NEWS EAST AFRICA
A weekly roundup from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands of breaking news, reports, travel stories and opinions by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
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Fourth edition December 2013
LAM CRASH INVESTIGATION’S PRELIMINARY FIND SAYS EMBRAER E190 WAS ‘SOUND’
(Posted 18th December 2013)
Preliminary air accident investigation findings appear to confirm that the aircraft used by LAM for the stricken flight TM 470 from Maputo to Luanda on 29th November, with all 33 passengers and crew on board killed on impact, was mechanically sound. The comments were attributed to the head of the Namibian air accident investigation team, who also confirmed that a full preliminary report would be issued before the end of the year.
The aircraft, delivered only a year earlier and with less than 3.000 hours flown, was undergoing regular maintenance cycles and this was the first crash of an Embraer E 190, prompting the global aviation fraternity to watch closely what the air accident investigation would unearth.
Should the full preliminary indeed rule out any mechanical problems of the aircraft, and all present indications are that this will be the case, the cause of the crash will then have to be explained by the weather conditions as well as in the way the crew reacted to the situation which eventually led to the crash. Cockpit voice and data recorders will almost certainly hold those clues to eventually determine the chain of events prior to impact and according to reports available both recorders were found intact and the data storage functioning. Both devices are presently undergoing analysis in the United States. Watch this space for breaking and regular aviation news from across the African continent.
EVACUEES REACH THE SAFETY OF UGANDA
(Posted 19th December 2013)
Late yesterday did hundreds of evacuees arrived in Kampala after making the long journey by bus out of a South Sudan in upheaval, crossing the border to safety in Nimule and then travelling via Gulu to the Ugandan capital.
Earlier in the day did Air Uganda according to reports received operate three flights to Juba to uplift stranded passengers, as no airline was allowed to fly into South Sudan’s main international airport from Monday until today.
While the flights back to Entebbe were entirely sold out, flights into Juba were literally empty, showing the concern regular business travellers now have to enter South Sudan.
While in the past, ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays, there was always a regular exodus of expatriates leaving Juba to enjoy the holidays in the Ugandan or Kenyan national parks, the beaches of Uganda’s islands on Lake Victoria or the beaches of Mombasa, this year the exodus is entirely due to the sustained fighting for control in South Sudan. More and more political commentators, besides the main tenor on the social media landscapes, now share this correspondent’s opinion that there never was a coup attempt but that this was a staged development in order to carry out a bloody purge of political opponents and other tribes thought hostile towards the president’s tribe. Hundreds of people were reportedly killed in recent days in Juba and fighting has now spread to other towns across South Sudan like Bor and Torit, where opponents of the regime in Juba have gained the upper hand, opening the door to a potentially fully fledged civil war based mainly along tribal lines.
Kenya Airways and RwandAir have confirmed that they will tomorrow operate as normal, with Kenya Airways leaving open the option of putting up one or more additional flights, as according to Kenya’s foreign ministry some 25.000 Kenyans now live and work across South Sudan and many of whom now just want to get out of the South Sudan and home as fast as they can, while they can.
Ugandan bus operators are meanwhile trying to ferry out as many people as they can, with some picking up travellers at the border with South Sudan at Nimule, while others made the dangerous journey deeper into South Sudan. Embassies in South Sudan have also made direct arrangements for their citizens to leave for the safe havens of Uganda or else fly to Nairobi or Kigali on available flights. Watch this space for more updates as and when new information has become available.
AFTER 50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE KENYA FINALLY SET TO GET A MAU MAU MUSEUM
(Posted 20th December 2013)
Information was received from Kenya late yesterday about plans by the Nyeri county government to set up a Mau Mau Museum to showcase the country’s struggle for independence.
The Mau Mau were fighting the British to force independence, which was eventually attained in two stages, internal self government in June 1963 and full independence on 12th of December 1963, led by Kenya’s founder president Jomo Kenyatta, who had been imprisoned for several years during the colonial rule.
The county government made the announcement through the county governor during the independence day celebrations, that they wanted to construct a museum where besides the struggle also the history and culture of the Kikuyu tribe are being showcased. At the same time will important cultural sites be vamped up and prepared for tourists and locals to visit, to understand better what had transpired in the country before independence was finally granted. Britain has reportedly agreed to return to Kenya material and documents related to the insurgency which if correct will no doubt boost the exhibits of the planned museum.
Earlier this year have members of the former Mau Mau movement won a long pending court case in the UK for compensation from the British government for the injustices committed on the Kenya population and in particular those suspected to be Mau Mau members at time.
The Nyeri area of Kenya, located in what was long ago called the ‘White Highlands’, is one of the key hubs for tourism in central Kenya, with access to the Aberdare National Park where the famous treehotels like The Ark and Treetops are located but with equal access to wildlife conservancies like the Solio Game Reserve near Mweiga, and of course Mt. Kenya itself.
Numerous tourist lodges and hotels are operating in the county area or just beyond it, like the Aberdare Country Club, the Outspan Hotel and the Serena Mountain Lodge on the slopes of Mt. Kenya, supporting the local economy with jobs, trade and additional investment opportunities.
Boma Hotels, according to information at hand, is presently upgrading their meeting facility to a fully fledged 3 star Boma Inn and a recent investment conference held in Nyeri on 17th November has outlined the range of projects the new devolved system of government is now offering investors who would like to set up shop in the area.
EDEN ROC RESORT IN MALINDI BURNS DOWN
(Posted 18th December 2013)
Reports have come in from the Kenyan beach resort town of Malindi that the Sai Eden Roc Hotel burned down last night, after a fire broke out at the resort’s restaurant.
Most guests escaped the fire unharmed though at least two, according to the source, were injured and had to be taken to a local hospital. The fire will come as a blow to guests booked at the resort for the upcoming Christmas and New Year holiday season, as fire investigators are now first determining the cause of the blaze before an insurance settlement can allow for reconstruction to begin.
The source also pointed out that perhaps the low level of bookings in the 3* hotel had contributed to keeping the level of injuries contained, in particular as it took a long time for the first fire engine to arrive which was later joined by a fire engine from Malindi’s airport which has no night operations. Resort managers along the entire Kenyan coast have time and again asked authorities to ensure prompt responses to fire incidents but as in this case, when it took several hours to put the fire out, this has been a bone of contention. The use of makuti roofing material [makuti is the name for palm leaf panels used to
thatch roofs at the coast] may also have contributed to the spread of the fire, an issue insurance companies have in the past taken up with hotels insisting on the use of safer and more fire resistance building materials.
Guests staying at the Sai Eden Roc were rebooked to other resorts and hotels in Malindi for the remainder of their booked vacations.
JETLINK HOPES TO BE BACK IN THE AIR BEFORE EASTER NEXT YEAR
(Posted 18th December 2013)
It was Christmas come early for the owners of Jetlink when news emerged yesterday in Nairobi that the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority has granted the grounded carrier a renewal of their air service licence, prerequisite to eventually resume operations.
Grounded a year ago over South Sudan’s Central Bank’s refusal to let Jetlink remit the ticket sales proceeds from their accounts in Juba to Nairobi, the cash flow crisis this cause eventually prompted the airline to halt flights as they were no longer able to meet financial obligations in Kenya.
