TOURISM, AVIATION AND CONSERVATION NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
A weekly roundup of reports, travel stories and opinions by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
Get daily breaking news updates via Twitter @whthome or on my blog: www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com
First edition March 2011
THE DEATH OF THE YACHTSMEN
When news were confirmed yesterday afternoon that the four Americans, captured with their yacht off the coast of Oman, had died at the hand of their captors, the problem of the ocean terrorist took another turn to the worse. Often called a problem from hell, the hell that Somalia has become with warlords and Islamic radicals fighting for power, it is now finally clear that ocean terrorism is a reality and should no longer be romanticised as ‘piracy’.
In the old days piracy was globally a hanging offense, and the justice meted out to captured pirates was swift and final, when they were strung up on ship’s masts or, if at all returned to port, tried in court and then hanged at the gallows.
It will be little consolation to the families of those who died, that most of the Somalis on board of the yacht too were killed. Gunfire erupted on the captured yacht, a rocket was fired at a nearby American navy war ship which had been shadowing the yacht and in fact been talking to the captors for a while and only then was navy personnel deployed. To their and the world’s horror they found 3 of their fellow citizens dead and one more mortally wounded. Several of the surviving ocean terrorists were taken into custody and are expected to be handed over to the US justice system, where – considering the gravity of their offenses and the cold blooded murder of innocent lives – the death penalty will most likely be demanded by prosecutors. Knowing the American legal system and the affinity of members of the legal profession to rush to the aid of the accused, trying to delay the inevitable, this may take some time but the outcome surely will be certain.
Meanwhile, this latest tragedy is just a step short of the ocean terrorists eventually managing to highjack a passenger cruise liner, as often discussed here, the worst of the nightmare scenarios imaginable. It is clear that harsher measures and a more robust approach is now finally needed to deter the Somalis from leaving their own shores to wreak havoc on international shipping. Once again it is therefore suggested, if not demanded – to the disdain of several and yet the broad support from most – that a total shipping embargo be enforced on Somalia, with only sanctioned vessels carrying humanitarian aid permitted through and escorted to port, and that any ‘mothership’ or skiffs attempting to leave the territorial waters of Somalia be treated as hostile and be engaged, to either return immediately or else be sunk.
That language will be swiftly understood by the ocean terrorists, if any – after spreading such a message – will remain active or continue trying to seajack ships.
Somalia per se deserves better, but since the fall of their former central government under despot Siad Barre in the early 90’s some resemblance of order has only been restored in the breakaway region of Somaliland, which government is seeking international recognition and presents itself as the ‘good Somalis’. Much of the rest of Somali is literally in civil war, with war lords and militias of various descriptions seeking to outgun each other in their quest for territorial and economic control, in total disregard for the safety of the civilian population living in their area of operation. In fact, the Islamic radicals have turned on their own citizens declaring death penalties by stoning for the obscurest of reasons, making a mockery of the religion of Islam and the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed.
Therefore, here too a robust mandate is required for the AU ‘peacekeeping force’ to decisively engage the combatants on the ground, rout them and restore peace and civil order across the country. In fact more troops are needed on the ground and my own country, Uganda – subjected last July to terror attacks herself in retaliation for her role in Somalia – has offered more troops but other African nations must follow suit. Once that is achieved, an international support effort can start to rebuild government, institutions, and infrastructure and bring both immediate relief to the hungry and suffering people but also restore Somalia’s long term ability to look after herself.
Living in denial only leads to more such tragedies as the killing of the four Americans, and considering the location of their capture in what was thought to be safe waters off Oman also shows that the ocean terrorists keep probing the naval coalition’s sea defences as they spread their bloody handiwork further and further into the Indian Ocean.
Their threat to kill hostages already held on captured vessels near the Somali shores is likely a bluff and needs to be called, and when navy vessels appear nearby with guns aimed at shore positions, helicopters with commandos swoop in and board the captured ships, it will soon be over. The land bases and hitherto safe havens of the ocean terrorist must be treated like Al Qaida hideouts – some of the proceeds from ransom payments are believed to find their way into Al Qaida off-springs in Somalia anyway – and they must be found and then destroyed to deny the terrorists their hideouts.
This view will undoubtedly bring about some opposition again, likely too some more threats, but the majority of civilised people, now painfully aware of the fate of the four Americans, will undoubtedly be in support, if not asking in fact for more radical measures.
Sincere condolences are extended from everyone at the eTN team to the families and friends of the murdered sailors and may their souls rest in eternal peace.
Watch this space.
AFRICAN AIRLINES BEMOAN FUEL PRICE INCREASES
Airlines flying across the East African region have started mulling over an imminent increase in their fuel supplements, charged over and above the ticket costs to cover for the present price explosion. Since the outbreak of political unrest a few weeks ago in Tunisia the wave of protests have since also swept the Egyptian government from office, but it was the crisis now evident and unfolding in Libya which drove crude oil prices up even more. Prices for crude in Europe and the US has risen by over 25 US Dollars since the onset of the troubles, and this translated to immediate rises in the cost of Jet A 1 and AVGAS for the East African supplies now landed in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi, Eastern Congo and Ethiopia. One airline executive said on condition of strict anonymity: ‘the fuel price increase in 2007 and 2008 was a major factor for airlines losing money. It drew focus to fuel hedging but this can only do so much and if one does not get it right, the losses can be even worse. Cost of jet fuel are already much higher in East Africa than other parts of the aviation world and an airline cannot totally absorb the rise in fuel cost since our margins are already very thin. I see no option but to consider raising fuel supplements soon, if the prices for the next Jet A 1 delivery is higher again than the last one. If we don’t do that our fares will not cover our operating cost and we end up making losses.’
It is expected that AFRAA will soon address this issue too on behalf of their African airline membership but unless political stability returns soon, prices may rise to new record heights first, hurting aviation and the economy in general not just in Africa but the rest of the world.
EGYPT AIR IN DIRE STRAIGHTS
Information was received from usual well informed airline sources that Egypt Air, a member of the global Star Alliance, is seeking assistance from fellow member airlines in need of more aircraft to lease out, by dry or wet lease, as many as two dozen aircraft during the upcoming summer season. The leases are aimed to reducing cost while earning the keep of the aircraft, following a dramatic loss of transit traffic via Cairo and traffic into Egypt’s main city of Cairo and other in particular resort towns at the Red Sea and along the River Nile. One source has put the traffic and subsequent revenue reduction to as much as 75 percent, causing the financial alarm bells to ring at the airline head offices in Cairo.
Egypt Air has in recent years made great strides towards a fleet modernization and also in terms of network expansion and their membership in Star Alliance has undoubtedly helped them to achieve such progress in such short a time. However, the political fallout in Egypt has made a huge impact on the country’s economic performance too, in particular the tourism industry and aviation sector, where resorts are standing empty and aircraft fly with few passengers or even remain grounded in an effort to save cost.
It is now known how many planes Egypt Air presently keeps on the ground but sources from Cairo have indicated that crews and other staff have been asked to take unpaid leave to help save their long term jobs, while other have indicated that about a third of the current fleet is ‘parked’.
Unless the government in Cairo stabilises soon and restores market confidence, in particular for the tourism industry at the Red Sea resorts, the Mediterranean resorts and the Nile – river cruise boats are parked in double and triple lines right now due to lack of tourists – the sector may stare financial ruin in the face.
