‘PLANT A FUTURE’ PROJECT THIS WEEKEND

Staff and friends of Kenya Airways are involved this weekend in the planting of 250.000 tree seedlings as part of their annual ‘Plant a Future’ tree planting day at the Ngong Hills, outside the capital Nairobi. The Pride of Africa has been participating in this conservation event since 2007 and remains committed to play their part, alongside other leading commercial organizations and conservation groups, to help fund the exercise.

Forest cover in Kenya has shrunk to a lamentable 2 percent of the entire country and the Vision 2030 hopes to restore a further 8 percent of Kenya’s terrestrial area to forest cover, bringing it to a projected 10 percent overall. Other stakeholders involved in this initiative included engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce which has used its “engineering expertise to reduce aircraft fuel burn by 70 per cent and noise by 75 per cent, The Coca-Cola franchise in Kenya, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the Ministry of Forestry, Kenya Forestry Services, the University of Nairobi’s Forestry Department, Rotaract Clubs from around Nairobi and the local community.

The ‘Plant-a-Future’ initiative was originally launched in April 2007 and has so far seen over 500,000 indigenous trees planted in the Ngong Hills Forest. This year, a further 250,000 trees have been planted bringing the total to 750,000 trees. The Ngong Forest ecosystem is also a crucial water tower for the capital city, which supports most of the rivers and springs that feed into Nairobi. It has suffered extensive damage in the last 1 ½ decades due to illegal logging, wild fires and encroachment, thereby compromising the water supply to city residents. In order to fully recover the Ngong Hills need a total of over 3 million newly planted trees but planting can only be done during the rainy season to ensure that the seedlings planted actually take root. Well done Kenya Airways and everyone else participating and ‘donating’ a weekend to volunteer.

 

KENYA TO BECOME VISA PROCESSING CENTRE FOR 25 COUNTRIES

Nairobi was reportedly selected as the operations base for a widened presence in Africa by Visa International according to media reports from Kenya. The South African office of Visa, which has looked after the company’s interests in sub-Saharan Africa, will in future deal solely with South Africa while some 25 countries will be served by the new Nairobi office.

The use of credit and debit cards in East Africa is most advanced in Kenya itself, while in other countries added fees and charges make the use of ‘plastic’ by tourists and business visitors difficult and expensive. While some banks in Uganda have now started to issue ‘branded’ Visa cards, both debit and credit, the market penetration is low, as is across much of the region. In Southern Sudan, also to be served from the new Visa office in Nairobi, it is well near impossible to find acceptance of credit cards and only banks like Kenya’s KCB are in a position to assist card holders, while ATM’s are not available at all there – leaving out the crucially important ‘cash points’ for foreign visitors.

Electronic payments in Kenya, at petrol stations, shops, restaurants, hotels are common these days, not only meeting the security demands to carry less cash but also encouraging spending – wait till the bills come – and the infrastructure with remote terminals connected by mobile phone technology has  expanded across the entire country. Here too the new Visa office has to meet challenges to roll out such technology in other Eastern, Central and Southern African countries and time will tell just how fast success will come. For now though, carrying enough cash and travelers cheques is wise when visiting Eastern Africa and planning to travel beyond Kenya.

 

LACK OF WATER IN LAMU MAY PREVENT MEGA PROJECTS

The ancient town of Lamu is presently suffering a worsening water crisis, affecting sections of the population but also businesses like restaurants and hotels. Wells which in the past supplied fresh water, have been overexploited due to the rising population numbers and have gone ‘salty’, making them unfit for future use until natural rehabilitation has taken its course.

A leading conservationists involved in the struggle to keep the historical heritage of Lamu and its environs intact and who was involved in a more recent saga to rescue mangrove forests and wetlands from developers, had this to say: ‘I think this proves an important point we have made time and again. Lamu as it is now finds it difficult to sustain the number of people living there. Construction of a huge port and other infrastructure requires a lot more people and there is simply not enough water available for more. Constructions uses even more water, running a port would require a lot more water. Right now there is not enough for Lamu residents. How will thousands of extra workers find water. The plans of government are not thought through, they have forgotten that there are limited resources in Lamu and mega projects like a harbour and all the added buildings and roads and infrastructure cannot be sustained if there is no water. We are sad about thousands of people struggling daily to find water to cook and other domestic uses but we are also happy that this happens before thousands more are sent here to start building. Even building contractors will now see that when they put in bids and tenders, they have a big problem here. They might under the circumstances not be able to actually work here’.

Adds this correspondent that desalination is of course an alternative, albeit an expensive one, but unless and until people already living in and around Lamu have enough water, there is not much of a chance to actually break ground and start the planned mega projects any time soon. Reprieve for Lamu, for now.

