AVIATION, TOURISM AND CONSERVATION NEWS from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands.
A weekly roundup of breaking news, reports, travel stories and opinions by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
You can get your daily breaking news updates instantly via Twitter by following @whthome, join me on www.facebook.com/WolfgangHThome where the articles also cross load or read the daily postings on my blog via www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com which you can also follow to get immediate notification when a new article is posted.
Third edition July 2012
REDUCED VOLUME DUE TO CIRCUMSTANCES BEYOND MY CONTROL FULL NEWS SERVICE WILL BE RESUMED BY NEXT WEEKEND
US PLAYS MORE POWER GAMES WITH FRESH ANTI TRAVEL DIRECTIVES AGAINST KENYA
After sustained pressure to lift the travel ban for US Embassy and associated organizations staff to the Kenyan port city of Mombasa last week, which had caused outrage within Kenyan government circles over both content and the devious manner in which the prohibition orders were announced, a fresh controversy is now brewing after the US Embassy, not one iota smarter, has yesterday afternoon declared Kenyas North Eastern Province off limits under a similar ban.
A broadcast to American citizens and government personnel living in Kenya, in part read: As a result of recent events and threats, US government employees, contractors, grantees and their dependents are PROHIBITED from travelling to the province, including the towns of Wajir, Garissa, Mandera and Liboi. Also included in the ban are areas from Lamus Pate Island to Kiwayu and beyond but notably also the areas of Moyale and Isiolo which were described as unsafe from time to time.
Non government employed American citizens were warned off with similar strong words and strong arm tactics not to visit, leaving at least one regular source from Mombasa asking tongue in cheek: Does that mean the Americans are also withdrawing all their CIA and FBI and other secret agencies staff from these areas? Our American so called friends speak in forked tongues and it is clear they have an agenda here which is not clean. I think the Obama administration is a huge disappointment to Kenya. For one he did not bother to visit the homeland of his father when he had the time. He gave us the cold shoulder and now that he is fighting for survival to get a second term he is sure not coming between now and the elections in America. Second, they pushed Kenya into complying with their embargo on Iran and that is costing us a lot. Are they compensating us for such losses or think we are just fools to be ordered around? Third I think with their arrogant attitude they are only pushing us to look for other allies and partners and those will be from China and Russia now that their own status as the single world power is again challenged by those two. There are a lot of sentiments about such issues like these travel bans and their embassy shows contempt for us the way they treat us. We have no issues with Americans but we have a lot of issues with their embassy and the way their government is treating us.
Other sources from Kenya concurred and all agreed that friendly relations should include a better behaviour from official American organizations like the embassy and use less confrontational styles and methods, causing less panic and damage to the Kenyan economy while also accusing sections of the media for sensationalizing such statements for the sole purpose of selling more newspapers or commercial space.
With elections in Kenya now only 8 months away, tourism in particular is already in a jittery mood ahead of the campaign now going underway. The announcement by the International Criminal Court yesterday, that the trials against two presidential contenders at The Hague will only begin on 10th and 11th April 2013 respectively has given the two of them the chance to compete in the Kenyan presidential election without known restrictions, opening the spectrum of a bitter contest with yet greater fallout for the countrys hugely important tourism industry. At the same time Kenya is engaged in military action as part of AMISOM to drive militants out of Somalia and possible faces more terrorist threats and future attacks, which should lead to greater cooperation between Kenya and America and not such public spats, unless truly caused as part of ulterior motives. Watch this space.
CHINA READY TO FINANCE NEW MWAMBANI PORT INSIDE COELACANTH MARINE PARK
Emerging information that China has reportedly stepped up to finance the construction of a new port at Mwambani, instead of rehabilitating and enlarging the existing and grossly underutilized Tanga port, have shaken Tanzanias conservation fraternity afresh. This has happened only days after learning that UNESCO had cleared the way for the Tanzanian government to excise a 200 square kilometre area from the Selous Game Reserve to begin highly toxic Uranium mining. That revelation was followed by a double whammy for the Selous when the Rufiji Basin Development Authority then signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Brazils Odebrecht to develop a hydro electric power plant and dam at the Stieglers Gorge in the Selous most intensely used tourism area, putting the future of the Selous in some serious doubt.