However, the same sources also pointed out that they are – ahead of ITB and other crucial tourism trade fairs – working on a strategy to bring tourist visitors back to Egypt, even if at the expense of substantial pricing drops, just to keep the sector ticking over until the crisis finally comes to an end. Adds this correspondent that if indeed prices for vacations in Egypt are coming down substantially, this may be the right time to take a flight to Cairo, visit the Pyramids, take a Nile cruise to see the temples and monuments and spend some time along the sunny beaches of the Red Sea. Any takers?
TROUBLED AIRLINES AND TROUBLED RESORTS IN TROUBLED COUNTRIES
Information filtering in from airline sources cultivated over many years from several of the countries affected by political upheavals in recent weeks all say the same thing: THE AVIATION AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY IS HEADING FOR SERIOUS FINANCIAL TROUBLE AND POSSIBLE SERIOUS DOWNSIZING. Several airlines in fact are reportedly holding emergency management and board sessions to review their present capacity, their schedules and equally important their pending aircraft orders, some of which might have to be delayed or in a worst case scenario cancelled, while hastily compiled offers are now making their way into aviation brokerages for both wet leases and dry leases of aircraft originating from this part of the world. Route managers will also mull over how best to scale back on destinations, numbers of flights and even use smaller aircraft, until they have weathered the rising storm, or not of course, should they run out of money while hoping against hope. However, the uptake of such sudden capacity immediately available for the upcoming ‘summer peak’ in Europe will also depend on the developments on the oil market, as sharply and continuous rises in the cost of jet fuel might seriously dampen demand for air travel in combination with planned holidays from the key European markets, themselves only just recovering from the fallout and aftermath of the global economic and financial crisis.
Egypt Air’s plight has already been specifically highlighted but similar effects are now starting to take hold for airlines based in other trouble spots. All the Libyan based airlines are starting to take serious occupancy hits, with of course a more recent accident involving many foreign passengers travelling on one of their aircraft from an African destination to their home countries, via Tripoli, not helping either in regard of passenger confidence. While frantic expatriates, similar to what happened in Cairo a few weeks ago, are camping out at Tripoli’s chaotic international airport, most are waiting to be airlifted to safety by their own home government’s chartered aircraft, and few if any passengers are presently flying into Libya.
The airport in Benghazi, often used as a ‘tech stop’ by cargo charters from Africa to Europe – being fully loaded requires a fuel stop en route for many of the aircraft used – has reportedly become unserviceable and the situation is at best hazy about Tobruk, ostensibly already liberated from the regime of Gadaffi, but as the country’s air traffic control is still in the hands of the regime in Tripoli it is not clear if any aircraft attempting to come in to Tobruk to fly expatriates out of that part of Libya will be granted official landing permission. Not having that means any entry into Libyan airspace might call those sections of their air force into the skies still loyal to the regime and it cannot be ruled out if they would not blast a passenger jet out of the skies, especially recalling the Libyan connection in the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am and the UTA aircraft enroute to France.
In Libya in particular exists the strongest potential for a full scale civil war as the liberated East of Libya is now facing off with the West of the country where the regime continues to hold on to power by using genocidal methods, mowing down protestors on the streets and arresting ‘suspects’ from wherever they can be found, almost certain to face torture if not worse. Egged on by a once again exposed ruthless despot, political madman and now genocidaire (alleged till proven in court) Gadaffi has his goons commit crimes against humanity (again alleged till proven in court) – a major scare word nowadays for politicians running amok amongst their own people as the likely end up in The Hague, if not receiving eventually ‘instant justice’ from their awakening subjects.
Tunis Air continues to struggle with low load factors, similar to Egypt Air’s problems, as foreign tourists continue to shy away from visiting the country’s resorts along the Mediterranean shores, acting on advice from both tour operators and their home governments. Similar stories are emerging about Jordan, equally depending on tourism revenues, where the arrival rate of tourists reportedly has slowed in recent days, threatening what used to be a vibrant tourism industry. Yemen’s national airline is now also said to look with increasing concern at developments on their home political front, with daily demonstrations taking place, which will keep their passengers off their aircraft and rather connect to their final destination with other carriers. That of course is in addition to the terror threat already in place by Al Qaida cells and supporters operating in the country, and in certain parts of Yemen almost at will.
Resorts along the Red Sea beaches of Egypt, but also those in Tunisia, are scratching their heads of how to approach the upcoming ITB, the global tourism trade fair industry leader, and what to tell their buyers and the travelling public, and are busy strategizing to find at least a survival mode until things get better. Libya’s tourism industry, which though still in its infancy, was carefully being built up in recent years, is now equally staring at financial ruin, similar to the empty Red Sea resorts and parked Nile cruisers in Egypt, as no clients from abroad will stay there until the political situation is fully resolved and market confidence has been restored.
A slightly different pictures appears to emerge however from some of the city ‘business’ hotels in cities affected by strive, which were often reportedly quite full as expatriates ‘stuck’ especially in Libya have resorted to ‘divert’ there, hopefully being safer there than in their homes. Private homes presently are arguably greater focal points for looting, should civil order completely descend into chaos. City hotels are also easier to access in case of further mass evacuations as focal assembly points, should it become necessary. They too however will be empty once the exodus has been completed as no foreign business travellers are likely to travel back en masse, but for the most adventurous ones seeking to make a quick buck.
The entire Northern African region, including Morocco which has not yet seen they kind of serious political troubles as witnessed elsewhere, is now under the spotlight by the global aviation and tourism sectors – other sectors too of course – to establish where it is safe to go and this uncertainty is bound to take its financial toll on the airline and tourism sectors and delay or defer investments.
Up to now no other country has openly wooed potential holiday makers to ‘switch’ to their safe shores, but it is only a matter of time before this will begin, probably prompted by leading tour operators from Europe where crisis meetings have been taking place to decide what to do about major Mediterranean traffic flows for the summer vacations, arguably away from the trouble spots to ‘safe destinations’ like Spain, which is likely to benefit from added visitors turning their back on places like Egypt and Tunisia, and likely a few more in coming weeks and months. Watch this space.
LIBYAN OWNED COMPANIES FACE UNCERTAIN FUTURE
Concerns are growing amongst management and staff of Libyan owned companies like LAICO Hotels and Uganda Telecom about their future and their biggest shareholder’s ability to inject further capital into the companies for expansion, modernization and system upgrades.
LAICO Hotels for instance owns the Lake Victoria Hotel in Entebbe, but also the prestigious Grand Regency Hotel in Nairobi, which is located along the Uhuru Highway and was in the negative headlines for weeks at end when it was ‘sold’ at an alleged throw away price to Gadaffi’s Libya in turn for a range of ‘considerations’. Another major hotel in the region is their Umumbano Hotel in Kigali.
All these properties, while formally owned by LAICO Hotels, were always presented to the public, and many of the staff support this notion, as ‘Gadaffi’s properties’ and the current standing of this ‘owner’ – considering all the global sanctions, frozen bank accounts and even asset freezes – are making staff sentiments run riot, with rumours abound over the future of these hotels.
It is understood that operations have at this stage not been affected, but should the global freeze of Gadaffi controlled companies be extended to include these hotels, it could have a series of rather negative consequences, both in the legal sense as well as for the financial side of the companies.