 

KENYA IN FINAL STAGE TO FREEZE GADAFFI’S ASSETS

The Grand Regency Hotel in Nairobi, acquired by Gadaffi’s Libya under most controversial circumstances a some time ago, is bracing itself to have the ‘Laico’ in the name taken off, as has happened with hotel investments already in Rwanda and Uganda.

Information came to light over the weekend that Kenya is in the final stages of compliance with the UN’s Security Council resolutions freezing the assets of Gadaffi, his family and cronies abroad, where they have invested much of their ill-gotten wealth stolen from the people. Kenya was initially reluctant to comply with the directives of the UNSC but probably ‘saw the light’ in the face of being told the consequences of defying the decision of the UN’s key forum, while also risking damage to bilateral relations with key trading partners in Europe, should the country try to stick to this untenable position.

The Grand Regency would be the most visible Libyan asset and the potential freeze has already brought advocates of change into the fray, who demand not only full disclosure of the circumstances of the deal Kenya made with Gadaffi over the hotel, but want it reversed so that a proper bidding process, assuring maximum yield for the privatization, can be initiated. Other Libyan assets in Kenya are notably in the petroleum industry where the entire Mobil network was taken over in 2007. Watch this space.

 

VINTAGE AIRCRAFT DELIVERED TO MOMBASA AIR SAFARI

Capt. Johnny Cleave, CEO and principal owner of Mombasa Air Safari, took delivery earlier in the week of a vintage DC 3 ‘Dakota’ aircraft at the Moi International Airport in Mombasa. The airline bought the plane outright albeit with assistance of a bank loan for the purpose.

The pre World War II aircraft, first flown in 1935 and over 16.000 of these planes were built and put into civilian and military service. MAS’ version is fully restored and avionically upgraded with state of the art equipment, and will be a magnet of attention as it will from now on conduct sightseeing flights as well as flights to the country’s national parks with tourists from the coast, eager to experience being in a vintage plane. The slightly ‘enlarged’ version of the plane will carry up to 32 passengers in ‘standard’ airline seats and also features two modern turboprop engines which will keep operating costs under control.

Registered as 5Y-WOW, the wow effect will undoubtedly help to market the plane and keep it busy in the air with good payloads. Happy landings to the plane, the crews and all the future passengers on board.

 

KENYA AIRWAYS DECIDES FOR B787 AFTER ALL

In what appears to have been a well executed role play, using discussions with Airbus to obtain ultimately the very best deal from Boeing in regard of compensatory concessions for to the extraordinarily long delay of the delivery of the first of 9 B787 Dreamliners, has Kenya Airways finally announced this afternoon that ‘Boeing it is’. Kenya Airways initially signed for 9 Dreamliners with a further 4 options over 5 years ago in 2006, but had counted to have the new fuel efficient and larger B787 already in service, to substitute against the less economical and smaller B767’s which have for long formed the backbone of the long haul fleet of KQ, besides their larger ‘sister ship’ the B777.

Information received from ‘The Pride of Africa’ just now talks of the first delivery of a B787 by the last quarter of 2013, but no one would be surprised if Boeing, saddled with a multitude of problems with the aircraft up to this point, would miss that delivery deadline too by a few weeks or months.

While announcing the re-confirmation of the contract with Boeing the airline’s CEO Dr. Titus Naikuni also spoke of plans to fly to every major African capital by 2013, using the modern new aircraft to allow the planned network expansion across the continent, which now forms the backbone of Kenya Airways’ revenue generation, for both passengers and cargo.

Remaining an almost exclusive Boeing operator – KQ also has a fleet of Embraer 170 and 190 for regional operations where smaller aircraft than the B737 are needed – will also take care of the in house maintenance at the airline’s base in Embakasi / Nairobi, which is fully geared towards all major maintenance work, including heavy maintenance, for their Boeing fleet.

 

VISA FEES TO REVERT TO 50 USD

Confirmation has been received from Nairobi that Kenya will return to the pre-crisis 50 US Dollar per person Visa fee effective 01st July, partly to raise additional income but also in response to the intransigence of other East African countries to either follow suit or else finally agree on a common East African visitor’s Visa.

The latter has for the past 10 years been toyed with and deliberated over with little progress, causing foreign tourists to pay Visa for each country they visit in the region, effectively suppressing demand for wider regional visits beneficial to all member countries of the East African Community.

Said a senior tourism stakeholder in Nairobi: ‘after the crisis in 2008 and considering the impact of the economic meltdown at the time, we decided to lower our Visa charges to 25 US Dollars per person. In addition we offer free ‘re-entry’ for tourists for instance going to Uganda for gorilla tracking and then come back to Kenya. However, our neighbours stuck to their 50 US Dollar charge, some even calling us ‘spoilers’ when all we were interested in doing was to attract tourists back to Kenya with good package costs.