The financing commitment by China is also expected to subsequently pave the way for the financing of the planned railway from Mwambani to the Lake Victoria town of Musoma, running through what this correspondent has named The Corridor of Destruction which could very well inspite of verbal assurances to the contrary run across the Lake Natron flats, East Africas sole breeding ground for the flamingos and across the Serengeti, as the most direct route would suggest, if for nothing else but cost reasons.
With Tanzanias court system tainted by suggestions of easily yielding to political pressure, the remaining hope to stop this project is now vested in conservation NGOs from the region to file a case before the East African Court of Justice in Arusha, which is already dealing with the Serengeti Highway case. Cases by afflicted residents near Mwambani are said to be also pending before local courts but equally, as alleged intimidation against the plaintiffs persists, this too may find its way into the EACJ system.
According to several sources will the construction, once the finance packages are agreed between the two governments, start still within 2012 or latest by early next year and be undertaken by Chinese state construction companies. Those are notorious for not creating employment for local Tanzanians but import all their staff, even for the most menial jobs, from China to retain, as elsewhere, the fullest control over such projects. The same sources have also alleged that no EIA has been undertaken, or if one has been produced it has not been published and opened up to scrutiny by stakeholders or the conservation fraternity as existing law requires, raising legitimate questions why Tanzanias own regulations and legal requirements in such cases are habitually brushed aside if not trampled upon with impunity.
Said a regular source from Arusha, who is close to the court action at the EACJ over the Serengeti highway on condition of strictest anonymity: The information you now have is quite reliably because it comes from within by people who are not comfortable about the way things are done. We hope, if the project really goes ahead, to file for an injunction directly in Arusha at the East African Court of Justice based on what seems to be a systematical violation of existing rules and regulations over mandatory EIAs and other aspects. We are also monitoring the plight of the affected population around Mwambani and what government intends to do with them. There is a hidden tragedy unfolding for people who for ages lived their life there as fishermen and they cannot be displaced and told to be farmers overnight. It is a recipe for immense human suffering and even though the Tanzanian media have been silenced over such developments we shall get the news out.
And yours truly as always is happy to facilitate this and trigger that smallest of stones, like with the publication in early 2010 of the Tanzanian governments plans to build a highway across the Serengeti, which turns eventually in a mighty avalanche of opposition and eventually forces a review and modification of plans as well as opting for a different location for a new port. Watch this space where the environment has a voice and has its say.
RWANDAS PARLIAMENT PASSES BIRD PROTECTION BILL
The often mentioned fact here that Rwanda indeed has conversation engrained in its political fabric was once again confirmed when it became known that late last week did parliament pass a special bill, authorizing governments ratifying the relevant global agreement to protect migratory bird species.
In fact it was learned that the countrys second chamber, the Senate, had added during the debate, such extra references as the Ramsar Convention and the International Convention on Biodiversity and Habitats to make the new law more comprehensive and not leave out crucial components of environmental protection.
The new law will cover at least 255 species of migratory birds depending on wetlands for their annual migration from Europe and deep into Asia to Africa and while many East African countries continue to aggressively drain wetlands for building of new estates and for farming, Rwanda in contrast has decided to protect them. As a result has bird watching tourism grown in leaps and bounds and is now not only taking advantage of finding birds in the national parks but also the specially created birding trails outside the parks or the shores of Lake Kivu along the Congo Nile Trail. Towards that end visit www.rwandatourism.com for details on bird watching options in Rwanda or www.rdb.rw where links exist to their tourism and conservation department.
South Sudan News
ONE YEAR AND COUNTING FROM EUPHORIA TO SURVIVAL MODE
A year ago the friends and supporters of South Sudan from around the world gathered in Juba to celebrate the South Sudanese flag being hoisted for the first time, when the ambitions for statehood by the Southern people finally became reality and a new country was born. Witnessed by arch foe and ICC war crimes suspect Bashir, under whos watch the South gained independence when he could not subdue his erstwhile slaves on the battlefield, a week of celebration followed the ceremony which was transmitted around the globe by all key networks.