It is no wonder therefore that management and staff of these companies are monitoring the developments in Libya therefore with growing concern, wondering how safe their own, especially senior positions are, if their salaries are being paid at the end of the month and the months to come and who will be ‘in charge’ in the future as at least some board member positions are held by Gadaffi cronies who may find themselves being embargoed too as much of the dictators inner circle now has their assets frozen abroad and travel bans imposed on them.
Libya, or should one say Gadaffi, has become a major investor in East Africa over recent years, where ‘opportunities’ were snapped up regularly, often without competitive bidding more as a political favour – something which most likely is now no longer the case and more and more of his ‘friends’ are turning their back on him, just as they would when the proverbial tycoon goes broke.
It is understood that the UN is putting a panel together to oversee the freeze of assets, of bank accounts operated by Gadaffi’s family and cronies and whom to extend travel bans to, making it a period of anxiety for all those working for such companies, in Africa and around the world, until the positions of such firms have been clarified by a sanction committee. Watch this space as the latest saga involving Libya unfolds.
WIKILEAKS CONFIRM EGYPT’S HOSTILITY OVER NILE WATER AGREEMENTS
The government of fallen ‘Pharaoh’ Hosni Mubarak has now finally been exposed by more WikiLeaks cables published last week, confirming what East African countries for long suspected and what a Ugandan diplomat a few weeks ago ‘spilled’ – reported here at the time: Egypt did consider the use of force against the ‘water producing countries’ upstream, should push come to shove over what Cairo thought was ‘excessive use of lake and river waters for agri-irrigation, domestic consumption and industrial use’.
The pre-independence agreements signed by a biased Britain with Egypt in 1929 and in 1959 gave the Egyptians literally veto rights over the use of the Nile waters and sources upstream, affecting the ‘producer’ countries of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo DR, Ethiopia – where the so called Blue Nile springs from – and of late even the soon to be independent Republic of South Sudan.
A hydrologist, under diplomatic cover provided by the Egyptian Embassy in Kampala, is permanently based in Jinja to monitor the release volume of water for the present Owen Falls and Kiira power stations and his ‘instructions’ are to be followed or else, the latter never fully explored nor exercised in the past under Mubarak.
Hence, Egyptian and Khartoum regime representatives at the Nile Basin Initiative and the negotiating teams over a new Nile Water Treaty proposed by the Eastern African states, kept their East African counterparts often in near desperation, after refusing to engage in honest negotiations over what East Africa considers a prime natural resource, to be shared with neighbours within reason but not under dictates and threats. In fact Tanzania has for all practical purposes already thrown the old treaties out of the diplomatic windows, saying in unison with her neighbours in East Africa that those were shoved down their throats by the British on independence, are outdated and no longer reflect the grown populations in Eastern Africa nor the changes in climatic conditions since 52 years ago.
Said one regular source: ‘I have told you often what our effort aims for. We wish to renegotiate the old treaties and when Egypt and Khartoum walked off the negotiating table we were compelled to put up the treaty for signature and adoption without their final input. It is a fact that most of the water producers as you call us have signed on to the treaty already and it is now up to the new government in Egypt and the regime in Khartoum to do the same. [Burundi and Congo DR too still have to sign] We believe our position will be endorsed also by the new Republic of South Sudan in full, as they too fall into your producer category while those two downstream are in your words ‘consumer countries’. We believe our new treaty is fair, it recognizes Egypt’s needs for water and guarantees a quota for them. What they also have to do, like the Khartoum government, they have to begin using other sources for their potable water like desalination, better recycling and so forth, but even us here are conserving water now more and more to stand the storm of climate change.’ Responding to another question the same source then added: ‘I know you keep pointing at Boutros Boutros Ghali’s utterance back in the 70’s that Egypts’ next war would be over water, but why would they attack us over water. They cannot think to win a long distance war and are therefore well advised to consider their options very carefully. If they want to be partners we are ready for them to be partners also, if they want to be something else we are ready for that too. The WikiLeaks documents you are referring to I have not seen but we rely on our own assessments, the feedback from our diplomatic staff in Cairo and Khartoum, private exchanges within the delegations and we can figure out what it is they say and what it is they think. We are not novices in this business, not like on independence when the British almost forced those treaties on us as part of finally giving us independence. Today we operate as Uganda within our East African framework and our fellow member states are also clear in their interpretation as are we. The five member states, plus Congo, South Sudan, we are seeking to use our own resources within our own needs and development programmes. Irrigation for agriculture is almost a must now considering the cycle of droughts parts of East Africa undergo. Increased industrialisation too requires more water and with the population growth in East Africa we must provide more water for domestic uses. Yet we are offering good terms for the use of our water and Egypt in particular, considering their problems right now are only temporary and any new government will have to engage with us, is better off being a friendly partner with us. They are in COMESA, we are in COMESA too, so there are platforms we can use o talk and see a new treaty come through’.
Adds this correspondent that this matter has been pending since the 1999 formation of the Nile Basin Initiative and it is hoped that a final agreement can be reached with a new government in Cairo soon to jointly look forward in the spirit of cooperation and development especially considering the rather generous offer made by the ‘producer countries’ in favour of the ‘consumer countries’ downstream. Watch this space to learn about yet more twists and turns in this story line.
MORE HABITUATED GORILLA GROUPS TO ‘COME ON LINE’ IN 2011
Information was received from a regular source at the Uganda Wildlife Authority that the habituation of two more groups of mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is in its final stages. Hence, later this year a further 16 permits for gorilla tracking will be available on the market, satisfying at least some of the seemingly ever growing demand by tourists to see the prized animals. The source pointed out that as early as mid year the two group could be gradually opened up for tracking, a deliberately long and careful process to make sure no harm comes to the animals and their natural behaviour is not being disturbed or in a worst case scenario altered altogether.
The introduction of the two new groups, to be named ‘Kahugye’ and ‘Oruzogo’, will bring the total number of habituated gorilla families and clans to 10, although one is set aside for pure research and monitoring purposes and not available for visits by ordinary tourists.
Presently the cost of a day’s tracking of gorillas is at US Dollars 500 per person, plus overnight, transport and related expenses that is, and charged uniformly also in Rwanda and Congo DR following extensive cooperation agreements between the wildlife managers in the three countries.
This figure however is understood to be under review, having been in place for two years now, but none would comment on the progress of internal and external consultations over a future rise. Uganda’s earnings from tourism have grown inspite of the difficult economic environment in recent years and gorilla tracking is the biggest single tourism activity in terms of revenues and global recognition. The Uganda Tourist Board is however working hard to portray the country also as a general adventure destination, considering the attractions along the upper Nile valley below Jinja, where white water rafting, quadding, horseback riding, bungee jumping, boating and cross country cycling are just a few of the activities waiting for tourist visitors. Uganda also has a dozen other primates to see, like chimpanzees, the golden monkey, colobus species and is blessed too with over 1.000 species of birds, over 600 of which are found in Queen Elizabeth National Park alone. No empty words then calling Uganda ‘The Pearl of Africa’ or ‘Gifted By Nature’. Come visit, if not in person at least via www.visituganda.com or www.ugandawildlife.org
UWA BACK IN ‘BADLINES’
More headlines emerged last weekend, when the Daily Monitor made further sweeping allegations about the state of affairs at Uganda Wildlife Authority and blamed the tourism minister Kahinda Otafiire – aka Minister for Crocodiles by his own words – for usurping executive powers in contravention of the existing law. The newspaper reportedly obtained a copy of a letter from the minister, redeploying staff of UWA, a function to be handled by management of UWA or the Executive Director himself.
Following a decision by the High Court in Kampala which dismissed his erstwhile, and hugely controversial board appointments, including of the chairperson last year, no new board has been appointed as yet, and as the law says, in the absence of a substantive board the minister ‘is the board’. However, the boards functions are also clearly limited and do not include executive functions, which the former chairperson, a Dr. Muballe forgot to his own regret. Dismissed by court, he had taken it upon him to become ‘Executive Chairman’ which is not foreseen in the Wildlife Act and hence led to his dismissal, after first however generously multiplying his financial benefits during his short lived term of office, and that of his fellow board members.
It was in particular the minister’s recent appointments of staff into senior acting positions which caught the eye of the media and promptly brought the organization back into the public spotlight, as other staff in regular contact with this correspondent immediately talked of favouritism and a hidden agenda by the minister in conjunction with staff at his ministry, who appear to try and exploit the vacuum at UWA to re-write the book on the cash rich semi-autonomous body. According to the paper the minister is now drawing funds for fuel from UWA, as do other senior ministry officials apparently, in contravention of the Wildlife Act, citing claims of not receiving funds from the Ministry of Finance. This development has also brought development partners back into the fray, who expressed their growing concern over ‘their’ money given for specific projects and purposes and how it is being safeguarded. One particular source connected with the World Bank – the biggest financier of UWA’s activities in past years claimed under strict assurance of anonymity that ‘it seems after the first scheme with the short-lived board failed to get hands on the UWA finances a fresh attempt is now being made to realign oversight and control’.
To add to the melee at UWA it also now appears that a more recent Acting Executive Director, appointed by the former board, is himself now under suspension. First being relegated back into albeit senior management ranks Mr. Kamazi now joins a host of other UWA management executives on suspension from where he, as the others before him successfully did, may well also go to court, citing the alleged illegalities of current actions taken by the minister.
Be it as it may, the sheen is now definitely off UWA, once a shining example what committed management and an enlightened board can achieve – they turned it into a cash cow rarely seen in public institutions – but then became the envy of a few who seemingly also tried to ‘reap where they did not sow’. Development partners and donors have already quietly said that unless the mess at UWA is resolved once and for all, best by bringing senior conservation stakeholders with impeccable credentials back on to a new board, they would most likely reconsider their financial commitments and options to avoid their funding being misused, misappropriated and squandered.
In closing, the forthcoming appointment of a new cabinet, following President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s massive election win – which also returned the NRM as the party with the highest number of members of parliament – is now the focus of hope for conservationists who expressed their desire to see a new and more enlightened minister appointed to the tourism, trade and industry portfolio, where two state ministers, those for tourism and for trade in any case lost their seats and will not likely make a return into government after failing to return to parliament in the first place. Watch this space.
AFRICAN EVACUEES LAND IN NAIROBI
The Kenyan contingent on the Kenya Airways special flight KQ 1322 were given a tumultuous welcome by relatives and friends, when the KQ B767-300 touched down at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport a short while ago.
Unlike many others rescued by the same mission, who will now make their way home on Kenya Airways’ connecting flights to Entebbe, Dar es Salaam, Kigali, Bujumbura and Johannesburg they had completed their homebound journey and, according to an eyewitness from JKIA, expressed their relief and gratitude to be back home safely. The Kenyan government, through their embassy in Tripoli, joined by fellow East African diplomats also accredited to Libya, made the ground arrangements in Tripoli to get as many East Africans to the airport there as was possible, while Kenya Airways did all the flight planning and logistics – a major challenges as it turned out in the end, considering they were flying into a virtual civil was zone.
Yet, inspite of setbacks and disappointing delays, the flight was eventually able to leave Tripoli, then stopped in Cairo to give the crew their required rest time – they were first on standby to take off to Libya and then sat on the ground for an extended period of time – before the aircraft left Egypt in the early hours of today and returned to Nairobi.
As to Ugandans on board, they too can expect a hero’s welcome in Entebbe, when they get home later in the morning, equally happy to have escaped with their lives and the few bits and pieces they managed to carry with them, when abandoning their work places in Libya and running for their dear life, before Tripoli too degenerates further into street fighting, looting and worse.
Again, compliments to all involved to bring this rescue mission about and to Kenya Airways’ crew and management for their defiance to succeed in the face of many problems.
EAST AFRICAN LIBYA EVACUEES NOW SAFE IN CAIRO
151 passengers were airlifted out of Tripoli last night under what has been described as ‘chaotic circumstances’, with navigation, ground handling and check in suffering from the political upheavals now witnessed across much of Libya. The mercy flight, which was initially due to take off from Tripoli for Nairobi at 17.30 hrs EAT only managed to get off the ground at 03.00 hrs this morning, and then landed in Cairo a few hours later where the crew had to take their mandatory crew rest, having literally ran out of duty hours permitted for a flight. The airline initially expected more passengers, but it appears that not all were able to safely reach the airport in the face of sporadic fighting and the outbreak of violence within Tripoli and its surrounding areas, and may have judged it safer to stay put for the time being instead of risking the probably hazardous journey to the main international airport.
All passengers, from Kenya and many other East and Southern African countries, were put up in the transit lounge where they are being provided with blankets, food and other amenities while awaiting their onward journey back home. They were not allowed by Egyptian authorities to leave the airport and therefore had to stay put. The aircraft, a B767-300, is now expected to touch down in Nairobi at 06.30 hrs on Monday morning to the undoubtedly emotional welcome by family members and friends able to receive their loved ones back unharmed and safe.
Full compliments to the crew of the flight who bravely flew into what can only be described as a civil war zone and brought their fellow citizens and many others from East Africa, Southern Africa and even West Africa to safety. Well done and Asante Sana!
KTDC’S SALE IN HOTEL SHARES TO BE A TWO TIER AFFAIR
Information from Nairobi about the upcoming sale of shares in hotels, lodges and resorts, held by the Kenya Tourist Development Corporation on behalf of the Kenyan government, talks of a two tier strategy in selling off these holdings, or as it appears turning some of them into a joint venture with a key investor – yet to be found though.
The shares held in the companies owning the Intercontinental Hotel, the Hilton Hotel, the Ark and the Mountain Lodge, are reportedly being offered to the respective financial partners in these ventures on a ‘first right of refusal’ basis, which will give such companies as Serena Hotels – in the case of the Mountain Lodge – and Fairmont Kenya – in the case of the Ark – the option to buy out the government shares. The same applies to leading city business hotels Intercontinental and Hilton, where existing shareholders in theses companies will be able to exercise their prerogative to buy these shares.
However, other hotels and lodges appear to be in a more precarious situation, as they are run down but yet form part of a group of properties developed by government with the intent of providing such services for the locations they were built in.
Those properties, government in Nairobi now thinks, should be ‘pooled’ as a going concern and ‘circuit’ and may include both better known prime choices like Ngulia and Voi Safari Lodges and the Mombasa Beach Hotel – presently known as Kenya Safari Lodges and Hotels – but also the ‘lesser’ properties like Mt. Elgon Lodge near Kitale, the Golf Hotel in Kakamega, the Sunset Hotel in Kisumu and the Kabarnet Hotel. Here the option now explored would be to find a majority shareholder taking 51 percent in a joint venture with government’s KTDC to ensure that some of the ‘lesser’ properties are not turned to different uses, which would deprive the respective locations of a hospitality business.