We also feel that some EAC members are trying to sabotage efforts to have a common Visa for foreign tourists when coming to the region, but even SADC is now moving fast towards it. The Caribbean has a similar joint Visa regime and other regions have also introduced such schemes, all aiming to bring more tourists to a specific country and then also visit the neighbours. So at last we had to face up to this and decided that from midyear, when the high season starts again, we must return to also charging 50 dollars. We hope that the growing demand for Kenya can help us to see potential visitors ready to absorb this added cost and we will assess the impact after some months’.

Kenya, assisted by such measures, has experienced the best year ever in tourism arrivals and revenues in 2010 and hopes to set a new record in 2011. Watch this space.

 

AFRAA DEMANDS BETTER CONTROLS OVER ACCESS OF FOREIGN AIRLINES

The African Airline Association has renewed calls to African government to be more careful when entering into open skies agreements and granting foreign airlines traffic rights, including 5th freedom rights. The Nairobi based organization demanded that African governments promote closer cooperation between their own airlines, which were struggling with undercapitalization and old equipment, while foreign carriers – ostensibly meant towards the Gulf based carriers – were largely state enterprises with almost open ended credit lines by their political masters. AFRAA has for long advocated to strengthen African airlines and work more closely together in all aspects of operations, including maintenance, purchasing and training. Said one regular aviation source in Nairobi about the topic put to him: ‘There are a handful of airlines in Africa which have made a success. Kenya Airways, Ethiopian, South African are the first to come to mind and Egypt Air will overcome their present challenges without doubt. Then there is Royal Air Maroc which also is making an impact but on the downside airlines in West Africa, since the demise of Air Afrique, have struggled. Now those which are successful are nevertheless victims of their own government’s generosity towards those Gulf airlines which are now flying across Africa. They take traffic from African airlines by means which are not properly controlled and regulated. ET, KQ and SAA should look at cooperation but belonging to different global airline alliances has not made that task easier. They compete against each other but sometimes it seems they are more looking at each other than the external threats to their survival. I think AFRAA’s initiative, recurrent as it is, must be supported. Still, considering the cut throat situation here in Kenya on the domestic routes, will our African airlines ever learn that together they are stronger than individually?’

In closing does this correspondent ask: will African airlines, apart from a handful of success stories, become mere niche carriers to feed / de-feed for the big league global giants and what impact will this have on the aviation development of the continent, where the absence of road and rail infrastructure in many countries still makes air transport the only viable way to go places, domestically and continentally.

Watch this space.

 

Tanzania News

AVIATION STAKEHOLDERS SAY NO TO SWISSPORT’S DEMAND FOR MONOPOLY

Recent public utterances by Swissport representatives about the competition over ground handling contracts met with stiff resistance by other stakeholders. Swissport holds a near monopoly at Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere International Airport and was alleged to have maneuvered behind the scenes, using their influence, to prevent  Precision Air from attaining ‘self handling status’. This nevertheless was granted in the end, leaving Swissport to ponder the wisdom of their strategy, but the fall out of losing the Precision Air handling did leave a deep hole in their statistics and pockets. Their demands however that the Tanzanian government and the Tanzania Airport Authority reconsider the ongoing liberalization process of permitting more competition for ground handling met with immediate retaliatory statements from those companies Swissport wants to keep away from their traditional ‘eating grounds’. Competitors were up in arms about this blatant attempts to restore and retain a monopoly, which one regular aviation source in Arusha comment on: ‘Swissport’s handling charges were amongst the highest in the region before competition was allowed. Like the charges at Kilimanjaro International Airport, where KADC has a monopoly, this has stifled aviation growth. Trying influence peddling to keep Precision Air from handling their own flights is also not right but at least those guys succeeded and now Swissport is crying wolf. Aviation in Tanzania needs internal liberalization, and I am not saying let a dozen companies handle flights, but at least permit two competitors to Swissport, so that quality and price can be the factor on which we decide who gets our business. I also agree with your question that many bureaucrats in our country are still stuck in the command economy era as you put it and they need to change also. Today is different from the 70’s, then the economy failed Tanzania and we cannot risk the same again. Nairobi has many handling companies, Entebbe has two, well one and a half sort of, and ground handling charges are now a big part of airline expenses besides the fuel and the regulatory charges for landing, parking and navigation. It is right airlines stand up and demand from government and the TAA to deny the Swissport request’.

Concludes this correspondent that the aviation sector’s handling by the Tanzanian government and its relevant authorities remains nebulous at best and requires a strategic re-think if the sector is to live up to its full potential.

 

EAC HEADQUARTERS ‘ON COURSE’

The construction of the new East African Community headquarters in Arusha, near its present location at the International Conference Centre, is reportedly on course, with staff excited about the prospects of leaving the array of rented accommodation and moving into one purpose built new complex.