What followed was great enthusiasm, willingness to build a new nation and pull together to achieve the lifelong aspirations for self determination, a goal for which the new country shed its blood and sacrificed its youth who gave their lives so that others after them could determine their own future destiny.
Reports filed here on a regular basis spoke of new roads being constructed to connect the country suffering not just from a huge deficit but the almost complete absence of key infrastructure, neglected by the former masters in Khartoum which siphoned the riches of the South out for their own ends and left the region undeveloped.
Bridges were built and opened, talks commenced with Kenya to enter into a joint venture for the opening of the Lamu South Sudan Ethiopia transport corridor including a new pipeline, the remaining territories nominally still in the North but belonging to the South were hopeful that Khartoum would respect and implement their own referenda or consultations and aid poured into the South, projects took off and business delegations jammed the hotels in Juba and the state capitals to explore joint ventures and significant new investments.
But the bruised egos in Khartoum and their greed and envy would have none of this.
Bashir and his goons soon embarked on their old tactics again to fuel conflict by using proxy militias as done before in the south and still happening in Darfur, and soon a deliberate effort unfolded to ethnically cleanse Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, driving the Southern population into exile and stuffing it with regime friendly supporters so that when a vote would finally be forced by world opinion, the outcome could be tilted in favour of the north.
That not enough, Khartoum began to systematically obstruct border demarcation exercises, stalled negotiations on a range of post independence issues like asset and liabilities resolution, water rights and more, before becoming common thieves when stealing the oil belonging to the South Sudan out of the pipeline in ever increasing quantities.
And when that all did not yield the wanted results, open aggression and aerial bombings resumed, resulting in a short exchange of open hostilities when their noses got bloodied and Abyei was temporarily liberated by the Southern army, before misguided pressure by UN supremo Moon and his merry men at the UN prevailed to have the South withdraw, to hand a victory of sorts to Khartoum. Bashirs troops swiftly moved back into the void and are extracting resources once more at record pace.
When South Sudans government decided to halt pumping and exporting all oil from its territory, in the face of extortion and blackmail over fees for the pipeline to Port Sudan, the reality of it all finally dawned on the Southern population, that they were for all purposes being subjected to an economic war besides a real one, as border skirmishes persist up to today with northern militias and regular troops provoking incident after incident.
The decision to halt oil production cost the South dearly as 95 or more percent of the government budget came from oil sources and no matter what austerity measures are now being imposed, the value of the currency was swiftly falling to record lows, inflation rose deep into the double digit figures and a year after gaining independence life in the South for ordinary citizens is as hard as it ever was.
The euphoria of a year ago has given way to a new sense of reality, knowing full well that it is the enemies in Khartoum which are overwhelmingly responsible for it all, but with Bashirs own survival in the balance he will not give up his imperialistic expansionism and try to steal back what he lost by a free and fair vote when 99.8 percent in the South voted to escape his slavist rule and opted for independence.
Today will be marked by subdued celebrations in Juba of the first anniversary of independence but today will also be used to take stock and consider the way forward as citizens continue to struggle to make ends meet. While the still oil based economy continues to stutter alternatives like agriculture, ranching and mining, besides the rich tourism assets ( http://wolfganghthome.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/bahr-el-jebel-safaris-open-up-south-sudans-amazing-wildlife-to-the-world ) have not yet stepped forward sufficiently enough to live up to those sectors full potential. It is also a fact that more needs to be done on the legislative and regulatory front to entice investors to come in on a big scale and help kickstart South Sudans economy and to start fulfilling its rich potential. At least one major step has taken place, granting Visa on arrival in Juba and no longer making trips to the Consulates, Embassies and High Commissions necessary, helping to sustain air connections from Entebbe, Nairobi and Addis Ababa from where a host of daily flights now connect the South to the rest of the world.
Still challenges galore as South Sudan today celebrates one year of statehood and independence.
My best wishes on this occasion and at least one day of joyful celebrations before reality once again overshadows the enthusiasm of a year ago.