Much will depend however on how these properties are being valued, as in present market conditions investors will pay fair value but not over the top, considering that most of these units will require massive investments in modernization and refurbishments before they can meet the level of standards for instance set by Serena Hotels, Fairmont, Sarova and others. Leaving the refurbishment however to KTDC, another idea apparently being considered, might put a potential investor off as this might not meet with the expectations of quality work they might have in mind and further considering that government really has no place in business these days, this being arguably better done by the private sector.
Caution has therefore been voiced not to spend tens of millions of US Dollars in such refurbishments before entering into a joint venture and to leave that to the new partnership after it has been formed with competent hospitality operators cum investors. Watch this space.
KENYA AIRWAYS COMES TO THE RESCUE OF EAST AFRICANS IN LIBYA
Information just received gives an update of the planned Kenya Airways evacuation flight, operated on a wide body B767-300 from Nairobi via Cairo to Tripoli this afternoon.
The Libyan Civil Aviation Authority eventually did grant a landing permit on humanitarian grounds, as the aircraft was already sitting at Cairo’s International Airport working out the final logistics. As many as 68 Kenyan citizens will be airlifted back home and the remainder of the seats has been given to nationals of Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and Congo DR. South African and Lesotho nationals, plus a few from Sierra Leone in West Africa, will also fly to safety, leaving the present chaotic circumstances of fighting, looting and a general breakdown in law and order behind.
Kenya Airways did confirm that the aircraft will be operated with a crew of 11, an extra engineer in case of technical issues arising – this is a standard precaution when operating such a flight, and will take a total of 191 passengers on board. As this operation goes underway we wish Kenya Airways, and all the crew and passengers God’s Speed, safe landings and a happy reunion with their distraught families in Kenya and the region.
Kenya Airways has been working to put this special flight operation into action over the past days but communication and other factors have delayed the flight until this afternoon.
KQ has to be commended for their extraordinary effort, to coordinate the rescue mission with the diplomatic representatives in Nairobi and Tripoli of the countries whose citizens are being flown out of Libya today, fully living up to their other name ‘the Pride of Africa’ – hence a big Asante Sana to KQ!
SMART MOVE KEEPS KENYAN VISA FEES AT 25 USD
The Kenyan government, according to a well placed source in Nairobi, is set to keep the fees for a tourist Visa at 25 US Dollars per person, and will only review this by July 2011. The savings, for instance for a family of four, runs into 100 US Dollars, money tourists then spend in restaurants, curio shops or on excursions, spreading money directly into the Kenyan economy rather than collecting it at entry and being kept by government.
The other East African countries other than Rwanda, where notably many nationalities are exempt from paying for Visa – thus contributing to the fast rising demand for tourism in this country in recent years – continue to charge 50 US Dollars, making holidays there more expensive.
The long advocated for common East African Visa has still not gone beyond the planning stages, a pathetic state of affairs considering the idea was floated [incidentally by this correspondent] at an EAC Committee meeting on tourism and wildlife back in 2002 and been ‘welcomed’ – not too welcome though for some who continue to delay and obstruct this crucial element in making tourist visits to the entire region ‘easier and cheaper’.
It has also been ascertained that both envy as well as anger is extended towards Kenya over this decision by her neighbours, where in particular immigration officials talk of ‘undercutting’ instead of considering joining hands in lowering ‘entrance fees’ in line with Kenya and finally agreeing on a common Visa and its administration. But until at least July it is ‘Karibuni Kenya’ at ‘half the entrance fee’.
TRAVELPORT AND KENYA AIRWAYS EXTEND PARTNERSHIP
This morning both Kenya Airways and TravelPort put pen to paper in Nairobi and extended a successful 14 year old partnership, confirming continued cooperation for distribution services. KQ mainly uses the Galileo platform for their links with the travel trade and corporate clients ‘big enough’ to install the system on their premises. Said Dr. Titus Naikuni, Kenya Airways Group Managing Director on the occasion: ‘The extension of our agreement with TravelPort reaffirms our commitment to the Kenyan travel trade to provide access to world class travel distribution technology. Galileo is absolutely the GDS of choice amongst travel agents and we’re very excited by their reciprocal commitment to this market and the plans they have for the year’.
Kenya Airways, often fondly called ‘The Pride of Africa’ is the East African region’s largest airline and connects Africa with the rest of the world via their hub in Nairobi. Visit www.kenya-airways.com for more information on destinations, schedules and SPECIAL OFFERS.
KENYA AIRWAYS OPENS NEW CARGO CENTRE, ANNOUNCES PLANS FOR OWN FREIGHTER
The Kenya Airways Group CEO Dr. Titus Naikuni announced the airline’s plans to acquire their own dedicated cargo aircraft by next year, when he formally opened the Africa Air Cargo Centre at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport earlier.
At the same time he announced their intention to go ‘double daily’ with B777 equipment to London, just as soon as the issue of slots is resolved, making the UK one of KQ’s main destinations. From early April KQ will also restore B777 service on the route to Amsterdam, which due to demand has been operated by the smaller B767 until now.
The introduction of a freighter, although the airline remains shtumm on the type of aircraft they intend to source, will substantially boost KQ’s capacity to uplift freight to and from Africa, although the use of the B777 on the European routes too provides under floor cargo capacity which is ordinarily taken up by importers and exporters. Said Dr. Naikuni further: ‘As Kenya Airways we have invested in cold room facilities to accommodate the growing horticultural export business. Our new Fast Flexible Fresh (FFF) facility is a 2500 meter square warehouse with the capacity to store between 90-100 pallets’.
According to both IATA and AFRAA air cargo shipments will grow ahead of the global trend in Africa, partly because of the ease of cargos reaching their final destination, or the nearest airport, while transportation by road and rail remains difficult at best across much of the continent.
DAM IS NOT GOOD FOR LAKE TURKANA
Protests took place in Nairobi last weekend aimed at the Gibe III dam, Ethiopia is constructing on their territory but which is said to have an immediate and massive impact on Kenya too. The only major river, the River Omo, emptying into Lake Turkana in Kenya is being dammed and the reduced water flow is going to affect the already critical water situation of the lake and the Turkana herdsmen.
The water levels have in past years shrunk at the lake, due to both drought and reduced inflow, and the shores receded deep into what used to be the ‘Jade Lake’, called after its colours.
This has deprived a previously thriving fishing industry of much of its potential catch, with plants closed and fishermen out of work, now hardly able to find enough daily catch to feed their families and make a half way decent living of it..
Herdsmen too depend on the river’s water, more so in the face of constant droughts, and even boreholes have started to dry up as the water table keeps falling.
On the Kenyan side of the border, major investments for up to 1.000 MW of wind power production are planned and attempts by the Kenyan government and civil society to have the Ethiopian government scale down the plans have fallen on deaf ears.