The building is financed with a grant from Germany and will, when complete, also allow a further expansion of the East African Community beyond the present 5 member states. Southern Sudan, becoming independent on 09th of July this year, has already indicated that they will apply for membership soon after becoming Africa’s youngest nation, and Ethiopia and Congo Dr are also reportedly mulling over a decision, still weighing the pro’s and con’s of joining Eastern Africa’s strongest trade block.

The EAC has promoted regional integration from the economy towards a political union too, and while much work is still to be done, discussions have advanced to the establishment of a single currency and the free flow of goods, services and people across the entire region without the trouble of having to cross national borders.

Expected to be ready by the last quarter of this year, the EAC will also then offer museum space where the history of the current, and the ‘original’ East African Community will be on display. Few know that the integration of East Africa under the first EAC, which collapsed in early 1977 due to political differences between members states and the meltdown back then in Uganda, was substantially more developed than for instance the European cooperation, with a full integration of postal, telephone, rail, harbour and air services. Hence the march towards a fully integrated East Africa has been warmly welcomed by supporters of a strong region, able to hold its own in terms of economic development, trading powers and tourism attractions.

In closing, it is also understood that negotiations with a range of foreign countries and blocks are ongoing to have the ‘new’ East African passport, which presently is being developed to incorporate all the latest technology, eventually recognized globally and become, like the present EU passports, THE travel document for East Africans. Watch this space.

 

HARSHER PENALTIES IN THE MAKING FOR POACHING

The recent Wildlife Conservation Foundation Tanzania annual fundraising dinner in Dar es Salaam brought a number of issues to the forefront in the speeches given by foundation leaders and guests, which have moved the conservation fraternity in East Africa’s largest country for months and years.

Responding to the remarks made by WCFT representative Sir Andy Chande in regard of inadequate anti poaching measures by government and its agencies, low fines and short penalties for poaching and transiting of prohibited birdlife, wildlife and trophies, the country’s Vice President Dr. Bilal explained that a major review of the relevant provisions of the governing laws was underway. He went on to tell the assembled guests that government shared the concerns of conservationists over low fines and short jail terms and would introduce amendments to those provisions in parliament soon. The new regime would inflict long jail terms for poachers, their middlemen and financiers when found guilty while fines would be prohibitive to deter poachers from their criminal activities.

The minister for natural resources and tourism too spoke on the occasion, thanking the foundation for their generosity over the past 10 years since the foundation was formed, when over 50 vehicles and much needed materials, equipment and supplies had been donated for anti poaching purposes. He also clarified on government’s stand against poaching, claiming it is honest and true and not a half gap measure.

However, in view of the presence of foundation donors which included representatives of mining interest groups, there was also criticism about not bringing up other related burning issues like the planned highway across the main migration routes in the Serengeti – benefitting mining companies first and foremost – nor that mention was made on plans to build a hydro electric power plant at Stiegler’s Gorge in the Selous.

Wrote one gala dinner participant in regular contact with this correspondent by email: ‘Leaving the real controversy out of the speeches and replies shows that everyone treads very softly here. The road across the Serengeti, the presidential directive to build the soda ash plant at Lake Natron, the revived plans for Stiegler’s Gorge and the cancellation of the UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the Eastern Arc mountains are all equally if not more important than anti poaching measures. On one side it is poachers depleting wildlife, smuggling trophies via our airport and port but on the other hand it is government swinging the wrecking ball against nature and our environment. In a way, it is also poaching but at a much grander scale. What we conservationists want to hear, before putting our hands in our pockets to write cheques and give cash and material donations for government to boost anti poaching, is that government too is stepping back from such projects and acknowledges that there is a potential for destruction of the Serengeti as we know it. They should not wreck Stiegler’s, they should not kill off the flamingos and not basically leave the Eastern Arc mountains to logging and mineral exploitation interests. It is not right, and just because our president wants it should not be a reason to kowtow before him. We need to speak up, loud and clear and join international activities to halt such projects.’

At the same occasion last year, held in a Paris hotel, over 400.000 Euros were raised but details about the amount donated this year were not immediately available until the treasurer of WCFT officially confirms the figure at a later stage.

 

4.8 QUAKE HITS NORTHERN TANZANIA

After a period of relative calm has seismic activity of late increased again in parts of the region, with Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania registering earth tremors in recent weeks. Only yesterday did a 4.8 on the open ended Richter Scale hit the Manyara region, felt too as far as Arusha, where as a precautionary measure an EAC ministerial summit was told to evacuate their meeting room in the International Conference Centre.

An active volcano, Ol Donyo Lengai, has in beginning in 2007/8 started to emit steam and ash clouds on a more visible scale again and has been the source of a series of earth tremors felt in much of the region before a minor eruption then ended the quakes until very recently. However, in Eastern Congo, hovering above the city of Goma, another volcano, Mt. Nyiragongo, is getting increasingly more active again with a lake of liquid lava bubbling inside the crater. There the last major eruption had lava flow across sections of Goma, including the airport, before eventually reaching Lake Kivu and coming to a standstill when the crater ‘lake’ had emptied itself and the eruption ceased.