SEYCHELLES ELECTED TO CHAIR VANILLA ISLAND COOPERATION
Seychelles tourism minister Alain St. Anges tireless efforts in past years, and more so over the past few months when at least one member of the Indian Ocean island cooperation, misguided by one individual it should be stressed, wanted to ditch the partnership and break away, were rewarded by his colleagues from Le Reunion, Mayotte, Comoros, Madagascar and Mauritius, when they placed their faith and trust in him as the first elected leader of the Vanilla Islands marketing cooperation, to be headquartered in Victoria / Seychelles. Vice Chair is Mauritius with Le Reunion seconding the Secretary General while Mayotte will hold the position of Treasurer. It is understood from a reliable source in Victoria that though the ministers from Mayotte, Madagascar and the Comoros were not present in person they had been consulted and extended their support for the new structure and set up of the Vanilla Islands organization. All posts are held for the duration of one year and will then rotate amongst member islands.
The constant lobbying for increased partnership in the face of temporary adversity has earned St. Ange the applause from his colleagues in the respective tourism portfolios from the member islands and his successful effort to have the European Union support the concept with logistical and material support only added to his standing amongst his colleagues. Starting with this years World Travel Market in London it is expected that the Indian Ocean islands will have trade stands at key global tourism events in one adjoining area, promoting the concept of increased inter island travel by tourists while highlighting and promoting such region-wide events like the Mauritius Shopping Extravaganza Fiesta, the annual International Tourism Trade Fair on Madagascar or for instance the Carnival International de Victoria, so that all members of the Vanilla Island cooperation can be equally showcasing their signature events and get support from all the other members. Congratulations are in order for Alain St. Ange but also to his colleagues who have now joined hands to work in partnership rather than isolation. Watch this space.
AND in closing today, courtesy of Gill Staden in Livingstone / Zambia, some worthwhile material taken from her The Livingstone Weekly whose work can be found via:
Tel: + 260 213 323511
Contact Directory: www.contactbeyondthevictoriafalls.wordpress.com
The Livingstone Weekly: www.thelivingstoneweekly.wordpress.com
Stories and Updates: www.storiesbeyondthevictoriafalls.wordpress.com
My header is the Put Foot Rally as they came to Livingstone. Here is a report from Sarah Saf Par:
The greatest social rally on the face of the earth
The Put Foot Rally Crews have once again been staying with us at Zambezi Waterfront. Last year there were 25 vehicles with 90 participants, this year that increased to 62 vehicles with 220 participants quite a lot then! The group is travelling through Southern Africa using any car and any route 7,000kms in 17 Days through South Africa, Namibia, Zambia (whoop whoop!), Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique.
THE 3 PUT FOOT RALLY OBJECTIVES:
1. Prove that 4 x 4s are not needed to travel across Southern Africa!
2. Prove Southern Africa is accessible, safe, fun & affordable!
3. Have an impact on tourism in Southern Africa by encouraging people to give something back, so that future generations may share our experiences!
THE PUT FOOT OFFICIAL CHARITIES
The Put Foot Foundation To commit our passion, energy and shared vision of changing young lives through a single pair of brand new school shoes
Project Rhino – The association is made up of 15 like-minded organisations who are taking the lead in the fight against rhino poaching in Southern Africa, starting in KwaZulu Natal and then quickly expanding through the rest of South Africa.
As part of The Put Foot Foundation, Safpar nominated a worthy school in the Livingstone area for the shoe drop, Senkobo Basic School. 405 (119 of who are orphans.) lucky school children were given a pair of brand new shoes, plus the team helped to paint and resurface floors in the classrooms, and most importantly of all installed a new water pump.
The crews drove through Livingstone town centre quite a spectacle! To the school and then back to Zambezi Waterfront for a PARTY! Put Foot even bring a band with them, the fantastic Me and Mr Brown played into the small hours of the morning after we had fed the group for their Jubilee themed party lots and lots of fun was had by all to round of an amazing day in Livingstone.