From other information sourced it also appears that Jetlink’s present owners, Captains Elly Aluvale and Kiran Patel, may have secured most creditors’ agreements to swap debt for equity, which would upon being certified by the KCAA for an Air Operator Certificate allow the airline to resume flights again. It is not clear right now, in the light of Mexican CRJ, the lessor of some of the planes Jetlink leased, reportedly objecting to the renewal of the air service licence, if they will now try to reach a negotiated settlement with Jetlink over the outstanding debt and if Jetlink will have to resume operations eventually with a reduced fleet of aircraft. There are also still issues with the winding up petition presently before a court in Nairobi, to which according to information at hand KCAA was one of the applicants, and if there is a change of heart to allow Jetlink to resume operations and then gradually pay off the debts to KCAA, as the authority could not be part of a debt for equity swap deal.
Some of the jets are parked at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport while at least one more is parked at Wilson Airport, and in order to regain the crucially important certificate of airworthiness for those planes they will have to undergo maintenance before they can take to the skies once again. Retaining the air service license was also important for Jetlink in order to remain a designated airline for Kenya on certain international routes and to retain their traffic rights for domestic routes within Kenya.
Watch this space for breaking and regular aviation news from across East Africa.
BILLIONAIRES RESORT DUE TO OPEN IN MALINDI THIS WEEKEND
(Posted 17th December 2013)
Flavio Briatore last weekend arrived at his Billionaires Resort in Malindi, his second hospitality venture after the award winning ‘Lion in the Sun’.
Initially due to open earlier in the year, demand for top quality in construction and finishing led to a nearly 4 months delay, but all is well which ends well when this coming Saturday, in time for the Christmas travel boom, the resort will officially open.
Briatore, the former Renault and Benetton team F1 Supremo, will reportedly spend his Christmas holiday with his family and friends at the resort. Earlier in the year he visited Malindi to inspect progress in the construction, and was seen at the time in the company of embattled Silvio Berlusconi. The former Italian Prime Minister, who after a final court verdict in Italy’s Supreme Court appears to have been banned from travelling abroad cannot therefore enjoy Malindi’s hospitality and the amenities of the resort where he, according to local Malindi sources, bought a luxury apartment.
The success of selling the condominiums of the first phase has led to Briatore considering to build more apartments and luxurious suites to meet the growing demand.
According to a local source in Malindi who sent in the report earlier this morning, have the many Italian investors in Malindi in the past asked the Kenyan government to expand the runway at the Malindi airport to facilitate nonstop flights from Italy, since the town, located over 100 kilometres north of Mombasa, is now one of Italy’s most favoured holiday destinations. This demand is likely to be repeated by Briatore on opening of the new resort besides a range of other concerns vis a vis the provision of utilities and most important security for investors and visitors.
‘They say that direct flights will avoid flying to Mombasa and then going by road to Malindi which is a big delay and loss of vacation time which makes them lose more than half a day just to reach there and go back to the airport in Mombasa. They say that nonstop flights will bring charters directly to Malindi and help revive the town’s tourism fortunes even further. Resorts like those of Mr. Briatore are top class and will attract the sort of clientele we can only dream of. They will spend a lot of money, and when they go on safari they will fly to the parks, not drive by road. The tourism industry in Malindi has also made the same requests and while the airport terminal has been modernized, we need a longer runway and enough parking for their private jets. Flights connecting via Nairobi are a bit of an inconvenience considering the congestion at JKIA and the 8 flights by KQ each week between Nairobi and Malindi are not enough. You see, international travelers do not want to use the low cost option, they want to either use an airline which can be included in their ticket from Europe or even better, have direct flights. But because KQ has stopped flying to Rome this is a big setback for Italians to come visit Kenya. So if Malindi had a longer runway, charter flights could bridge that gap’.
For more information about Briatore’s latest venture visit www.billionaireresort.com and to learn more about the destination Malindi and added options for safaris from there visit www.magicalkenya.com
KENYA TOURISM MAKES MARKET PUSH FOR MORE NIGERIAN VISITORS
(Posted 17th December 2013)
The Kenya Tourism Board yesterday announced that they are now launching a major marketing campaign in Nigeria to have more visitors from that country come for safaris and to enjoy Kenya’s beach resorts.
The following statement was released and is shown below:
‘Press Release 16/12/13
Nigeria …….. Kenya has kicked off massive tourism marketing campaigns in West Africa by launching travel trade training sessions in different regions of Ghana and Nigeria .
Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) says the two countries have shown all the indications of contributing to the Kenya’s tourism growth as Kenya turns to emerging markets and the Africa region for more tourists.
"West Africa is potential to us and this is the beginning of our efforts to tapping into the market that has high spenders with willingness to spend" says KTB Regional Marketing Manager Fred Okeyo during the launch of travel trade training and media engagement programs underway in the cities of Ghana and Nigeria .
KTB is training about 200 travel agents in West Africa as well as media engagement programs in a bid to equip them with information on Kenya’s tourism products.
Last year Ghana and Nigeria recorded about 23,000 arrivals to Kenya, a figure KTB says will be increased significantly soon as a result of aggressive marketing being put in place.
Besides holiday leisure, education, conferencing and medical tourism are becoming key tourism products attracting Nigerians to Kenya.
Kenya High Commissioner to Nigeria Tom Amolo says assurance about the safety of destination is one of the key messages the Embassy will be pitching during the ongoing Kenya at 50 celebrations.
"We have continued to reassure the market of Kenya’s safety and her conducive business for tourism business and other economic activities " says the Ambassador.
Kenya Airways sales manager in charge of Nigeria Diran Oloyede said the airline will launch a direct flight from Abuja direct to Nairobi early next year so as to handle the expected increase of travelers to Kenya.
"With these marketing activities by KTB, we will expect interest of travelers to Kenya and the launch of direct flight to Nairobi will come in handy" says the manager.
Currently Kenya airways airline operates Nigeria through Lagos ten times a week.At the moment passengers from Abuja are forced to fly to Lagos to catch Kenya airways flight direct to Nairobi.
Travelers have termed the introduction of direct flight from Abuja to Nairobi as a major Milestone in easing access to Kenya.’
HOUSTON MARKETING COMES TO THE RESCUE AFTER KTB CANCELS ATM2014 APPEARANCE
(Posted 17th December 2013)
Derek Houston of Houston Marketing, Africa Representative of Reed Travel Exhibitions, a close ally to the East African tourism sectors and in particular to Kenya, was swift to step into the breach when news broke that the Kenya Tourism Board will not be able to have a stand at the 2014 edition of the Middle East’s most important tourism trade fair, the Arabian Travel Market.
While only recently efforts were made by Kenya to get into the Kuwait market, the absence due to lack of funds from ATM 2014 is seen as a major miscalculation by Kenya’s government, and the decision, going by the comments received since the news broke late last week, all indicate that many stakeholders, top guns among them, now think that their government has finally lost the plot.