The Great Rift Valley, which extends from the Red Sea across Eastern Africa all the way to Malawi, has a series of dormant volcanoes, including in our region Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Meru and Mt. Kenya, none of which has shows signs of returning to active status though, while the ‘lesser’ volcanoes like Mt. Ol Donyo Lengai and the Congolese Mt. Nyiragongo are showing signs that not all is well deep underground.

The Goma volcano story was reported here a while ago, as were developments in Djibouti and Ethiopia, where a series of tremors and minor eruptions have lent credence to scientific projections that a new ‘tear’ was developing under the Red Sea into the African mainland, which will eventually rip open in a major seismic event, likely to create another similar ocean branch into the continent as is the Red Sea itself.

Meanwhile though have nerves in Arusha and the Manyara region been calmed again following assurances by government agencies that the quake, which incidentally caused little damage as per reports at hand right now, was a one off. Well, time will tell what Mother Nature still keeps in store for us here in East Africa.

 

OMAN AIR TO IMPROVE CONNECTIVITY FROM INDIA TO ZANZIBAR

The national airline of the Sultanate of Oman has just announced changed in their scheduling for flights from Muscat to Zanzibar. Effective mid may the airline will offer convenient connections from their four key destinations in India, Dehli, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai, operated three times a week on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays. The airline also announced that travelers to Zanzibar, or in fact from Zanzibar, can also easily connect to other Oman Air network destinations in Muscat.

The new connections will be a boost for tourism to Zanzibar, but also for increased trade links, and have been welcomed by the tourism sector and the business community on the islands.

Oman Air has already been flying to Tanzania’s commercial capital of Dar es Salaam and the addition of Zanzibar shows strong confidence in the growing demand for the destination. Zanzibar has often complained that tourists destined for the resorts on the islands have to catch connecting flights in Dar, extending the journey unnecessarily and have improved the international airport in recent years to attract more carrier to fly directly into Zanzibar.

 

DECISIONS STILL PENDING ON 156 HUNTING BLOCKS

Information was received from Dar es Salaam overnight that after the 12th March application deadline, awards for as many as 156 hunting blocks / concessions for the period 2013 to 2018 are still undecided.

The minister for natural resources and tourism conceded this point apparently in parliament on Tuesday, saying that his ministry’s officials will take the entire 60 day period stipulated in law to assess applications and decide on whom to award any concession. It was also learned that present legislation demands that each hunting company allocates at least 25 percent to ‘locals’ and it was here in particular that a regular source from Dar took issue with: ‘this is a recipe for corruption and deal making. The foreign owned hunting companies should tell the Tanzanian public how they find ‘partners’ or if they are not really bullied by politicians and well connected individuals who ‘help them’ to get concessions and in turn then get free shares to comply with the law. There are a lot of unanswered questions about this and the beneficiaries should be made public, let the names go to the media for everyone to know.’

Controversies over hunting in general and the revenues generated in particular in recent years brought the sector into disrepute of late, and pending allegations over malpractices by in particular Middle Eastern hunting block owners of shooting their blocks empty and then lay fires to drive game back into the hunting area, have never been disproven and are a festering sore on the reputation of hunting companies.

 

ARUSHA HOPES TO BENEFIT FROM ‘COURT TOURISM’

News broke overnight that the Arusha based African Court of Justice and Human Rights has issued an order for Gadaffi and his bunch of goons to appear before court and defend themselves against a series of charges brought against them over massive violation of human rights. An ‘Order for Provisional Measures’ has also been issued by the African court and reportedly served upon Gadaffi’s regime, to stop immediately any further violence being inflicted on the Libyan population.

The court, the equivalent to the European Court of Human Rights, is also set to issue an international arrest warrant against Gadaffi and his cronies, should they not appear and / or be represented to offer a defense. The court action was reportedly being initiated by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and while both institutions were set up by the African Union, it is intriguing to note that the AU sponsored visit by South Africa’s president Zuma, and his utterances made while in Libya recently ostensibly to ‘mediate’ but visibly intent to come to the aid of his ‘fellow brother and leader’ appears to be in stark contrast with the court’s decision to prosecute Gadaffi.

When or rather if the case goes ahead, should the International Criminal Court in The Hague not supersede any action in Arusha, the ‘safari capital of East Africa’ can expect a boost by Libyan travelers coming to attend court and likely booking up all the suites in town, going by the regime’s and Gadaffi’s known travel habits. His travels to African Union events were often marked by the arrival of hundreds of security personnel, dozens of hanger’s on flown to the venue with a fleet of Gadaffi’s aircraft, and some sources in Arusha are already hoping for a resulting business boom, when the case kicks off. However, there is no guarantee that either Gadaffi, or any of his cronies implicated in the violence in Libya, will voluntarily appear in court, and should the people of Libya get their hands on him, instant justice a la Ceausescu is the more likely outcome, though this would of course ‘rob’ Arusha of a travel boom of lawyers, the media and the accused’s entourage. Watch this space. 