More lodges for the Mosi-oa-Tunya Park
During the week the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism, Given Lubinda, announced that seven sites within the Mosi-oa-Tunya Park were up for grabs by investors to construct new hotels and conference facilities.
Mr Lubinda: I recently authorised the Zambia Wildlife Authority to advertise available sites in the Mosi-o-Tunya National Park and they have so far advertised seven. Towards the end of this week, we will award the bids so that construction of the infrastructure can start.
I think we have been here before. These sites were advertised many years ago and it was the start of the conservation fight against Legacy Hotel Group which wanted to construct two hotels and a golf course either side of the Maramba River within the National Park. The conservationists won that round. Now it looks like we are up for round two.
The Mosi-oa-Tunya Park is within the World Heritage Site. According to the rules governing the World Heritage Site no building can go ahead without their approval. The Heritage Site has as one of its major cornerstones that the area should retain its wilderness feel. The construction of seven hotels within the site is hardly going to do much for that
Unfortunately Zambia Wildlife Authority, I feel, often considers income over the welfare of the wildlife of the Mosi-oa-Tunya Park. If these hotels do go ahead there will be standing room only for our animals.
According to Mr Lubinda these hotels and facilities will be ready for the UNWTO. Assuming that investors can be persuaded to acquire the plots; find an architect to design the facility; undergo an environmental impact assessment; gain UNESCO approval, and all the other legalities, it is likely to be far too late for UNWTO. And, as a matter of interest here is part of a UNESCO report:
Decision – 31COM 7B.4 – State of conservation of World Heritage Properties – Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls
From UNESCO in 2002
3.Expresses its concern about uncontrolled urban development, unplanned tourism development, noise and water pollution, and invasive species, which continue to threaten the integrity of the property;
6.Also notes the State Party of Zambia’s moratorium on some construction and tourism infrastructure projects;
It seems that we are going tit for tat with Zimbabwe and its claim that it will build new hotels and convention centre. Livingstone already has more than enough accommodation facilities in town. Suffering as the lodge/hotel owners are with the global recession which is set to continue for many years to come, it is doubtful that any serious investor would consider building a hotel in Livingstone at the present time.
Add to that the new currency control which will require investors to work in kwacha and not dollars. Loans will have to be gained for any development loans which will probably be overseas and given in a hard currency. What will happen to the kwacha in the following year? At the moment the kwacha is appreciating. According to economists this is due to the new currency controls, but the long-term prognosis is for devaluation of the kwacha. The problem is that no-one really knows what the kwacha will do in its new role. The risk for any company to borrow money in a foreign currency is high.
Livingstone has many guest houses throughout the town. Many Zambians on retirement invested their terminal benefits in a guest house as a way to earn an income. Some of these guest houses are excellent; some are really very grim indeed. Surely a better idea for government is to do a survey of the guest houses and give the owners some help to upgrade the facilities and services to provide the necessary accommodation It would put money in the ordinary Zambians pocket and not into big business
Proposed Lodge in Mana Pools given approval by Zimbabwe Government
The map is based on the Peace Parks map. The area is planned to become a transfrontier conservation area. Mana Pools and neighbouring safari areas are already a World Heritage Site. I have splodged red where I think the Vine Site and where the proposed mine are located. It looks like there is an onslaught on some of the most beautiful areas of both countries. Here is the report by the Zambezi Society on the new lodge:
The Zambezi Society is disappointed to report that construction has begun on one of the controversial new 48-bed lodge developments along the Zambezi River shoreline in Mana Pools National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Core Area of the recently-declared UNESCO Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve. This despite recommendations against such development in the recent Park Management Plan, which cites potential damage to the fragile riverine eco-system at Mana Pools which is already stressed by tourism impact.
A lease for the proposed 48-bed (plus 24 staff) Mana Pools Safari Camp with a 1-km exclusion zone centered on the Vine Camp Site (about 15 kms upstream from the Park headquarters in Nyamepi) was granted to ECIS Investments (Ms Li Song) by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management and signed by the Minster of the Environment in September 2010. An EIA was completed in June 2011 by Vibes Consultancy, and was approved by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) shortly thereafter.