Houston Marketing’s mail to the Kenyan private sector came as a welcome relief and reads as follows:
‘Hi all Kenya tourism colleagues,
We have therefore decided to offer Kenyan and other East African companies booths on an East African pavilion* at Arabian Travel Market which takes place from 05-08 May 2014 in Dubai
*If we fill the stand with Kenyan companies only we will then rebrand it as a Kenya stand with Kenya graphics!
Arabian Travel Market is the premier business to business travel exhibition in the Middle East. The show provides an established international platform to reach high value customers and build your brand
At Arabian Travel Market you will meet buyers not only from the UAE, but also from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Iran, India , Pakistan and Bahrain.
Arabian Travel Market also has a good attendance of buyers from East Mediterranean and North African countries.
There has been a tremendous response from African countries for Stand space at ATM 2014. Currently, Nigeria, Seychelles, Mauritius, Zimbabwe , Zambia, Namibia, and Ethiopia will be participating.
ATM 2013 attendance figures included 21096 travel trade professionals from 165 countries.17,0% of all visitors were interested in doing business with Africa.
The price of a 5 square metres booth is USD 4830
This is a Walk on Package including all Furniture, a lockable cupboard, Fascia board, logo and a Graphic of your choice. There will also be a graphic of the Kenyan flag on your booth (Rwandans will have a Rwandan flag etc)
In addition the stand cost includes The Enhanced Exhibitor Directory which enables you to promote your company year-round via Arabian Travel Market’s numerous communication tools. The package includes:
• Standard entry in official onsite catalogue plus a company profile.
• Online Exhibitor Directory Listing. Including company profile, logo and product gallery (upload videos, pictures, and brochures)
• Exhibitor News Room: upload press releases
• Online Diary: confirm appointments with Hosted Delegates, Buyers Club Members and other exhibitors
If you would like to participate on the East Africa stand at Arabian Travel Market please complete the Booking Form below and return it to me as soon as possible.
We only have 5 booths available and these will be sold on a First come first served basis.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Derek Houston Africa Representative Reed Travel Exhibitions
Fax +27 12 6651677
Reactions were swift and are getting harsher, as far as cabinet secretary Phyllis Kandie is concerned, in fact as far as the Kenyan government overall is concerned, with some now accusing them to live on a different planet and calling for an end to ‘empty speeches’ and for the start of taking the private sector concerns seriously. ‘Frankly I am fed up with Kandie’s Sunday sermons. Where is the beef in all of that. If KTB does not have the money to attend a trade show which is key to capturing and keeping the Middle East market, what is next? Yes, let them go to Nigeria and promote there, no one is arguing to court a big African market but dropping ATM 2014 instead is sheer lunacy. It is clear that we are not taken seriously at all when we complain about being put between hammer and anvil. On one side they slap us with VAT, raise taxes, introduce new fees, make us pay for a bloated public tourism set up with half a dozen parastatals instead of one well facilitated tourism authority and on the other hand they give KTB peanuts compared to their real need. What KTB needs is money. Their global market strategy is by and large sound but without the money they simply cannot deliver. ATM has always been very important for us to tap into the expatriate market there and to attract Gulf citizens to travel to Kenya for safari and for our beach resorts. If this is our government’s Christmas present to the tourism private sector, then they truly lost the plot. We know you caused her predecessor [former tourism minister Danson
Mwazo] sleepless nights and exposed that Tanzanian minister [Ezekiel
Maige, sacked over numerous allegations made against him in parliament] for his mishandling of so many issues there that in the end he was sacked but I fully agree with you that tourism in Kenya has to be reorganized on government level if the sector is to succeed. We need a dedicated portfolio like you got in Uganda and in Tanzania and those half dozen parastatals have to go. They duplicate all the admin, HR and head office functions and were only created because the Kibaki government was based on cronyism. They needed to create jobs for the coalition partners. Let us save that crucial money and put it into tourism marketing and promotion, but for now it is obvious that the little money there is has been divided towards such budget lines. And let me also be clear, if they touch KTB and try to merge it, they will have a rebellion at hand from the private sector. Is there an agenda to destroy tourism?’ ranted a regular commenter from the Kenya coast when learning about these latest developments.
Understandably emotions in particular at the Kenya coast are raging high at present, with recent and future occupancies giving hotels and resorts serious cause for concern, especially once the holiday season is over after New Year’s day. An emergency meeting yesterday at the Severin Resort in Mombasa brought together some key stakeholders to discuss with the county Governor from Mombasa a range of issues, ranging from the need to clean up the city, to increased security around the notorious Likoni area to preferential access of tourist vehicles to the ferries between Mombasa and the south coast mainland, the urgent need for more flights to Mombasa and issues with utilities like water, sewerage and electricity. A recent budget cut by the county government of Mombasa led to the delay in constructing a new state of the art convention centre, and this too has been a bone of contention with the Nairobi government, which keeps peddling MICE tourism like a carrot and yet lacks the facilities, apart from the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi, to actually attract large conferences, conventions and global meetings. Said another coast based source in this regard: ‘If Kandie wants to promote MICE tourism, let her say when the Mombasa Convention Centre will be ready. Let her say where the money to build it will come from. Let her back up those statements of hers with facts and cash before we believe a word she is saying. Enough is enough, we are tired of words and assurances, let them put the money where their mouth is and we can get on with things’.
And a word of advice in closing, governments which fail to constructively engage with and listen to the private sector, rarely make it back for another term of office and while admittedly it is still early in the 5 year term of the present government, there are more problems than achievements to report as 2013 draws to a close. Watch this space for regular and breaking news from across the Eastern African region’s tourism sectors.
KENYA’S TOURISM INDUSTRY GURUS UNHAPPY WITH STRIKES AND STUDENT UNREST
(Posted 16th December 2013)
A number of Kenya’s tourism stakeholders have over the weekend voiced their concern over the present strike by hospital staff and outright condemned the riotous behaviour of students of the University of Nairobi, which went on rampage again in the capital, stoning cars and causing widespread traffic jams.
Coming hot on the heels of the country’s Golden Jubilee Celebrations – Kenya became independent from Britain at midnight on 12th December 1963 – have the strikes and students unrest added to tourism’s woes.
Over the weekend was once again a grenade thrown at a public service vehicle in a part of Nairobi NOT frequented by tourists, but a similar attempt a few days earlier in Mombasa near the Likoni ferry crossing ramp – the grenade failed to explode when thrown at a tourist vehicle with two British tourist visitors inside – has raised the alarm levels across the board.
‘I am still tempted to discount this as a mistake by the one throwing the device but if it was intentional it would signal an escalation of targets. Should any tourist bus be hit like this, we would face enormous problems as a sector. So far we were always able to say that no tourists have come into harm’s way but this latest development has us all worried. Add to that the strike in hospitals and health centres, which only two days after the Independence party is now hitting, and the students unrest in Nairobi, it portrays our country as out of control.
Those students, do they understand what is at stake here? They are clamouring for jobs and yet with their actions on the streets destroy jobs. If such news are widely picked up, where will it end? We have good bookings for Christmas and New Year but beyond that it does not look good’ wrote a regular source while others made similar comments on Facebook or Twitter.
Official sources maintain their optimism for Kenya’s future prospects in the tourism industry and Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie, responsible for overseeing the tourism sector, in an opinion piece over the weekend demonstrated her belief in better times ahead, a mood not entirely shared among key stakeholders.