 

Rwanda News

RWANDA’S ENVIRONMENTAL RECORD EARNS THEM TWO AWARD NOMINATIONS

Information was received overnight from Kigali that the country has been nominated for two major global awards in recognition of their environmental policies put in place.

The ‘World Future Council’ put Rwanda up for their award to have comprehensively banned the use of plastic bags in the country, which prohibits the use, sale, importation and production of the environmental menace at the risk of stiff fines and prison sentences.

The other award nomination came for a women’s group project dealing with the removal of water hyacinth from Lake Bugesera, where the invasive plant had covered fish breeding grounds and became a source of malaria carrying mosquitoes nesting in it. The group was nominated for the Energy Globe Award in the ‘water category’. Once removed from the water the hyacinth plants can be used as feed for goats but also be converted into fibres for basket weaving and other uses, or else to make ‘energy bricks’ for domestic use in lieu of charcoal. Way to go Rwanda and it is great to see the world does recognize the country’s extraordinary efforts to maintain biodiversity and protect the environment with such determination.

 

RWANDATEL WINDING UP ORDER FILED

The Rwandan government rarely does anything with half measures, and following the story last week that they have cancelled the mobile license of erstwhile national phone operator RwandaTel, leaving them with the scraps of a small fixed network, the next step was taken yesterday. Majority owned by Libya’s dictator Gadaffi, or else the network of companies created by him to actually control the country’s wealth, RwandaTel was served with a winding up petition from the registrar of companies, which is now before court. The official cited ‘technical insolvency’ as a major factor in their application to have the company wound up and struck off the register, ‘to protect the public and government’.

Libya, after acquiring telecoms interests in Africa, did hardly live up to the high expectations they created when doing the initial deals, and injection of capital soon gave way to living on a shoestring budget for most of these companies, having to rely on cash flow and commercial borrowing rather than shareholder’s funds.

Adding insult to injury comes to mind, and a slap in the face of the obstinate Libyan regime leaders it is in the process, as his ill gotten wealth across  the continent is now largely being frozen, or as is the case here, rendered worthless. Way to go Rwanda.

Meanwhile are friends and business associates for Rwandan companies advised once again to check on their latest phone numbers, while a mass migration from RwandaTel mobile numbers to operators TIGO and MTN is taking place right now – reportedly well over 500.000 subscribers needing to find a new ‘home’ for their phones. New bids are expected to be invited by Rwanda shortly for a third national phone operator to step into the gap now left by the events surrounding RwandaTel.

 

Seychelles News

TOURISM STAKEHOLDERS LEARN ABOUT ‘GREEN LABEL’

A meeting held on Monday by the Seychelles Tourist Board in conjunction with the Global Environmental Facility GEF, UNDP and the Government of Seychelles brought senior tourism stakeholders together to discuss, and learn more about the ‘Sustainable Tourism Label’. This first workshop of its kind, held at the Meridien Barbarons Hotel on Mahe, gave participants a grand overview of the requirements for certification as an ‘eco friendly operation’ and how to maintain certification in regular audit exercises.

The Seychelles has built an international reputation as a ‘green’ destination and the creation of ever new protected areas around the archipelago has catapulted the country into the top performer level around the world. However, it is also recognized that certification along global standards and best practices is an inevitable next step and in particular hotels and resorts learned about the benefits of making their status ‘official’ and then using it in marketing their properties abroad. The Seychelles Tourist Board was instrumental in putting this workshop together as it will give their ‘Brand Seychelles’ campaign added impetus and strength, when ‘selling Seychelles’ to a global audience.

 

TOURGUIDES COMPLETE TRAINING AT SEYCHELLES TOURISM ACADEMY

 A dozen newly ‘crowned’ tour-guides were graduated a few days ago by the STA after completing the first ever such course for ‘freelancers’. The graduates, drawn for a variety of ‘day to day jobs’ underwent intense training, including field work, for the past six weeks, learning about marketing, tourism in general, geography of the archipelago, its history, ecology and much more, to make them ‘allrounders’ when they take out their first clients to show them the Creole way of life, nature and the marine habitats.

The course was specifically designed by STA’s lecturers to produce ‘quality guides’, providing new opportunities for Seychellois’ to earn a living from tourism and in the process proudly show visitors just how much more the islands have to offer than just ‘sun, sand and sea’.

It is understood that once sufficient applications for the next course have been received a second such training will be arranged, although one source also mentioned that future refresher courses and topic specific courses may also be arranged for the graduates of the inaugural session.