Environmentalists and conservationists alike – the Turkana area is also home to archaeological digs undertaken by the Leakey family with finds of early mankind – have critizised the plan but inspite of a growing chorus has the government in Ethiopia not found it necessary to engage on a larger front with critics and seek joint mitigating measures. ‘Friends of Lake Turkana’ – a growing movement on Facebook too, did march to the Chinese Embassy where they delivered a petition for the government in Beijing to stop working on such environmentally highly controversial projects and withdraw subcontracted firms from the dam brought on board by main contractor Salini – yes of 3 year overdrawn Kampala Northern Bypass fame – which was awarded the deal without any apparent international bidding. This immediately opened the door for more allegations over shadowy practises if not outright corrupt practises
An article last year on this subject in eTN drew sustained comments from Ethiopia, giving the clear impression of a concerted and managed effort with the language used adding to concerns that government and its blinded supporters could and would resort to literally anything to get their way. This has fallen hard also on the communities in Ethiopia who will be displaced by the new dam and power plant and their representatives have often been harassed, even arrested for daring to speak up against the roughshod fashion their interests are being treated by the government in Addis Ababa.
Suggestions therefore that these communities were the primary or principal beneficiaries are hollow and largely baseless, as they are being displaced, the traditional way of life being taken from them and very likely in the future be condemned to live in shanty towns and urban slums, where the masterminds of these schemes have become fat cats and rich at the expense of those they were meant to serve. It remains to be seen if at all Addis responds to this strengthening sentiment and movement against the dam, and considering the growing unrest in parts of Africa the regime in Addis would be well advised to avoid any further hotspots of discontent than they already have. Watch this space.
RELOCATED EASTERN BLACK RHINO GIVES BIRTH IN SERENGETI
One of the rhinos relocated mid last year from South Africa has reportedly given birth in the Serengeti, ‘replacing’ the one which was cruelly butchered a few months ago for its horns. The source in Arusha asked not to specifically point to the location or area of the park, to deter poachers who may be looking out for such hints in the media, as conservationists still think that the protection measures for rhinos should be dialled up and strengthened, with a 24 / 7 cordon of rangers around them as is the case in other national parks in Eastern Africa too.
However, a source from TANAPA strenuously denied any lack of protection, saying that the killing of one of the prized animals has triggered extra efforts towards protection the remaining ones, but conceding that the next batch of rhino to be relocated from South Africa to the Serengeti may delay a little until everyone involved, especially the donors and development partners in the initiative are comfortable with the security set up. Congrats in any case to the rhino mother and the apparently healthy little one – gender is yet to be determined – and a long peaceful life in their natural habitat.
MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND TOURISM GET NEW PS
Political analysts and tourism stakeholders are trying to interpret the proverbial tea leaves right now, when it became known that long serving Permanent Secretary Ladislaus Komba was yesterday sent to the foreign affairs portfolio for ‘special duties’ but notably not as their new PS, and has been replaced by Ms. Maimuna Tarishi who previously served in the Prime Minister’s office.
The tourism industry has of late, inspite of sectoral successes, suffered immense threats over the ill considered and hugely controversial highway across the Serengeti, the political fallout on hunting concessions and their pricing but also alleged collusion to deprive the country of revenue, and the prospect of having three UNESCO World Heritage Sites come under the threat of being withdrawn. One of those is of course the Serengeti itself, but a similar threat hangs over the Zanzibar ‘Stone Town’ where a political deal for a new hotel is making huge waves, while the third site is Stiegler’s Gorge at the Selous Game Reserve, where plans are reportedly being revived to build a hydro electric dam and power station. Since the former TATO – short for Tanzania Association of Tour Operators – Secretary General has made his way into parliament, beating a ruling party candidate, there is increased competence on tourism matters now found on the opposition benches, plus the all important ‘link’ with the private sector stakeholders who have come to appreciate the tenacity and competence of defending the tourism industry’s interests in parliament. Watch this space.
PLANS TO REVIVE AIR TANZANIA COME UNDER IMMEDIATE FIRE
The Tanzanian transport minister earlier in the week claimed to have several interested parties willing to invest in moribund Air Tanzania, the erstwhile national airline now literally broke and being sued in South Africa and elsewhere for multi million US Dollars claims. The minister reportedly would not be drawn into these pressing issues, nor into the fact that the airline is barely operating a minimum schedule, but expressed optimism that when the time was right he would be able to make an announcement.
Previous such assurances, that a Chinese suitor would step in and take over ATCL, proved to be empty promises as upon closer scrutiny and due diligence all interested parties found out that the airline was a hornet’s nest. Union demands and power, huge debts, political interference and an almost total loss of market share to rival Precision Air, and more recently to Fly 540 (T) will make an investment in ATCL a huge gamble, and aviation observers, analysts and consultants are only too well aware of this, ready to impart with relevant details and appropriate advice to anyone wishing to put in funds.
Five years ago erstwhile partner South African Airways was shown the door, and suffered huge losses in the process, making any new partners even more wary what their fate will be, should they not be able to please their political masters in Dar. Meanwhile have the other stakeholders in Tanzania’s aviation industry also expressed doubts that any serious bid should be expected for ATCL, which over past years, besides the problems already described, also suffered the indignity to have their Air Operator Certificate suspended for several weeks over allegation of ‘issues with documentation’ – a polite phrase that not all was well at all at the time, before then suffering a write off of their B737-200 when it crash landed in Mwanza.
And, while not going officially on record, one regular source from Dar did say this: ‘why our government cannot support Precision Air remains a mystery to us. We suspect that there are people who want to ‘eat’ and are denied because Precision is a private company. They wanted to float their shares on our stock exchange to widen shareholder base in Tanzania, and that was also temporarily stopped when they were sued, but we suspect this was another move to frustrate them. Even their hangar has not been connected by taxiway to the rest of the building, and this all shows how our government when they have vested interests, treat investors. If ATC gets a new big investor there are people who hope to eat big from it, and that is all there is to it’.
It was also learned that opposition members of parliament have already voiced their opposition too to waste state resources on a failed company and vowed to speak up against any injection of multi million dollar bail out packages for the airline, should it be brought to parliament. Ooops is about all which comes to mind!!!
11 SOMALI PIRATES SERVE LONG PRISON TERMS IN TANZANIA NOW
Information was received from Dar es Salaam that as many as 11 Somali pirates, captured in recent months, have had their day in court and were found guilty of charges of piracy and related offenses.
Reportedly all of them were sentenced to long prison terms following which they are expected to be deported back to Somalia.
The most recent case of several of them caught due to the vigilance of villagers living on the ocean shores, who spotted them making land fall and alerted the security organs who carried out the arrest, is still pending in court but also expected to be expeditiously completed, and when – as expected – the culprits are found guilty too of such offenses as illegal entry, piracy, illegal possession of fire arms, they too can expect to join their fellow ocean terrorists in jail where they belong. Well done Tanzania!
CRUCIAL BRIDGE ENROUTE TO ZAMBIA DESTROYED
The rains brought into Tanzania by the recent tropical cyclone, which swept that part of the Indian Ocean, especially Madagascar and Mozambique, also wreaked havoc in Tanzania when an important traffic link, the bridge over the Msanzi River was completely washed away near Sumbawanga, bringing road traffic to a standstill.
This in particular applies to transit traffic to and from Zambia across the nearby border, as the road itself too suffered major damage, a route often used by tourists travelling by road with their own 4×4’s or on the back of overland truck as part of an organized tour across the continent.