‘I think they are in denial. We cannot reach our targets the way we planned because the downturn first has to be halted and then reversed. The coast has always been a key element in generating numbers and this year, and into early 2014, the forecasts are way below last year. I have even a source in Kenya Airways saying that the numbers look a lot lower for the coast, so let us arrest the rot first before we talk of doubling or tripling arrival numbers or reaching a 2 billion US Dollar revenue target. Talking about conference tourism is well and good but where are the conference centres in Mombasa and Kisumu? The Mombasa county government says they have no money for the conference centre so who is going to build it? I am not painting doom and gloom but for sure we need answers to our legitimate questions, not more aggrandizement and spilling hot air‘ said another source this morning when discussing the matter on the phone.
Challenges for sure which need to be met together, as an industry, to devise the right market strategy on how to recapture the lost market for the Kenya coast and diversify the product, upgrade it as far as the beach resorts are concerned and provide the right environment for airlines and overseas tour operators to start hard selling Mombasa again.
It was also learned that the Governor of Mombasa County has called for an urgent meeting this morning with all hotel and resort managers as well as other service providers, now going underway at the Severin Sea Lodge to discuss ‘prevalent security issues and the upcoming Mombasa International Cultural Festival, a sign that the powers that be understood just how sensitive the developments of the past days are and that immediate action is now required. Watch this space for further updates, as and when available.
WORK ON AIRPORT RAILWAY LINE TO START IN JANUARY
(Posted 14th December 2013)
In time for the celebrations of Kenya’s 50th anniversary of Independence has the Kenya Railways Corporation confirmed that work for the new commuter line from the city centre to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport will commence in January next year. Groundbreaking is expected to be performed by President Uhuru Kenyatta, as one of the country’s main new infrastructure projects will go underway.
Transfer times to and from the airport have in recent years at times reached hours, compared to the less than 30 minute ride in the 1970’s when the new airport was commissioned, and tourists and business visitors alike have been complaining about wasting much time on the road, or living in fear to miss their flight, often just making it in the nick of time. The 10 billion Kenya Shillings project, which also includes several branch lines to connect the CBD with the more distant parts of the sprawling city, is aiming to significantly reduce the traffic jams now seen across much of the day in Nairobi, together of course with new ring roads and bypasses which are being constructed right now to in particular route transit traffic around the city.
The new commuter rail line will also be expanded from the present single track to dual tracks to allow for higher train frequencies and the airport expansion, known as Project Greenfield for which President Kenyatta performed the groundbreaking ceremony two weeks ago, will when ready also be connected to the rail grid for ease of access from the city.
The present main railway station of Nairobi will also be modernized and expanded to make access and use easier and comparable with similar stations in Europe, where in particular in London the rail links to Heathrow and Gatwick airports have established themselves as indispensable in order for passengers reach in time and at a reasonable cost. Watch this space for regular and breaking news about Kenya’s new wave of infrastructure projects, involving airports, highways and railways.
LOISABA WILDERNESS GETS NEW CAMP
(Posted 14th December 2013)
Only 6 weeks after a devastating bush fire destroyed the Loisaba Wilderness Lodge and the Loisaba Private House on 30th October this year is a new camp preparing to open tomorrow, 15th of December, allowing visitors back to one of Kenya’s most scenic wilderness areas.
Set below the escarpment of the former lodge, the new camp will still allow for great views over the water hole and the salt lick where especially during the dry season game congregates for the water which elsewhere is no longer found with ease.
The new tented camp will comprise one honeymoon tent, two family tents – one triple and one quadruple – and 8 standard twin / double tents, all self contained with bucket showers and flush loos and it will also feature a common dining tent and a bar plus lounge tent where guests can meet prior to meals or to enjoy coffee or digestives afterwards.
No information has been received however about plans to rebuild the main lodge and the private house which have over the years made many friend around the world for the unique Loisabo Wilderness experience visitors were able to enjoy in solitude and away from the maddening crowds.
The camp will be operated by Cheli & Peacock and more information can be obtained by visiting www.thecpportfolio.com
ETHIOPIAN’S ATTEMPT TO ANSWER BACK SEEN AS AN ADDED FAILURE
(Posted 20th December 2013)
Following the breaking news here the other day, of an Ethiopian Airlines B767-300ER landing at the wrong airport, numerous attempts were made to whitewash the circumstances, starting with a first statement by the airline that the aircraft had landed at an alternate airport – misleading to say the least as diversion airports for wide bodied aircraft not able to land at Kilimanjaro are Nairobi (NBO) or Dar es Salaam (DAR), not the municipal field in Arusha known as ARK which is built to serve small single and twin engined aircraft and some larger turboprops like the ATR 42 or the ATR 72. Not one aviator since spoken with accepts that ARK could be sensibly described as an alternate airport to land a B767-300ER and every single one, while praising the crew for bringing the aircraft to a standstill, albeit in the grass, doubted the initial sanity of deciding to actually land in Arusha.
Dozens of what clearly appears staff from Ethiopian Airlines then tried to swamp my blog site, identifiable from a common IP address ‘IP: 126.96.36.199, mail.ethiopianairlines.com’, before someone purporting to be the Ethiopian Airlines manager in Kampala rang me, the call terminating probably due to poor signal quality before I could understand what it was all about – he never did call back by the way.
Shortly afterwards came a mail from Ethiopian’s PR department, previously wrapped in total silence when I had good things to report about the airline, and – spelling errors notwithstanding – sent me this:
Dear Prof. Wolfganga Thome,
Ethiopian Airlines would like to refute all unfounded speculations regarding the incident of Ethiopian flight ET-815 from Addis Ababa to Kilimanjaro of 18 December 2013. Such unfounded speculations are against international procedure and practice of incident investigation and communications.
Although Ethiopian Airlines should strictly follow the international procedures and will not make pre-judgmental statements before the incident is fully investigated by relevant and competent authorities, there was miscommunication between the control tower and the flying crew, which resulted in landing at Arusha airport. The aircraft had adequate fuel to fly to an approved alternate airport.
All passengers and crew were unharmed and have been taken to their intended destinations. The aircraft did not sustain any damage.
Ethiopian Airlines would like to apologize to its esteemed passengers for the inconveniences caused.
Ethiopian Airlines Public Relations Office
Apologies for the ‘inconvenience’ caused, yes, that surely does it for the passengers whose life has been at risk with this stunt of flying into ARK and not a word to the crew’s failure to get on their maps and ascertain that whatever they thought they were told to do by ATC actually was sound advice, so yes, miscommunication indeed. Definitely, if they were truly told to land at ARK that was NOT sound advice but the unfolding air accident investigation will no doubt unearth all of that, or so it is hoped.
Meanwhile have others of course made their own contributions on the matter and the following piece stood out:
OK it seems you are all set on what you believe. PLease see the following link.
It has all the latest details including the full stop and attempted turn around in the grass… The eye witness accounts are from very reliable pilot friends of mine who saw the whole thing unfold. I have been working and living in Arusha for many years and I’m getting this information first hand, Like it or not these are the facts.