The Seychelles Tourist Board too has warmly welcomed the initiative and was ready to work hand in hand with the new guides and provide them with information as and when required. Well done and congratulations to all twelve graduates.

 

Mauritius News

CONSTANCE’S BELLE MARE PLAGE BAGS MORE AWARDS

The Belle Mare Plage on Mauritius has just added two more trophies to their swelling cabinet when the ‘Golf Journal’ handed them a bronze award for ‘Best Golf Course Worldwide’ followed by ‘Best Hotel Worldwide’. Taking over the ‘Best Hotel Worldwide’ prize from sister hotel Constance Lemuria Resort in the Seychelles, which got the recognition last year, the Belle Mare Plage this year got the votes from visitors and those using the resorts own championship golf course, which made it a favourite for visitors from across the world coming to enjoy a luxurious beach holiday on Mauritius while at the same time honing their game of golf. For a holiday of a lifetime – travel to the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and Seychelles, best combined with a safari in Eastern Africa.

 

South Sudan News

LOCALLY OWNED HOTEL GROUP SPREADS TO JONGLEI STATE

Over the weekend the ‘South Sudan Hotel’ was opened in the town of Bor, Jonglei State, adding facilities for visitors to the state and also spreading the wings of this locally owned hotel group. They already own and operate conventionally built hotels, i.e. not tents or prefabricated container units, in the Southern and Equatoria State capital Juba, but also in other state capitals like Wau, Malakal, Yambio. Additional hotels have been opened too in key trading towns of the Western Bahr-el-Ghazal state.

The hotel in Bor, under construction since last year, was officially opened by the state’s governor Juol Manyang in the presence of the business community, cultural leaders, security officials and senior politicians from state and central government. He welcomed the investment in Bor, inviting more business people to come and create infrastructure in state capitals like Bor but also across the states in key trading posts and smaller towns, where such services like hotels are in growing demand.

Bor will on May 16th host the commemorations of the start of the ‘second’ civil war which started 28 years ago, when regular army units sent in from Khartoum mutinied against their commanders and orders from the regime of how to treat the local population who were opposed to the forced introduction of Sharia Law.

No website or phone contacts are presently available from the company for this and their other hotels.

 

NO ECONOMIC SANCTIONS AGAINST INDEPENDENT SOUTH SUDAN

Information from Washington will bring great relief to in particular the business community in the soon to be independent new Republic of South Sudan, especially those with interests in the tourism industry.

‘There will be no sanctions against the new country’ was the tenor of the message from DC, indicating that while the sanction regime against Khartoum will remain in place until all required conditions for the removal of sanctions have been met, the South, not being part of the crimes committed by the North, will be exempted by the US.

This decision is likely to add more fuel to the fire in Khartoum, already ‘unhappy’ with sanctions yet the regime had done little to meet the demands of the international community. Only last week did the parliament in Khartoum resolve that members elected in the South of the country would no longer be permitted to attend parliamentary sessions, inspite of the continued integrity of the country until the actual Independence Day, and there is even more nasty stuff coming from Khartoum over plans to also prematurely dissolve the coalition government in which the SPLM has several key positions and sack ministers and even the First Vice President as a measure of retaliation against the South for voting nearly 100 percent for independence during the January referendum.

Inspite of such vengeful acts by the Northern regime, the Southern leadership and business community are confident that their march towards the 09th of July can now no longer be derailed, and being able to trade freely with the rest of the world after independence, without the application of any sanctions, will be a further confidence boost for the new country.

It is also understood that in particular safari operators and tented camp operators from the East African region have been trying to get as much information as is available about the 6 national parks and the dozen or more game reserves with the aim to establish businesses soon after independence. The prospect of lifted sanctions is encouraging for such investors too, as it lifts any uncertainties of dealing with a country under US and international sanctions.

Watch this space.

 

AND, in closing today some more interesting reading taken from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ by Gill Staden. The story of the rhino which survived being shot by poachers an its horns hacked off is particularly disturbing, showing the determination of a few towards the conservation of wildlife and the greed of others willing to do anything to bring an entire species down. Suggestions are growing in urgency to put the poaching of endangered species at level par with murdering a human and hand out equal sentences in such gruesome cases.

Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force

13th April 2011

MATENDERE RHINO

Last week, scouts reported a severely wounded black rhino wandering around Save Conservancy. Rangers were dispatched to locate the rhino and were met with a horrifying and gruesome sight. The rhino had been shot several times by poachers and the horns had been hacked out. They left the rhino for dead but the poor animal regained consciousness and was found wandering around, obviously in agony. We have not included the photos in the body of this email because they are extremely disturbing.  Anyone wanting to see the photos may open the attachment. (We’ve published them above because it’s a grim story that needs to exposed !!) 

