TOURISM SECTOR CONDEMNS PHOTO PERMIT REQUIREMENT AS ‘DESPERATE MEASURE’
East African tourism stakeholders were swift to condemn the South Sudan government’s enforcement of an old rule, introduced ages ago by the former slave master regime in Khartoum before independence but never enforced until now, that tourists visiting the country, require a photo permit if they carry a camera.
Non compliance reportedly ends visitors up with either a bribe to be paid or else a visit to a police station, where as a matter of course fines are dished out and the camera’s memory card is confiscated.
The permit fee of 50 US Dollars is made worse by the waste of time if a visitor intends to get the permit her or himself, though safari and expedition operators offer to obtain the permit for an additional handling fee so that clients can be safe from arrest or harassment.
Failure by the South Sudan government to resume oil exports, as indicated a few weeks ago, has aggravated an already bad budget crisis, which has led to widespread defaults in international obligations and even companies failing to pay their bills for imports from Kenya and Uganda, resulting in cash upfront requirements or else no supplies shipped any longer. Jetlink, one of Kenya’s private airlines, three weeks ago had to close shop as they were disallowed to repatriate over 2.5 million US Dollars worth of ticket sales from South Sudan to Kenya, inspite of intervention of the Kenyan government. The lack of hard currency has also fueled a thriving black market for currency transactions with the local South Sudanese pound plummeting in value, making it even harder for importers to find the cash to get goods into the country. This situation is at least in part to blame for the recent East African Community Summit telling South Sudan that their membership application will be on hold until they have sorted themselves out, and legislation, regulations, financial markets and all else been harmonized and aligned with common practice across East Africa.
Said a regular source in Nairobi from his overnight shift at JKIA when just discussing the issue: ‘The Jetlink situation was a PR disaster for South Sudan and they may not even know just how much businesses in Kenya are now upset with them. They imported a lot of things from us and did not pay. They flew with Jetlink and yet keep their money which is becoming worthless by the day. Even their government officials flew to Nairobi on Jetlink so it stinks like a conspiracy as if they intent to defraud us. If they do not release our monies we shall campaign to keep them out of the EAC until they have paid every shilling with interest. This is 2012 not the old days when chaos was the order of the day. They must learn to be civilized because to make it all worse, our traders are also being harassed and even killed regularly in Juba, so that country must get its act together now very fast’ in a rant which is however well understood.
Tourism to South Sudan’s amazingly scenic and game filled national parks, as promising as it sounds and as attractive the National Geographic features on ‘Great Migrations’ look, seems further away than ever as red tape galore seems to stand in the way of just getting there and enjoying nature pure, one of the last frontiers of African safari destinations. Watch this space.