Incident: Ethiopian B763 at Arusha on Dec 18th 2013, fuel emergency, landing on short runway at wrong airport and runway excursion
|By Simon Hradecky, created Wednesday, Dec 18th 2013 20:27Z, last updated Thursday, Dec 19th 2013 09:32Z
An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767-300, registration ET-AQW performing flight ET-815 from Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) to Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) with 213 people on board, could not land in Kilimanjaro due to a disabled light aircraft on the runway and entered a holding for about 30 minutes. The crew subsequently declared emergency due to low fuel and began the approach to Kilimanjaro’s runway 27 (length 3600 meters/11,800 feet) where the light aircraft was still on the runway near the threshold of runway 09/end of runway 27. The aircraft however touched down on Arusha’s runway 27 (length 1620 meters/5300 feet) at 13:15L (10:15Z) and came to a full stop just prior to the runway end. Subsequently the crew turned the aircraft left for backtracking, the aircraft came to a stop with all gear on soft ground. No injuries occurred, the aircraft received no visible damage.
The airline confirmed the aircraft diverted because a Cessna was disabled on the runway of Kilimanjaro, however, did not explain why the aircraft diverted to Arusha (27nm from Kilimanjaro Airport) with too short a runway rather than diverting to Dar es Salaam (Tanzania, 240nm from Kilimanjaro), Mombasa (Kenya, 154nm from Kilimanjaro) or Nairobi (Kenya, 127nm from Kilimanjaro) featuring suitable runways.
An investigation has been opened into the occurrence.
Ground witnesses report, that the crew managed to bring the aircraft to a full stop just before the end of the runway, but then attempted to maneouver the aircraft to backtrack the runway which is when they went off paved surface.
A listener on frequency reported the aircraft was sent into a holding at Kilimanjaro NDB (KB, 293kHz) southwest of Kilimanjaro Airport and south of Arusha Airport. Arusha’s runway was visible from the holding with the same orientation as Kilimanjaro’s runway (09/27 at 3600 meters length). The crew thus obviously believing to land at Kilimanjaro Airport touched down at Arusha.
Another listener on frequency reported the next day that the crew was advised the Cessna would soon be removed from the runway convincing the crew to remain in the hold. The crew finally called in declaring emergency and reporting that they no longer had sufficient fuel to reach Nairobi, Dar es Salaam or Mombasa (editorial remark: with required minimum fuel reserve remaining intact). Following the emergency the aircraft was cleared to land on Kilimanjaro’s shortened runway 27, the crew was told the Cessna was still on the runway near the threshold of runway 09, the Boeing 767 however did not show up at the airport.
Several passengers reported that after holding they were told they were now approaching Kilimanjaro airport, they would land to the west due to the Cessna still near the western end of the runway. The landing was rough as expected, only then it was discovered that they had landed at the wrong airport. After turning onto the grass they were stuck on the aircraft for about 3.5 hours until stairs arrived from Kilimanjaro Airport, in the meantime some emergency exits were opened to re-introduce some air circulation into the cabin and calm discontent amongst the passengers.
Arusha’s airport said the aircraft landed in Arusha by mistake, they were not supposed to land at Arusha and did not communicate with Arusha tower. The aircraft came to a complete stand still just before the end of the runway but then went off the runway.
Ethiopian is now left with the proverbial egg all over their face, as none of their information they have since peddled holds much water, and of course they made the paramount mistake of getting entangled with the media in an argument they simply cannot win, not even with the help of dozens of sycophants serving as mouthpieces for their masters.
The attacks, some of them of a very personal nature, remind me of similar waves of comments when I reported about the Gibe III dam in Ethiopia and the devastating consequences for Lake Turkana – in both cases not a credit to Ethiopia and in this case clearly not a credit to Ethiopian Airlines, whether they were aware of these attempts to ‘defend’ their company or not.
And in closing I say again, as I said on every turn, the crew did an astonishing piece of airmanship when landing that bird on a runway far too short without crashing it, but then again, they made a grave error of judgment of landing at ARK in the first place, unless of course, they absolutely HAD TO which would bring us back to the initial suspicions voiced and questions asked. I cannot wait to get the preliminary and then the final report on this incident to see who has to eat the humble-pie, and as a wild guess, it is not going to be me.
Watch this space for breaking and regular aviation news from Eastern Africa.
FASTJET WELCOMES 400.000TH PASSENGER ON THEIR FLIGHTS
(Posted 19th December 2013)
FastJet yesterday reached a landmark figure when they welcomed their 400.000th passenger on board.
Since starting operations just over a year ago, with flights from Dar es Salaam to Kilimanjaro International and to Mwanza, their destinations have since grown to include Zanzibar as well as Mbeya on their domestic services within Tanzania and of late Johannesburg, their first international route. Lusaka / Zambia will follow from 01st February next year as the airline eyes further expansion in the wider Eastern African region. It is understood that Nairobi remains high on the airline’s wish list for new destinations as does Entebbe.
The airline uses Airbus A319 equipment and has only recently announced plans to recruit another 15 pilots in order to cater for an expanded operation in 2014 and beyond.
While no formal statement was released as yet by the airline, they used Twitter to announce their accomplishment as shown below:
Today we’re thrilled to welcome our 400,000th #fastjetter on board! Join our journey to become the first pan-African budget carrier!
Congratulations to FastJet and Happy Landings, always.
PRECISION AIR ANNOUNCES SHIFT OF ARUSHA FLIGHTS TO KILIMANJARO AIRPORT
(Posted 19th December 2013)
As a result of the closure of the Arusha municipal airport, following the emergency landing there by an Ethiopian Airlines’ B767-300ER, did Precision Air issue the following public announcement as to changes for their regular Arusha flights now being shifted to Kilimanjaro International Airport, some 50 kilometres outside Arusha, until the municipal field has been reopened.
Due to the closure of Arusha Airport following the emergency incident that has been reported, several of PW flights have been impacted and arrangements have been made to re-route these flights via Kilimanjaro Airport to uplift our passengers to their various destinations as planned. Flight times remain unchanged.
All direct flights to and from Arusha will operate as follows until further notice.
FLIGHT NO DESTINATION RE-ROUTED TO
PW 422 DAR-ARK DAR-JRO
PW 423 ARK – ZNZ JRO-ZNZ
ZNZ – DAR ZNZ-DAR
PW430 DAR – ARK DAR – JRO
PW 431 ARK – ZNZ JRO – ZNZ
ZNZ – DAR Dep 17:10
Passengers have also been asked to contact Precision Air in case of any remaining questions which the airline will be happy to answer via email or through their social media sites.
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES’ LANDING ERROR SHUTS DOWN ARUSHA’S MUNICIPAL AIRPORT
(Posted 19th December 2013)
Whatever the exact circumstances were yesterday, when Ethiopian Airline’s flight ET 815 landed at the Arusha Municipal Airport instead of flying to an authorized diversion airport like Dar es Salaam or Nairobi, passengers and crew escaped only narrowly a catastrophe as the B767-300ER overshot the runway and eventually came to a halt stuck in the soft ground beyond.
The unfolding air accident investigation will no doubt eventually shed light on this most serious miscalculation, only aggravated by the nonchalant statement of the airline that the plane landed ‘at an alternate airport’ which shows the level of sheer incompetence of those who issued the statement as ARK, how it is known under the IATA three letter code, is entirely unfit to receive such planes nor has the equipment to handle wide body jets.
Why the proper alternate airports NBO or DAR were not used will soon be known but if, as some sources suggested, fuel was an issue the airline would have some serious explaining to do.
These pictures, provided by FastJet’s COO Richard Bodin, show the plane lodged in the grass beyond the runway, giving all the visual explanation readers need, to know what has happened and to put the nondescript if not outright misleading statement from Ethiopian Airlines into the right perspective. Notably does the aircraft, as seen on the pictures, not have an Ethiopian Airlines livery painted on the hull, other than the visible registration ET-AQW.
The result for regular users of Arusha’s municipal airport is now such that all scheduled flights by Precision Air have been shifted to the rather more distant Kilimanjaro International Airport, while charter operations to and from the national parks too must now use the main international airport which is over 50 kilometres out of town, adding extra cost and causing the loss of valuable time to tourists and business travellers. It is not known for how long the ARK closure will continue as the plane first needs to undergo inspection to ascertain that there is no damage to the gear, which has been put under great strain when entering the soft ground, nor how this type of aircraft will be able to take off from Arusha, considering the runway is only 1.620 metres long, generally thought to be too short for a B767-300ER to take off from. Manufacturers’ sources put the minimum takeoff length of a runway for this aircraft type to around 6.000 feet, leaving the Arusha runway short by nearly 700 feet. This means that at the very least the plane would have to be stripped of much of the equipment on board and take off with minimum fuel to reach JRO, where the aircraft would then have to be re-fitted with the parts taken out to reduce weight.
Experts are also already questioning if the landing has caused any damage to the Arusha runway, which is patently not built to cater for such weights, leaving Ethiopian and their insurers exposed to yet greater claims, should major repair works become necessary.
All in all, again kudos to the crew for their flying skills, but time will tell what led to this situation and who was ultimately responsible for taking this bird into an airport which was never meant to receive a B767-300ER.
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES IN EMERGENCY LANDING AT ARUSHA MUNICIPAL FIELD
(Posted 18th December 2013 14.15 hrs local EAT)
Information was just received from a regular airline source in Tanzania that Ethiopian Airlines apparently had an unscheduled landing of a B767-300ER at the Arusha Municipal Airport around 13.15 hrs local time. The airport’s runway is reportedly only 1.620 metres long, or 5.315 feet, too short for regular B767 operations, so the question is now being asked what prompted this high risk landing at ARK (IATA three letter code) / HTAR (ICAO four letter code). The airport’s elevation is given in official documents as 4.550 feet above mean sea level or 1.387 metres. The aircraft, registered as ET-AQW was operating on flight number ET815 from Addis via Kilimanjaro to Zanzibar and back to Addis.
From initial reports it appears that none of the passengers or crew have been injured and that the plane made it to a complete halt just before the end of the runway. The airport has also reportedly been closed for any other flights in and out of ARK requiring the rescheduling of Precision Air’s flights as well as a number of charters from and to the national parks.
Additional sources from Kilimanjaro International Airport just gave added details that the flight was approaching JRO but could not land due to an aircraft on the runway with a problem. Why the flight was then diverted to ARK and not a standard diversion airport like Nairobi or Dar es Salaam will be subject to a detailed investigation, especially if rumours were to be confirmed that the incoming flight was short of fuel. The diversion to Arusha Municipal Airport is already being hotly debated in local aviation circles as it put passengers, crew and aircraft at extreme risk. It is unclear if the B767, even if stripped of equipment and seats, will be able to safely take off from ARK and fly to JRO, when that airport is eventually open and fully operational again.
While full compliments must be extended to the cockpit crew for their skills to land the plane safely the reasons for the diversion will be subject to a full air incident enquiry with all options presently kept open as to the reasons for the unscheduled diversion. Stand by for more updates as and when more news and additional information become available.
Additional information just received now confirms that the plane actually overshot the short runway at Arusha Municipal Airport and all the wheels got stuck in soft soil. Further updates are expected in due course.
WILL 122 BILLION AID PACKAGE MAKE THE SERENGETI HIGHWAY PLANS GO AWAY?
(Posted 18th December 2013)
Tanzania and Germany signed bilateral aid agreements worth nearly 122 billion Tanzania Shillings in the form of grants, for a range of water and electricity related projects but notably also over some 45 billion for the Serengeti National Park. Germany, and in particular the Frankfurt Zoological Society, have a long standing relationship with Tanzania in supporting the Serengeti and other national parks, since the days when Germany’s wildlife wizard, aka Prof. Grzimek, immortalized the Serengeti with his books and TV series ‘Serengeti Must Not Die’. The late Prof. Grzimek struck a lifelong friendship with Tanzania’s founder president and ardent conservationist Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, which paved the way for subsequent governments to continue this strong conservation cooperation.
When plans therefore became known of a highway being proposed to cut across the vital great heards’ migration routes, German government and private conservation sources made their displeasure known but went one further by offering to finance a study for an alternative route around the Southern edges of the Serengeti National Park, which by consensus will reach a multiple of populations compared to the proposed cross park highway and is therefore thought to be much more viable in the long term.
Tanzania’s president Kikwete initially rejected such overtures, including similar offers from the World Bank, seemingly hellbent to push his ill conceived plans through but global opposition grew to such levels that the government in Dar es Salaam simply could no longer afford to ignore the protests. While a case is presently pending before the East African Court of Justice in Arusha, seeking to obtain a permanent injunction against the Tanzanian government to ever build a road or highway across the Serengeti, hope was rekindled when news broke about this massive aid package, all in form of grants by the way, that it will have built in provisions to irrevocably compel the Tanzanian government to shelve the highway plans. Regular sources within the German diplomatic establishment in Eastern Africa were unable to comment on any such ‘hidden’ riders on the grants, which would prohibit the highway to go ahead, and Tanzanian government sources are notorious NOT to answer to such enquiries.
TANAPA, through which the grant for the ‘Sustainable Management and Conservation of Biodiversity’ project is being channeled, has been overtly and covertly opposed to the highway plans, aware of the devastating impact on the great migration, and efforts are being made to ascertain through them too if any conditionalities were set by the German government vis a vis the highway project. Watch this space for future updates, as and when available.
AIR TANZANIA RESUMES MWANZA FLIGHTS AND LAUNCHES BUJUMBURA
(Posted 18th December 2013)
Air Tanzania has announced the launch of scheduled flights to Bujumbura / Burundi, with effect of Sunday, operating three times a week every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. At the same time were flights launched to Mbeya, where ATCL will now compete with Precision Air, flying daily with an ATR turboprop and with FastJet, which operates since last Sunday daily with an Airbus A319. Air Tanzania will fly four times a week to Mbeya, using their Bombardier Q300 aircraft. Traffic days here are Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
The same source also confirmed that ATCL has re-launched daily flights to Mwanza, Tanzania’s main city on Lake Victoria where again they will have to compete with multiple daily flights by Precision Air and by FastJet.
No further news could be obtained though about the much talked about plans to get a major investor on board, leaving Air Tanzania at present to fly all their routes with a single turboprop aircraft. Happy Landings to passengers and crews on all the new and restored routes across Tanzania and the wider region.
FASTJET ANNOUNCES NOVEMBER DATA
(Posted 18th December 2013)
FastJet has just published their latest statistics, showing a yearly average loadfactor of 73 percent and a November loadfactor of 72 percent across the board.
The airline upped their schedule to daily flights to Mbeya effective 16th December, after only launching the route a few weeks ago with initially three flights a week. Punctuality was given with 98 percent of all flights leaving on time, which in airline language means within 15 minutes of the published STD and STA (scheduled time of departure and arrival).
The airline also expressed their confidence that December may in fact be their best month ever, since they commenced flight operations on 29th November last year, as Richard Bodin, COO of FastJet said in a release sent to this correspondent: ‘We are delighted so far with our sales for the important Christmas period. Whilst it’s still early days, indications are that December bookings and revenues will be strong. We have already seen flights filling up quickly and we are recording historically high yields. We are also seeing increases in ancillary revenue sales.Additionally, our anniversary sales event last month proved successful. Focusing on selling seats in the traditionally weak post-Christmas period, we recorded our best ever sales day, selling more seats in 24 hours than ever before whilst achieving a better than expected yield’.
FastJet also confirmed that they are on course for the launch of their second international route on 01st February next year, which will be Lusaka, where they will compete with Pro-Flight from Zambia which launched flights to Dar es Salaam only a few months ago. No confirmation could be obtained though as to the intended launch date of flights to Nairobi, or Entebbe for that matter, which has been on the drawing board of FastJet for some time now.
Watch this space for breaking and regular aviation news from across Eastern Africa.
RWANDAIR CANCELS FRIDAY FLIGHT TO JUBA OVER SECURITY CONCERNS
(Posted 20th December 2013 11.30 hrs EAT)
RwandAir has just announced that on account of security concerns in Juba they have decided to cancel their Friday flight to the South Sudanese capital and issued the following statement:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RwandAir Cancels Juba Flights For Friday December 20th 2013
Rwandair Cancels Friday Operations to Juba; Passengers Advised to Monitor Website For Updated Flight Information.
Friday December 20, 2013. Rwandair, the national carrier would like to officially inform the public that WB430/WB431 flights, scheduled for Juba have been cancelled for Friday 20th December 2013 on account of the security situation in Juba. We will continue to assess the security situation on the ground and will advise on later flights/operations in due course.
Passengers with travel plans in the near future should contact the airline to obtain the latest flight status information for confirmation before making their way to the Airport. Travelers are advised to monitor the airline website to be updated on continued flight information. Rwandair’s website is www.rwandair.com. “RwandAir treats the safety of its passengers and employees as its absolute top priority, and safety is never compromised under any circumstances. We will work to resume normal service and to accommodate our customers.” said Rwandair CEO John Mirenge.
For more information/ assistance please contact your nearest Rwandair office or our call center on 3030.
For more information contact the head of corporate communications, Anna Fye at 0784873299/ anna.fye
Scores of passengers are waiting at the Juba International Airport for an opportunity to fly out of the country after indications that the fighting has now spread across much of South Sudan with government opponents making heavy inroads and taking town after town, following – what was largely blamed on the regime in Juba as a fake coup attempt in order to create a scenario to justify a wide spread purge of opponents of President Kiir – the initial fighting which broke out last Sunday night.
While dozens of busses have been chartered by Kenya and Uganda, to take their nationals out of South Sudan and bring them across the Ugandan border at Nimule to safety, foreign embassies have organized relief flights, including the German embassy which – according to information received – will send two German Air Force planes into Juba today to uplift their and other European Union nationals first to Entebbe before giving them the option to either stay there or return home to Germany or their home countries. Kenya Airways, Fly 540 and Air Uganda were planning to fly today but have yet to confirm that they will actually do so, probably deciding on a case by case basis after getting the latest updates from their station managers in Juba. Much of yesterday was the airport out of service with a B737-500 stuck on the runway after the nose gear had collapsed, throwing a spanner in the works of evacuation flights since the airlines were unable to land and had to cancel or delay flights while the runway was blocked.
RwandAir though must be congratulated to put safe and secure operations first and rather let go of the opportunity to fly back to Kigali with a full load, when the safety of the aircraft and the crew is even in the slightest doubt.
Watch this space for more updates as and when available as the situation is fluid in Juba and developing at a rapid pace.
RWANDAIR PROMOTES FIRST RWANDAN PILOT TO B737 CAPTAIN
(Posted 17th December 2013)
Rwanda’s national airline RwandAir yesterday announced the promotion of First Officer Bosco Murabukirwa to the rank of Captain, the first time a Rwandan national has made it to the left seat in the cockpit. This development is part of a sustained effort to bring more Rwandan nationals ‘on board’ as pilots and aircraft technicians, aimed to reduce the need for the recruitment of foreign pilots and to address the growing pilot shortage which has handed airline human resource planners a huge challenge for the coming years. RwandAir employs another 12 Rwandan pilots, all of them currently serving as First Officers to gain experience and accumulate the necessary hours on an aircraft type before meeting the requirements by the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority and by RwandAir to be eligible for promotion. Captain Bosco completed his ‘check out flight’ under the supervision of RwandAir’s Director of Flight Operations Capt. Santos Pio who on arrival of the B737 in Kigali then handed Bosco Murabukirwa his ‘promotion’ in the form of his new four striped pips. while airline CEO John Mirenge provided then new jacket with the four stripes on the sleeves, witnessed by and much applauded by the staff of RwandAir who had rushed to the aircraft to witness this momentous achievement.
Captain Bosco will now be able to fly RwandAir’s B737-800NG and their B737-700NG aircraft, of which the airline has two each in service.
RwandAir, one of the fastest growing airlines in the wider Eastern and Central African region, also flies two recently acquired Bombardier CRJ900NextGen and will replace a wetleased single class Bombardier Dash 8-100 with a state of the art Bombardier Q400 dual class aircraft, due for delivery in February 2014.
Seen below are Capt. Santos Pio, Director of Flight Operations, RwandAir’s Chief Pilot Capt. Marcel Gabou Tirefort, RwandAir’s CEO John Mirenge and the newly promoted Capt. Bosco Murabukirwa.
Happy Landings, always.
South Sudan News
JUBA AIRPORT RUNWAY CLOSED AFTER AIRCRAFT SUFFERS NOSEGEAR COLLAPSE
(Posted 19th December 2013)
(Picture courtesy of Mr. Ajak Mayol, Juba)
Evacuation flights from Juba to Entebbe, Nairobi and other East African destinations came to a halt when the nosegear of a Boeing B737-500 collapsed on landing, blocking the single runway of Juba International Airport.
From information at hand the plane is registered as ST-NVG and belongs to Nova Airways, is 15 years old and entered service first in January 1998. The flight originated in Khartoum, the capital of The Sudan and no injuries to passengers or crew are reported at this time.
All flights enroute to Juba were advised by Air Traffic Control that the airport was presently unserviceable with the runway blocked, and as Juba can only operate in daylight, the remaining time today will cause hundreds of foreigners seeking to leave by air to remain in Juba another night.