Contractors working on a different section of this road – reported previously here – were then immediately drafted in by the local administration to assess the extensive damage and commence repairs, assisted by the local population whose livelihood depends on traffic flowing both ways.
The rains were extremely heavy and swept through the Southern part of Tanzania with some rains however even reaching well into Kenya, giving an indication how strong and destructive the cyclone was at sea, before making landfall and losing strength.
ZANZIBAR TOURISM INVESTORS DEMAND ‘BETTER’ FROM GOVERNMENT
Water, electricity, security and garbage removal, amongst many other issues, were the main problems cited by the Zanzibar Association of Tourism Investors, in short ZATI, when they recently met with government officials to discuss matters of mutual interest and also of ongoing and growing concern.
Other more administrative matters cited by a source from the ‘Spice Island’ were to do with the controlling and elimination of non-licensed operators, which allegedly not only evade license fees but also taxes due to government, besides giving the sector a bad name when they misbehave with foreign tourists.
The tourism industry is arguably Zanzibar’s biggest economic factor, besides the export of the traditional spices and fishing, but according to stakeholders does not receive the level of governmental recognition it deserves, partly – as another source quietly put it – because so many of the investors are foreigners who do not loudly criticise government or openly demand that public services are rendered as they should be. However, local stakeholders have now taken their demands up with government, also on behalf of their more ‘silent’ foreign counterparts, hoping that finally some action is being taken, and water and electricity supplies made more reliable – of course crucially important to the resorts along the island’s sandy beaches.
KWITA IZINA SET FOR 18TH JUNE
Make a date with Rwanda in the week culminating with the annual Kwita Izina Gorilla naming festival, planned for the 18th of June this year.
This date still has to be confirmed by the Rwandan cabinet though, showing the importance tourism has in general and Kwita Izina in particular for the government of the ‘land of a thousand hills’.
The festival idea, now almost a decade old, has become the envy of neighbouring countries all of whom are now naming gorilla babies too but have failed to introduce a similar festivity without being called ‘copy cats’. The attendance of Kwita Izina has in recent years risen sharply, when the preceding week was also filled with activities, and wildlife conservationists are now making an annual pilgrimage to Kigali and Ruhengeri, to give lectures, participate in workshops and seminars, help with community based activities and generally support a country which has distinguished herself beyond doubt as one of the globally most committed conservation supporters.
Would be participants are informed that in particular in the Ruhengeri area hotel and lodge space will be very very limited that weekend and that early arrangement are strongly advised to ensure space is confirmed. So book a date with Rwanda and be part of Kwita Izina 2011. Watch this space for further updates as and when available.
HILTON TO COME TO RWANDA’S CAPITAL KIGALI
Information was just received that Hilton Hotels, one of the industry leaders and well known brand name in the hospitality industry worldwide, has signed a deal for a 160 room and suites hotel in Kigali’s city centre. Adjoining to the hotel will be serviced apartments for rent, also to be managed by Hilton, while the ‘owners’ will be the Opulent Hotel Group, which is set to invest some 30 million US Dollar in the project.
Expected to open in late 2012 Hilton will join such other newcomers like Marriott, which announced their project already last year and are expected to open their new property in the earlier part of 2012.
Rwanda has been intensely campaigning for new investments in particular in the city hotel sector, to boost room and meeting facilities capacities, much needed to more effectively tap into the MICE market. Last year saw Rwanda record their best tourism sector results ever, with over 200 million US Dollars earned from the industry and 2011 is expected to be even better. The future looks bright for the Rwandan tourism industry, more so now as the international hotel groups like Marriott and Hilton will promote their properties abroad alongside the generic marketing the Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation engage in across the year. Watch this space.
NEW COMESA AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL CENTRE GOES TO RWANDA
The COMESA Secretariat, based in Lusaka / Zambia, has yesterday signed an agreement to establish an air traffic control centre in ‘the land of a thousand hills’, following extensive prior discussions between the two parties. COMESA, which extends from Egypt to Zambia and from Kenya to Congo, will build the new centre in the town of Karisimbi / Northern Rwanda, where the government already operates a major communications centre of its own, i.e. providing much needed infrastructure for the project.
Air space management will be vested in the new facility for COMESA member states as will other related functions of navigation control services.
The project was strongly lobbied for by a number of other countries too and it is gratifying for Rwanda to have been chosen over other – arguably more advanced ‘aviation countries’ in the region.
It was not immediately possible to ascertain how many position the centre will provide for competent staff, who are to be recruited from both Rwanda and other COMESA member states.
BURUNDI SIGNS ON TO NEW NILE TREATY
The apparent absence of constant diplomatic pressure from Egypt, attempting a last moment carrot and stick offensive to stop the remaining Nile Basin Initiative member countries from signing on to the new treaty version, has taken a setback when Burundi put pen to paper. Joining Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia the sixth signatory will now add pressure also on Congo DR to do the same, leaving the currently still united Sudan and Egypt as the odd countries out.
Preoccupied with internal political events, the Egyptians were unable to figure out in time what was happening in Bujumbura and exert pressure, and while the Egyptian long term strategy to secure their national interest, speak the Nile waters, remains unchanged their immediate tactics and behaviour are now hampered by lack of political directives and instruction. Diplomats abroad and anxiously watching events back home and reportedly got no directives or guidance from ‘home’ during the worst of the political upheavals in Cairo and only gradually now is ‘normality’ returning, although the position of government ministers remains precarious at best and their own future may preoccupy their minds more than anything else. Congo too however has just seen another feeble coup attempt and there as everywhere under such circumstances they first put up the lager before turning their attention once again to other pressing matter, which the Nile treaty undoubtedly is.
In regard of the regime in Khartoum, they too are toeing what has to be Egypt’s main line of thought but once the South’ becomes independent on the 09t of July, the new republic with undoubtedly assert their own interests over those of Khartoum and is expected to join the ‘water producers’, leaving only Cairo and regime Khartoum to ponder where to go next. Watch this space for more news on this important African development.
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS SET FOR MAY
The Seychelles government has just announced the dates for the Presidential Elections on the archipelago, when May 19th – 21st were set aside for this regular democratic exercise.
The Electoral Commission pointed out that May 21st will be the ‘main day’ for voting but that due to the distances across the archipelago the outer islands will already start voting on the 19th and 20th of May, to allow the exercise to be completed in time and the ballots delivered back to the main island of Mahe, where the tallying of the votes and final result announcement will take place. That is expected to take place during the night from Saturday to Sunday, giving the people of the Seychelles the outcome without delay.
The Electoral Commission has also set aside April 27th as ‘nomination day’, then leaving just about three weeks for the candidates to campaign for votes.
Like in Uganda the term for president is 5 years, and as we here in Uganda just underwent peaceful and tranquil elections, the same is expected for the Seychelles. Tourism stakeholders have already gone on record with this correspondent saying there is absolutely no cause for concern when the islands go to the polls and that this event will not in any way impact on the holidays and vacations of the thousands of visitors expected to come to the country between nomination day and polling day. President James Michel is going to run for another term of office and is widely expected to be re-elected for another 5 year term.
AIR SEYCHELLES CEO SACKED
The board of directors of Air Seychelles has taken the unusual step of sacking the company’s CEO, a Mauritian citizen often in the cross hairs of the media and equally often said to be at loggerheads with key staff. No specific details have been ascertained as yet, other that a replacement will most likely come from within the Seychelles, i.e. halting the trend of recruiting expatriates.
Some staff this correspondent is in more regular contact with, while generally shy to discuss the issue, have however expressed relief over the development and voiced their hope that the new CEO will be able to work hand in hand with staff and board and drive the airline forward.
Only recently, as reported here, was a new board appointed for the airline and the Executive Chairman Capt. David Savy been retained in his position.
A new, acting CEO has been put into place effective Monday this week and being a young professional Seychellois with many years experience at senior positions with Air Seychelles, this surely is the way forward.
South Sudan News
INDEPENDENCE DECLARATION TO TAKE PLACE IN JUBA
All available hotel space is being booked up right now for the period of the 09th of July, and the days prior and afterwards, when the new Republic of South Sudan will for formally launched and independence from the ‘old’ Sudan and the regime in Khartoum announced.
The same applies for flights from the regional hubs of Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Entebbe / Uganda, which are said to be filling up at record pace, leaving airlines to ponder the addition of extra flights or even offering charters for groups wishing to travel to Juba to witness the momentous occasion.
However, ground transportation in Juba, already tight at best, seems to become an added restricting factor for visitors wishing to travel to Juba to see the new national flag unfurled and a new exiting era to start.
Inspite of theses logistical challengers, thousands of Southern Sudanese living in neighbouring countries are expected to travel home by road to celebrate the event and witness it to tell their children and grand children, that ‘they were there’.
Regional leaders, international dignitaries, delegations from the African Union, the EAC, COMESA, SADC, IGAD but also from international organisations like the UN are all expected to fly into Juba for the event as all are keen to establish immediate relations with the new country, which is not only rich in oil but also controls a significant portion of the River Nile [White Nile].
Those wishing to ‘be there’ are best advised to make immediate arrangements with reputable airlines, operators and hotels to secure their bookings and then it might be ‘See You There’ on the 09th of July.
And you as I missed last week’s tourism tidbits from Gill Staden’s The Livingstone Weekly – and it appears she suffered of a lengthy ISP outage, now thankfully resolved – so here is more exciting and interesting stuff from ‘further down South’ … starting with a bit of ‘history’ before progressing to conservation issues …
David Lloyd RIP
David Lloyd, who has died aged 70, was a colonial officer and big-game hunter-turned-conservationist; having dissipated his inherited wealth in an uncompromising pursuit of pleasure, he eventually set about saving Kasanka, a neglected game reserve which he re-established as Zambia’s first privately-funded national park.
Edward David Mortimer Lloyd was born at Llangoedmor, Cardigan, to Captain Edward Lloyd and his wife Ella (née Phillips) on May 15 1940. Educated, like his father, at Cheltenham College, Lloyd joined the Colonial Service in 1960 and was posted to Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia.
There he worked his way up to District Officer and was involved in policing the violent clashes between members of Alice Lenshina’s Lumpa Church and Kenneth Kaunda’s United National Independence Party which reached a climax in 1964, just before independence. He also developed a taste for game hunting and safari life, as well a thirst for liquor and ladies, the more exotic the better….
Then, while flying back to Lusaka from Zambia’s Northern Province, Lloyd passed over Kasanka, a small national park bordering the Congo Pedicle that was in danger of closure due to rampant poaching. Out of curiosity, he decided to visit; there were no roads or bridges, and no tourists had penetrated the park for many years, but he managed to explore a little on foot. On hearing the crack of gunshots he concluded that, if there was still poaching, there must be animals. Impressed by the wide variety of habitats, he decided to try to save the park from total depletion and the threat of losing its national park status.
He and Gary Williams, a local farmer who had also explored the park a little, used their own resources to employ scouts and build roads, bridges and temporary camps. The Zambian government, which had been unable to manage the park itself, encouraged their efforts. Crucially, they secured the backing of local communities and of Chief Chitambo IV, whose great-grandfather, the first chief Chitambo, had received David Livingstone in 1873, when the explorer was on his deathbed. Livingstone’s heart was buried under a tree at a spot a few miles outside the park, a place now marked by a simple stone monument.
The Kasanka Trust was set up to formalise their position and help raise funds, and soon attracted attention from conservationists. Tourism then started to bring in a little money and, by 1990, the Zambian authorities were sufficiently impressed by progress to sign an agreement allowing the Trust officially to manage the park. Lloyd’s understanding of, and affection for, local Zambians – he had a firm grasp of four tribal languages and apparent immunity to threats of witchcraft – was crucial to this success .
The following year the television presenter Michael Palin passed through Kasanka on his journey from Pole to Pole. Palin wrote in his diary: “ I learn more about hippos here than in all my time beside the Mara River in Kenya. So thoroughly had this area been poached, says David, that when he took over the park in 1986 there were only three hippos. ‘They didn’t call at all for the first two years – dead scared’. Turning in. Sounds of low voices round the remains of the fire and bullfrogs on the lake. Above, a clear, intense, starlit sky. No reflections from anywhere. Pure sky. Pure night sky.”
Today the populations of hippo, elephant, sable antelope and hartebeest are recovering . The Puku antelope, once reduced to a few hundred, now exceed 5,000 and there are sizeable herds of the swamp-dwelling Sitatunga, Reedbuck and Waterbuck, as well as groups of the rare Blue Monkey. Kasanka also plays host to one of the great migrations in the natural world – the arrival of some 10 million bats from the nearby Congo to feed on the park’s abundant supply of musuku fruits.
Lloyd showed great vision and determination in starting and sustaining a project on this scale and, acting against type, put in a lot of hard work himself to get it off the ground. Ironically, given his record, he was also to prove so adept at eliciting financial support from others that Kasanka’s drain on his own dwindling funds was relatively modest.
In 2002 he was appointed OBE, and the following year the Kasanka Trust was granted “exclusive rights to manage and develop Kasanka National Park” for a further 10 years.
His flowing blond locks and the flamboyant behaviour of his earlier years made Lloyd an instantly memorable figure. Proud of his Welsh lineage, he was well-read and traditional in his views, but also deeply irreverent and alarmingly candid. A fine raconteur, especially around a camp fire deep in the bush with a drink in hand, he could be entertaining and courageous. Equally he could be rude and unappreciative.
Kasanka was Lloyd’s home for the last two decades; the bank had forced the sale of his last bolt-hole in Britain, a flat in Chelsea’s Flood Street, after Lloyd stood as guarantor for yet another failing safari business. His friends were now getting old, or had died, and he no longer had the money to “play”. He was happiest at his rondavel in the park surrounded by the community he had helped support.
David Lloyd died in Lusaka on December 19. He was unmarried.
(Pictures missing courtesy of WordPress’ inability to copy/paste a Word Document WITH pictures embedded … when oh when will they deliver this feature …)
The gates were closed during the week, but, before that, four gates were open. Here are some photos and a story courtesy of Boo Pumfrett
It was both amazing and scary as I hadn’t realised how much the dam wall would be vibrating – even the puddles from the spray on top of the wall were rippling! And the myth about your hair standing on end -due to the static is true – mine did much to everyone’s amusement. It was unbelievable how much water was coming through the four gates and the river had swelled dramatically since the last time we were there.
Zambian Ornithological Society
The ZOS AGM will be held on Saturday 5th March 2011 at the ZOS office.