The EIA describes this as a semi-permanent camp with 12 thatched double chalets on raised metal & wood platforms above the Zambezi River floodplain, a large, thatched living/dining/ bar area, a brick-under-tin-roof kitchen/workshop/garage/storeroom complex, a vast (280sq m) brick-under-tin quarters for 24 staff, a fence, a swimming pool, 14 septic tanks and a cold-room all of this powered by a solar-system with a back-up generator.
The Vine Camp Site area contains one of the Parks prime examples of magnificent alluvial woodland covering the banks of the Zambezi River. Within this precious woodland are vast specimens of very ancient Zambezi fig trees, Natal Mahoganies and River Litchis, rare climbing lianes such as the beautiful Tail-less Tailflower and other species special to the Zambezi alluvial floodplain. The woodland is a favoured spot for a host of wildlife species, including elephants and the predators that Mana Pools is so famous for: lions, leopard and wild dog.
This EIA was approved by Zimbabwes Environmental Management Agency (EMA) without wide consultation. Important and informed stakeholders from Zambia, UNESCO, the Zimbabwean Department of Museums and Monuments and relevant NGOs including the Zambezi Society were not informed or consulted during the process.
The Society obtained a copy of the EIA only after it had already been approved. It was found to be inadequate, inaccurate and ill-informed. Environmental experts were consulted, including the Chairman of the UNESCO Mana and Biosphere Committee in Zimbabwe and the Society obtained their critical reviews of this document. In March 2012 these were submitted, with the Zambezi Societys own formal objection to the EIA, to the Environmental Management Agency and copied to relevant authorities in National Parks and UNESCO. The letter stated:-
We ask that EMA consider these comments seriously, in the light of our sincere concern for the future of the wildlife and wilderness resources of Mana Pools. We urge you to reconsider your approval of this EIA and ask that a more professional and detailed Assessment be undertaken, with wider public consultation, in view of the global significance of Mana Pools. We also request that, should the EIA be re-submitted, those parties copied in this letter be given the opportunity to evaluate the EIA prior to it being authorised.
The Zambezi Society is ready and willing to assist in this process in order to achieve a solution which will sufficiently protect the biological value of Mana Pools while allowing economic benefit from tourism development in the Park.
To this date, there has been no response from EMA.
The Society then wrote similarly to the Minister of the Environment and, to this date, there has been no response.
In June 2012, The Zambezi Society met with the head of the National Committee of UNESCO in Zimbabwe to brief him about this situation along with colleagues from the Department of Museums and Monuments who, themselves had not been consulted during the EIA process for this development. They have agreed to undertake a high level visit to the construction site as soon as possible to assess the situation for themselves.
In the meantime, the Society is liaising with colleagues in Zambia to advise them of the situation and to see what assistance they may be able to provide.
Please contact the Zambezi Society if you have any reliable and factual information which you feel can contribute to our efforts in seeking to mitigate the damage that this development may cause.
If you wish download a copy of the EIA for the Mana Pools Safari Camp development at Vine Site, and the Zambezi Societys objection to EMA which includes three critical appraisals of the EIA, please do so from the online version of this article on the Zambezi Society website News Page at this link: Vine Site Development in Mana Pools Latest
Sign the Petition against this development
Stop Destructive Developments at Mana Pools
To: The Director, Environmental Protection Unit, EMA, Zimbabwe, Francis Nema, Minister of the Environment, Zimbabwe
The petition is really important and could use our help. Click here to find out more and sign:
Other issues over UNWTO
Mr Lubinda was speaking during an interview on Zambezi FM Radio when he mentioned the development sites in the National Park. He also said that government should clean up their premises in Livingstone prior to the UNWTO meeting to be held 24-29 August. He also urged the private sector to repaint and rehabilitate their premises.
On Yellow Fever inoculation requirement for anyone travelling from Zambia to South Africa, he said that the Minister of Health, Joseph Kasonde, had talked with the World Health Organisation. Mr Lubinda hoped that the matter would be resolved soon.
He urged Livingstonians to be proactive in the preparations for next year.