It is presently unclear when the runway will be cleared and the stricken aircraft towed away, but one source at the airport has indicated that it may take a while and did not expect any further flight movements.
Aircraft on the ground, ready to leave, are also stuck at Juba and passengers and crew will have to spend very likely the night there until operations can resume tomorrow.
This incident comes hot on the heels of the incident at Arusha’s municipal airport yesterday, when a B767-300ER of Ethiopian Airlines landed at an airport patently unsuited to accommodate large jet aircraft and that airport too remains closed for operations.
One passenger, regularly reading this blog and based in Juba, expressed her dismay over being unable to leave after securing a seat on an outbound flight later this afternoon and shared her concern for the safety of all those passengers now at the airport. Watch this space for breaking and regular aviation news from Eastern Africa.
JUBA HOTELS RUN OUT OF DIESEL FOR GENERATORS AS BORDERS REMAIN CLOSED
(Posted 18th December 2013)
As the night time curfew continues in Juba and the borders, including the airport remained closed for a second day yesterday, hotels have started to feel the pinch as diesel deliveries have dried up and they are now faced with the prospect to tell their stranded guests that it is ‘lights out’ as they preserve their remaining reserves. Food supplies and other crucial services too appear to have slowed to a trickle as suppliers are at once hoarding their goods as well has have reportedly raised prices for the few deliveries they have made by substantial margins.
Hundreds of people from abroad appear to be stranded in Juba and the rest of South Sudan, since the airport was closed and no flights were allowed to come in and airlift foreigners out of the country and sporadic outbreak of fighting – repeated heavy gunfire was reported yesterday from Juba – has made it a tough wait for those who had come to seek out trade and investment opportunities in Africa’s youngest nation. Airlines, which had to cancel flights, like South Supreme which is based in Juba, have left stranded passengers to fend for themselves as in the words of one regular airline source from the Juba International Airport ‘this is force majeur and beyond us to cater for hotels and meals for all those passengers who are stuck in Juba. It is NOT us who have caused the flights to be cancelled so we are not the problem but I sympathize with our passengers, there is just nothing we can do until the airport is open again. And when that happens I can see problems for my staff and myself as everyone wants to be on the first flight out and that is not possible of course. I keep you posted’.
Tourism, according to a regular and keenly interested Nairobi source is now ‘all but dead’ as in his words ‘no one in his right mind can now send any more tourists there. It was already a tough sell as an extension from Nairobi because of all the security concerns and all their bloody red tape down to needing a licence for a camera. But this latest situation makes it impossible because there is simply no guarantee of visitor’s safety and security. In any case, we are aware that the claims made by government there are far from true. This fighting has the potential to spread across much of the South Sudan and we know who is to blame’ without then naming the party he felt was guilty of deception.
South Sudan’s national parks are gems waiting to be discovered but the few operators of tented safaris in South Sudan have all remained shtumm over their prospects of future business development in the face of this latest setback.
There has been no word as to when flights into Juba can resume and Kenya Airways’ three flights a day, as are Air Uganda’s two daily flights, remain suspended until there is clarity and the guarantee of aircrafts’ safety on landing and takeoff from the South Sudan authorities, before operations can resume.
The land border from Uganda near Nimule also remains closed and trucks with cargo for South Sudan are now making a long line back from the border waiting for news. Busses and other passenger cars have reportedly turned back or travellers have opted to return by other means to Kampala, while on the South Sudan side of the border vehicles are also piling up waiting to get out of South Sudan.
Meanwhile are Embassies and High Commissions in Kampala on standby and constant contact with their missions in Juba, or their citizens directly in cases where no diplomatic offices have yet been established, to monitor the situation and provide evacuation assistance just as soon as circumstances allow. Watch this space for more updates as and when available.
NO FLIGHTS IN OR OUT OF JUBA / SOUTH SUDAN
(Posted 16th December 2013)
The fighting overnight in Juba, South Sudan’s capital city, has caused the closure of the international airport in Juba, with flights from the region, i.e. Nairobi, Entebbe, Kigali, Addis Ababa and beyond cancelled.
This has left passengers in Juba stranded who tried to leave the country to flee the unrest while UN compounds in the city and outside have seen hundreds of women and children flock to their gates in search of a safe refuge.
The situation on the ground is not entirely clear though the public radio and TV channels appear to be in government hand, as President Kiir in a broadcast announced that 1) a curfew be in place from 6 pm to 6 am and 2) that soldiers loyal to former Vice President Dr. Riek Machar were responsible for the outbreak of fighting. Additional information sourced speaks of only periodic gunfire from the city as of a quarter to two pm, as this report is uploaded, and that troops loyal to Kiir are pursuing their opponents out of the city.
Arrests are now expected and the whereabouts of Kiir’s main political opponents within the SPLM, who had for months taken issue with his decisions taken what they claimed was against party rules and existing laws, are unknown at this time.
No confirmation could be obtained about the extent of the fighting which broke out last night just before midnight and included, according to sources in Juba, not just rifle fire but also mortar rounds and perhaps even artillery fire.
No details of any damage inside the city were available either, as most sources are holed up in their homes or offices. While making calls has been described as ‘difficult‘ does the internet at this stage still work, lending a platform for speculation and rumours galore.
The land border at Nimule with Uganda has reportedly also been closed without any indication when borders, or airport, will resume operations.
Watch this space for future updates.
Vanilla Island News
MORE FAM TRIPS SHOWCASE REUNION’S WIDE RANGE OF TOURISM ATTRACTIONS
(Posted 14th December 2013)
Efforts continue from Reunion Tourism and the island’s private sector to showcase the rugged beauty of this French Indian Ocean island, as a group of 12 Spanish travel agents, organized by Viajes El Corte Ingles and local handling agency Papangue Touris, was invited to sample the wide range of attractions the ‘Ile de la Reunion’ has to offer. Ocean and terrestrial activities here go hand in hand and are often just a stone throw away from each other, or minutes of flights in one of the helicopters which take dozens of tourists every day into the skies over the island to give a birds’ eye view over the volcanic terrain of the interior.
Diving – only recently was a new underwater diving record established in Reunion – is one of the main off shore activities, as is whale and dolphin watching, though deep sea fishing also has a strong following.
In the interior it is the scenic beauty of drives to such small towns like Hell-Bourg, listed incidentally among the ‘most beautiful villages in France’, during which plenty of waterfalls down the cliffs of massive rock faces are visible and particularly impressive after some rain has fallen in the interior from which the streams and rivers spring.
Added attractions are visits to the sugar cane plantations, the island’s vanilla showcase farm and processing facility and of course to see a rum distillery, where visitors can lift their ‘spirits’ with the island’s own ‘spirit’.
Passing through the colourful markets and seeing often perfectly preserved old Creole houses rounds up the range of options tourists have, beyond just lounging on a sunbed next to the pool of their 5* resort or on the white, or at times black sandy beaches, as after all the island’s volcanic origin does produce not just white but also black sand. Check out www.reuion.fr for more information on accommodation, tours and sightseeing, available in French, English and a number of other languages.