Vets were called in and as the animal had managed to survive the savage attack and was still eating properly, they decided to try and save it. They darted it and administered masses of antibiotics in the hope that the horrific wound will heal.

Also of great concern is the fact that this rhino had been dehorned last year and the poachers were not deterred by the fact that it had only a small stump of horn. Despite the obvious determination of the poachers, the authorities are reluctant to provide the conservators with suitable weaponry to protect these endangered animals.

We are truly heartbroken and devastated by this barbaric act.

Zambian Airline working in Zimbabwe

From Afrique on ligne

Harare, Zimbabwe – Air Zimbabwe said Tuesday it had leased aircraft and flight crews from Zambia after reaching a deadlock with its striking pilots and cabin crews. Zimbabwe’s airline’s pilots and flight attendants went on strike over three weeks ago, demanding payment of overdue salaries and allowances amounting to US$ 12 million. Despite the strike being ruled illegal by the courts, the striking workers have refused to go back to work, insisting on payment of their salaries and allowances. Air Zimbabwe, which is saddled with huge debts of more than US$ 100 million, has said it was unable to settle the salary arrears and appealed to the workers to go back to work to save the airline from imminent collapse.

Airline chairman, Jonathan Kadzura, said Air Zimbabwe had leased aircraft and cabin crews from Zambezi Airlines of Zambia to service domestic and regional routes as a stop-gap measure.

He said domestic routes to be covered were from the capital, Harare, to the second city of Bulawayo and the country’s tourism hub, the Victoria Falls.

Goldman Environmental Prize

From All Africa.com

ZIMBABWEAN rhino conservationist, Raoul Du Toit, is among the six recipients of the prestigious US$150,000 International Goldman Environmental Prize Award for 2011.

Other winners are Hilton Kelly of United States of America, Prigi Arisandi of Indonesia, Ursula Sladek of Germany, Dmitry Lisitsyn of Russia and Francisco Pineda of El Salvador. The Goldman Environmental Prize, now in its 22nd year, is awarded annually to grassroots environmental heroes from each of the world’s six inhabited continental regions and is the largest award of its kind with an individual cash prize of US$150 000.

The winners were awarded the prize at a ceremony held yesterday afternoon at the San Francisco Opera House and will also be honoured at a smaller ceremony tomorrow at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.  Richard N Goldman, one of the founders of the Goldman Environmental Prize, passed away at the age of 90 in November 2010.

To honour his memory, the 2011 Prize events will be dedicated to him. Zimbabwe’s winner Raoul du Toit co-ordinated conservation initiatives that helped develop and maintain the largest remaining black rhino populations in the country.  He began working on rhino conservation as a Programme Officer for the IUCN African Elephant and Rhino Specialist Group in 1985.  He established the Lowveld Rhino Conservancy Project in 1990.

By 2009, WWF funding declined and additional funding options were required to maintain the five-fold increase in the Lowveld rhino population, hence he set up the Lowveld Rhino Trust as an independent, stakeholder-based body to completely subsume the former Rhino Conservancy Project.  He became the director of the LRT, which has a small staff of four other professionals and 20 rhino monitors (including some of the foremost rhino tracking expertise in Africa and has deployed some of these men on missions to Zambia, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Rwanda, Zambia, DRC and Mozambique).

The LRT does all the management work (rhino translocations, etc) in the large Lowveld conservancies.  This trust receives funding from various donors, primarily via the International Rhino Foundation with a proportion of our budget still provided by WWF. 

The Goldman Environmental Prize was established in 1989 by late San Francisco civic leaders and philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman.  It has been awarded to 145 people from 80 countries.

Prize winners are selected by an international jury from confidential nominations submitted by a worldwide network of environmental organisations and individuals.

Previous Prize winners have been at the centre of some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges, including seeking justice for victims of environmental disasters at Love Canal and Bhopal, India; leading the fight for dolphin-safe tuna and fighting oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Kasungu National Park

I was reading an article about wild dogs being found in Kasungu National Park, Malawi.  Duncan Yearley who works with Carnivore Conservation Malawi in the park has recently found two packs – one of 17 and another of 9.  He is seriously excited and needs some help. 

I have no idea of the geography of this park so I have drawn a bit of a map, so that you can see where it is.

According to Duncan’s article, Zambians are encroaching the park – farming and poaching.  Unfortunately fairly typical news for us in Zambia.  Why is it always Zambians who get named and shamed for poaching in neighbouring countries?

Malawi is an extremely poor country and there is no money to help with research and monitoring the wild dogs and other predators in the park.  Duncan is looking for donations so that the dogs can be collared.  If you have any ideas, contact him on ccmalawi@yahoo.com or look at the website www.carnivoreconservationmalawi.org

 This park definitely has to be on my list of parks to visit …

%d bloggers like this: