Weekly roundup of news from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region, Second edition July 2011

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

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

Get daily breaking news updates instantly via Twitter by following @whthome or read the daily postings on my blog via: www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com

Second edition July 2011


East Africa News


The ‘Intergovernmental Authority on Development’ in short IGAD, to which most Eastern African countries have subscribed, was warned earlier in the week by Kenya’s President Kibaki of the growing threats by terrorism spreading from the lawless parts of Somalia into the wider region, and the need to combat the menace by finally imposing an air and sea embargo on Somalia to stop the flow of weapons into the country. The meeting, mincing no words, demanded that the United Nations Security Council acts on the security concerns of the wider region and pass a resolution making the embargo on Somalia mandatory for UN member countries.

In a further departure from the usual tip toeing and diplomatic language did President Kibaki then also single out Eritrea as a key link in the terror equation, a move supported by fellow Presidents and Heads of Delegations present, asking Eritrea to stop training and supplying terror groups. Specifically mentioned were attempts to bomb an African Union meeting earlier in the year in Addis Ababa by an Ethiopian ‘liberation group’, an alleged proxy of the regime in Asmara which is in constant hostile attitude towards Ethiopia, but also over emerging evidence that the Kampala bombers were trained in Eritrea before embarking on their mission. Feeble attempts by the Eritrean Head of Delegation to deny any such accusations were widely dismissed as short of substance and was unable to tune down a strongly worded resolution by the IGAD meeting which ‘strongly condemned’ the actions of Eritrea in destabilizing the region through her support for extremists and subversive groups.

Security measures in Southern Sudan, ahead of the weekend Independence Day celebrations have meanwhile been substantially revved up and it is understood that the airport of Juba will be closed to civilian air traffic on Saturday 09th of July. The reasons given were of a ‘logistical’ nature that parking spaces for aircraft used by visiting Presidents, Prime Ministers and official delegations representing governments or global organizations like the UN will take up all the available apron spaces and not permit landing of scheduled passenger flights on the day. Flights into Juba from all regional hubs are presently fully booked as it is expected to be ‘outbound’ after the new flag of the new Republic of South Sudan has finally been raised this coming Saturday. Watch this space.


Uganda News


July 11th 2010 was to be a day of great excitement in Kampala with venues all over the city preparing to show the FIFA World Cup Final live, and as early as 5 p.m. sports lovers from all over the city started to get ready to join scores of others in making their way to sports bars, restaurants and specially created open air grounds with giant screens to celebrate their favourite game.

Little did they know that at the popular Ethiopian Village and the Kyadondo Rugby Ground terror was awaiting them instead of football joy.

Al Shabaab, a Somali based Islamic terrorist organization, had planned to strike into the heart of Uganda, in revenge of our country sending troops under an African Union mandate to Mogadishu, to keep the peace if any could be kept considering the ruthless radicals they were faced with, and keep the transitional federal government in place until elections could be organized.

A memorial service was held in Kampala last night to commemorate the tragic events in Uganda that evening, when a twin bombing struck while the World Cup Final was underway, killer bombers doing the dirty work for their foreign based Godfathers after being brainwashed to sacrifice their own lives and taking dozens of innocent individuals with them. The aftermath was gruesome. Terror had come to Kampala, claiming lives and maiming survivors for life, tearing families apart when husbands, wives, mothers and fathers, children, uncles and aunties, breadwinners and carers were taken from them.

Uganda had suffered a major blow but was neither down nor out. President Museveni defiantly declared that this act of terror would only strengthen Uganda’s resolve to continue do the right thing in Somalia, and instead of withdrawing our contingent of troops was strengthened and since then several top commanders of Al Shabaab were killed in action. Friendly governments sent their top anti terrorism investigators and forensic experts to Uganda to help establish the circumstances of the attack, and a number of individuals are now in court for trial over their participation in the crime.

Security was strengthened across Uganda and remains visible everywhere, a reminder of continuously high threat levels against the Pearl of Africa and her people.

Terror acts are acts of cowardice, perpetrated by individuals lacking the courage to openly engage with military or security forces, and abomination of the Islamic faith and instead of the mirage of paradise hell will await the terrorists when they go by the sword as they lived by the sword.

Uganda today stands stronger, united in memory of those who died last year and no amount of threats nor intimidation will sway us from doing the right thing. A year on we continue to mourn those we lost, console those who continue to suffer from their injuries but we also stand firm in our resolve to bring all of those responsible to justice, and as experience from the battle front in Somalia shows, justice they will meet, dead or alive. Join us Ugandans in our prayers, as we pray for you too to be spared of such evil, wherever you are.



The Sheraton Kampala Hotel is wishing good bye to Jawaid Akhtar, who was at the helm of the hotel for the last almost 6 years and is leaving many friends behind in Kampala as he prepares to take up another General Manager’s position within the Sheraton family.

New in town is Chris Pollard, a native South African,  who is taking over the Kampala Sheraton Hotel at a time when ‘new opposition’ is getting a foot in the door, now that the construction of the new Intercontinental Hotel has finally commenced, but from the first meeting it was clear that good things are about to happen at the Kampala Sheraton Hotel too, with big plans apparently back up by big bucks too. Watch this space for announcements as and when they can be made. Meanwhile though, it is a fond fare well to Jawaid and his family and a very warm welcome to Chris Pollard for an equally long and successful tenure in Uganda’s capital city.

Meanwhile it was also confirmed that the General Manager of the Kampala Serena Hotel, Mr. Mugo Maringa will be leaving both Kampala as well as Serena Hotels to take up a new and more senior position with a hotel group in Nairobi. Mugo had only transferred from the Kigali Serena last year to replace Killian Lugwe, who is now at the Nairobi Serena as that hotel gets ready to see a major rebuilding exercise kick off later in the year, which will see the hotel expand with a new wind and an added floor on the existing building.

Watch this space for updates from the hospitality industry in Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region – so look no further.



The so called ‘leader’ of the opposition, a misleader more likely by any standards, has yesterday mocked Ugandans suffering from renewed day and night long power-cuts and sweeping rationing of electricity by insisting that members of parliament should not ‘yield to blackmail’ while accusing the government to be in league with the independent power producers to steal money from the public coffers, a ludicrous allegation without any merit and lending credence to suggestions that the opposition’s motives were far from ‘honourable’, a title they claim for themselves.

Observers of the political scene in Uganda attribute this latest of shenanigans and gimmicks by the opposition as a continuation of their ‘walk to work’ scenario, this time in parliament though where they enjoy immunity, and talk of treasonous behaviour are already emerging amongst the hot heads in the government camp, a phrase they would be well advised not to throw into the ring in such a casual fashion.

Nevertheless, the prospect of a prolonged standoff in parliament has now also triggered calls that the NRM’s Chief Whip in parliament needs to rally his ‘troops’ and have funding approved so that the situation for the national economy is not sliding from bad to worse, already shaken by a recent interest rate hike to stem inflation, a traders’ strike and unprecedented high fuel prices coupled with a continuously weak shilling.

Meanwhile were ‘off the cuff’ comments made by President Museveni about the economic situation and the low value of the shilling also greeted with a degree of disbelief if not outright dismay, with observers close to the ruling party trying to explain the comments away by blaming ‘poor briefings’, and it can only be hoped that the advice and knowledge of true economists will be absorbed and acted upon by the State House bureaucracy and fences mended with the business community, before they lose confidence or worse, begin to divest and head to ‘safer’ East African shores. Watch this space.



Effective 01st of July did the Uganda Wildlife Authority raise entrance fees for Ugandan and East African citizens from previously 5.000 Uganda Shillings to now 10.000 Uganda Shillings, doubling the cost for wananchi to enter the 10 national parks. This puts a visit to the protected areas beyond the reach of many ordinary people who are already struggling with inflation and the fallout of wider economic woes, and might put a dent into the visitor number statistics when the full impact of this doubling of fees can be assessed in coming months.

UWA also raised park fees for foreign nonresident visitors and foreign resident visitors who pay in US Dollars, making safari holidays across the board more expensive too, with the cost of a safari in Uganda already comparing unfavourably with those in Kenya for instance.

Arrival data and projected income figures for the year 2010 and the first six months of 2011 are also slow in coming out, which has led to speculation that they are not being released because they are not yet ready, as was often the case in the past but because they may not be favourable in regard of medium term trends, with in particular the data for the months of political unrest now under intense scrutiny to see what damage the opposition’s shenanigans have caused to this important sector. Watch this space.



The announcement yesterday about continuing power outages, following a payment dispute over unpaid subsidies by government to independent electricity generating companies, was followed by more bad news overnight. The Bank of Uganda, in order to bring inflation under control, has set the interbank lending rates to now 13 percent, triggering a raise in commercial lending cost across the economy. Meanwhile have fuel prices risen yet further, to new record levels for a litre of petrol of 3.700 Uganda Shillings and more while diesel prices are not pegged at or over 3.400 Uganda Shillings.

The business community is said to be deeply concerned over this triple whammy and city traders yesterday kept their shops closed as they were me by the recently appointed Minister for Trade and Industry Mrs. Amelia Kyambadde, who had to listen to a litany of issues brought to her attention of what government should do to reduce the cost of doing business in the country, in particular reducing license fees.

Current inflation still stands at 15.8 percent, although food prices have started to reduce on a wider scale following increased harvests after the seasonal rains started but across parts of Eastern Africa another drought has struck, leaving as many as 10 million people in the wider region in urgent need of emergency food supplies, in Somali, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and parts of Northern Uganda too.

While much of the current situation is attributed to the sudden surge in the cost of crude oil, following the uprisings in the Arab world since late last year, underlying factors too are said to be responsible such as the imbalances of imports and exports, a combination of which recently saw the values of East African currencies fall to record lows before combined Central Bank intervention in the region led to some level of recovery after selling, what has been described in excess of 300 million US Dollars in the region within a few days, to sting currency speculators and calm the markets.

Here in Uganda though the effects of higher fuel prices, higher interest rates and power outages will pose new challenges for the new government to address the crucially important issues of how the majority of people will make ends meet as salary packages have not kept pace with these developments. Watch this space.



The failure last week by parliament to approve the emergency request to release funds for the government’s subsidies programme to support independent electricity producers – a contractually agreed commitment by the way – has had sharp and harsh consequences for the country, as two thermal power plants were shut down by the operators, waiting until they have been paid before resuming electricity production.

This left the country with a daytime shortfall of at least 50 MW but more critically a peak demand period shortfall of at least 120 MW, prompting the power distribution company UMEME to institute an immediate rationing schedule which is now blacking out parts of the country again.

Business operators, already suffering from creeping devaluation of the Uganda Shilling and inflation rates of over 15 percent, have immediately demanded that government pays up their arrears to power producers, which now reportedly stand at over 300 billion Uganda Shillings while members of the public too have cried out for a swift resolution of the standoff.

While it is not clear if power producers are legally obliged to generate electricity under the terms of their licenses regardless of the circumstances, it is clear that once they run out of money to fund operations, especially when due to government not paying subsidies towards the hugely risen diesel and heavy fuel oil charges, they simply cannot go on to run their plants without putting fuel into them.

The new Bujagali hydro electric plant, a partnership led by IPS of Kenya, a company under the umbrella of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, is due to come on line with a first output of 50 MW of relatively cheaper hydro power by October this year, due to rise to the  full 250 MW by sometime in late 2012 while plans are being accelerated to begin construction of the Karuma Falls power plant which according to design changes could produce up to 750 MW, then putting Uganda in the position to have spare capacity at hand and vigorously roll out the planned rural electrification programme while assuring manufacturers and other businesses that load shedding is finally a thing of the past.

Meanwhile though have regular sources demanded that UMEME rations power to parliament until such time that the house attends to the crisis and approves the funds due for payment without further ado to rescue the country from once again sitting in darkness. Said one regular and acidly critical source on condition of anonymity: ‘these MP’s are mad, what business do they have to stop government paying out the subsidies. Let them sit in the dark too and deliberate by candle light as many of my fellow Ugandans now do. It is irresponsible of the highest order to mess up the country like this. The other day they were given training and seminars about responsible leadership and so on, but have they understood the word ‘responsible’ at all. For once we cannot blame UMEME but this time it is our own representatives in parliament. How are businesses able to run generators now with the price of diesel and petrol and all the other problems our economy already has. This is a parliament problem and shame on them’.

Harsh words but entirely true – high time our  august house wakes up to reality unless they want the people to ‘walk to parliament’ in support of government.


Kenya News


The Kenya Airline Pilots Association has according to a well placed airline source in Nairobi signed a collective bargaining agreement with ‘The Pride of Africa’ earlier today, ending a period of uncertainty for the airline and its passengers of what could have been turning into industrial action.

Both sides agreed on a series of measures but most notably was ‘goodwill’ a major part of the agreement, under which pilots can agree to be called at short but reasonable notice to work even during off duty days, as long as it was not in contradiction with mandatory requirements by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority in regard of maximum duty hours per month and minimum rest period requirements.

All flight schedules published by Kenya Airways will be operated, according to the same source.

It was also learned at the same time that flights in and out of Juba, the capital of the new Republic of South Sudan, have resumed following a two day airport closure to facilitate the large number of VIP flights handled during the Independence celebrations. Watch this space.



Under pressure by air operators, in particular the national airline Kenya Airways, and faced with a growing list of airlines wanting to fly into Nairobi, were it not for capacity constraints, the government finally made its stand known on the ongoing expansion of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport was quoted to have said: ‘We cannot wait until December next year. Measures must be taken to hasten completion of the project’.

Much of the current delay in the expansion works are attributed to wrangles under the past CEO of the Kenya Airport Authority which set board members against each other and the board against the Chief Executive, in the process leading to allegations upon allegations over improprieties, and subsequent delays in advertising and awarding tenders.

This left airlines upset and angry as their passengers have to squeeze during peak hours – now lasting for much of the day – in overcrowded terminals and faced with often long queues at security checkpoints, at immigration and when collecting baggage. Kenya Airways in fact, presently on a massive expansion drive with adding more aircraft to their fleet and expanding their network at a rapid pace, seems the main victim of KAA’s failure to add aircraft parking spaces, a new terminal and a second runway, and has repeatedly in the past complained that competitors, in particular Ethiopian Airlines, are enjoying better facilities and facilitation in their own home hub of Addis Ababa, to the detriment of cementing Nairobi’s superior position as the leading East African aviation hub.

Kenya Airways is expecting to have 3 additional Embraer 190AR aircraft delivered between now and early 2012, following which 10 more such aircraft are under order and a further 10 under option, and 9 Boeing 787 too will start arriving in Kenya from 2013 onwards, besides options for a further 4 of those long haul planes. International airlines are either planning to add more frequencies to their Nairobi route while others intend to start flights to Kenya but the availability of ‘slots’ during ‘rush hour’ and the absence of a second runway in Nairobi has impacted negatively on potential growth, in the process also capping tourism growth numbers due to lack of capacity. Watch this space as the KAA and the contractors are now under pressure to add extra work shifts and begin an around the clock construction schedule so as to speed up completion of critical phases of the ongoing works.



After an absence of nearly 6 years has Gulf Air now returned to Nairobi, offering an initial 4 flights per week between Bahrain and Kenya. Industry observers attribute this decision to the generally promising market conditions in Kenya in particular, a sharp departure from the company’s assessment 6 years ago, when they left the route in the face of stiff competition from the likes of Emirates.

Gulf Air at one stage flew even to Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport but withdrew from there even earlier before pulling out from East Africa altogether.

The return of Gulf was generally welcomed by travel agents and the business community as the added competition would keep fares to final destinations in the Gulf network, when flying via Bahrain, at lower levels, but some sources were swift in pointing out that unless Gulf Air moves towards daily flights they might be restricted to absorbing ‘bargain seekers’ only, as much of their traffic is thought to fly beyond Bahrain.

But for now it is a hearty Karibu Sana to Gulf Air and happy landings in Kenya once again.



It was confirmed overnight that Yemenia has cut its regular services from Sana to Nairobi to one only, as a result of less travel demand and an almost total disappearance of transit passengers, afraid to be stuck in Yemen should the situation deteriorate, making it impossible for onward flights to operates should crews and staff be unable to reach their work places due to unrest.

This is a similar scenario as seen early this year when Egypt Air was equally affected and transit passengers abandoned the airline in search of ‘safer connection hubs’, eventually leading to a wide spread cancellation of flights, which only now have started to resume pre-crisis levels.

An aviation source claiming to be ‘close’ to Yemenia in Nairobi also mentioned that other flights by Yemenia from Sana, like to Dubai, were also affected and that the financial survival of the airline was now under threat as passengers travelling via Yemen’s main airport and visitors to Yemen now stayed away from both airline and country as the troubles there continued. Watch this space.



The Minister of Tourism Hon. Najib Balala has expressed his hope that a fresh round of bilateral talks on direct flights between Kenya and the United States would eventually result in such flights being launched, following the failed attempt by Delta in past years to connect the US to Nairobi via West Africa. While such flights to West Africa did go ahead, to places like Monrovia even, Nairobi was ‘blacklisted’ according to a well informed US source over ‘security concerns’ but more likely as a political slap across Kenya’s face by the US administration in regard to a range of other contentious issues between the two professed ‘friends’.

Presently over 100.000 Americans visit Kenya, regularly defying State Department anti travel advisories, which too are thought to be a political tool and have due to regular ‘overuse’ lost much of its credibility in recent years.

According to the minister Kenya’s arrivals from the US could more than double in years to come as direct or even nonstop flights would make it more attractive for Americans to travel to East Africa without the present stopover in Europe, the Gulf or the three African airports of Johannesburg, Cairo and Addis Ababa, from where nonstop services fly daily into key American cities.

Other airlines have by the way dismissed the ‘concerns’ by the Americans over safety and security of air travel in Kenya as ‘a shallow and blatant attempt to dress up other political issues’, claiming that they are flying daily into Nairobi. Leading global airline giants like Emirates, Qatar, British Airways, Swiss, KLM/Air France, Brussels Airlines, Virgin, South African, Ethiopian and many others land every day at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and yet more airlines are planning to come to Kenya. The facilities at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport are due to be dramatically enlarged, including a second runway and an additional brand new passenger terminal, to cater for such an influx, cementing Nairobi’s standing as THE aviation hub in Eastern Africa.

Says this correspondent in a parting shot: ‘Trust but know whom’ when it comes to reading about the ‘reasons’ why the Delta flights on the very eve of the inaugural ceremony were unceremoniously cancelled.


Tanzania News


Artists intending to participate in the 2012 edition of East Africa’ most significant and most widely recognized music and art festival, Zanzibar’s Sauti Za Busara, need to hurry up to send in their applications as the 31st July deadline now looms large. Taking place between February 08th to 12th next year, African music lovers will once again stream to Zanzibar to experience live performances of some of East Africa’s best performers, but in fact some of the best African artists from right across the continent will be present in Zanzibar, giving their audiences not just the African drum beat but the best of lyrics and compositions..

The organizers also asked to once again point out their new Facebook site where all details about the festival are now shared with the rest of the Facebook community, so visit http://www.facebook.com/sautizabusara and add them to your ‘likes’ or befriend them.

More details are also found on the official Sauti Za Busara website via www.busaramusic.org or write to busara@busara.or.tz from where a subscription to their regular news updates are also available. See you in Zanzibar in February!



Tanzania’s premier airline, and following the demise of Air Tanzania THE flag carrier of the country, is due to take delivery of a leased B737-300 aircraft in less than two weeks time, according to a regular aviation source in Dar es Salaam. The aircraft, offering a dual class configuration, will have 116 seats and boost the fleet of the airline, allowing more flights to more destinations.

The Comoros will be the next international destination it was learned, with the inaugural flight being operated on 17th of August, with initially three flights a week. Plans to resume flights to Johannesburg are also in the final stages of preparation, as more aircraft will join the fleet in coming months. Meanwhile will the lakeside municipality of Mwanza see the daily number of flights to Dar es Salaam rise to five from the present three, either nonstop or via Kilimanjaro / Arusha.

The same source also confirmed that Precision Air will base one of their ATR aircraft in Mwanza to serve other lakeside towns like Bukoba but also Kigoma and Musoma.

Watch this space for the latest breaking news from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean aviation scenes.



It was learned overnight from a source in Dar es Salaam that Kempinski Hotels, probably to make up for the recent loss of a management contract for their resort on Zanzibar, is continuing to seek exemptions and approvals for a 5 star hotel in the middle of the ancient ‘stone town’, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tanzania has of late come under intense scrutiny over the way the pending application for the same status to be accorded to the Eastern Arc Mountains was withdrawn, but also the pending battle over uranium mining in the Selous Game Reserve, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Only two weeks ago did the government in Dar es Salaam write to UNESCO assuring them that their plans for a highway to cross the critical migration paths in the Northern Serengeti were off the table and an alternative route would be explored, a declaration much under dispute though be sections of the conservation fraternity who distrust the wording of the letter.

Meanwhile though in Zanzibar, Kempinski’s relentless drive to obtain approval for their mega project right in the heart of a culturally important area keeps raising eyebrows not only amongst conservation and historical preservation circles but also in civic society, where questions of the true identity of the developers or those ‘really hidden behind them’ are being raised.

Adds this correspondent in closing: Remember, a reputation painstakingly built over long periods, is a balancing act and the abyss, as it is seen here, is precariously close by and easy to fall into. Watch this space.


Rwanda News


Three new state of the art Mercedes Benz fueling trucks were launched yesterday at the Kanombe International Airport in Kigali, replacing the old equipment with two 36.000 litre vehicles and one of 18.000 litre capacity. This will now be enough to refuel several aircraft at once, including long haul ‘birds’ as the A330 which makes regular appearances in Kigali from European carriers like Brussels Airlines and KLM, but can also serve smaller turbo prop aircraft like RwandAir’s ‘Dash 8’.

The Rwandan minister for infrastructure, who was present at the launch, also disclosed that it was government’s intention to increase fuel storage capacity at the airport from 2 million litres to 3 million litres in the short term, to be better equipped to deal with interruptions in the supply chain, while at the same time also inviting more investments at the country’s premier aviation facility, aimed to make Kanombe International more competitive vis a vis regional neighbours.

Planning for a brand new international airport outside Kigali, to be known as Bugesera International Airport, is also ongoing and further announcements on that project can be read here as and when new developments take place.



RDB – Tourism and Conservation in conjunction with the Rwanda Birding Association has launched three new routes for tourists visiting the East of the country. John Gara, the Chief Executive of the Rwanda Development Board was at hand for the launch, as was Ms. Rica Rwigamba, Head of the Tourism and Conservation division of RDB, signifying the importance attached to this latest diversification effort to widen the reach and appeal for tourists to come to Rwanda.

Rwanda has designated about 10 percent of its geographical area as important bird watching areas, and with over 650 species of birds, many of them endemic to Rwanda, ‘birders’ can be assured to rich pickings when travelling across the country in search of rare species.

None of the new routes is however inside national parks, signifying another new approach to bring tourism benefits to more parts of the country and underscoring the efforts by the Rwanda government to protect biodiversity not just in designated protected areas but all over the country. The new routes will be managed by local communities in conjunction with RDB and the Rwanda Birding Association has been training bird guides for a while now to be ready for the launch of the new tourism products. Well done indeed.



It was learned overnight that a section of new road through the Nyungwe Forest National Park has caused added concerns amongst environmentalists and conservationists, as a result of the contractors’ alleged work practices of cutting trees and shrubs and covering slopes along the route with soil.

The construction, described by officials as an ‘upgrade’ of the road, is due to be completed by September this year and will allow greater access into the forest national park by visitors but also easier crossing of it by area residents, causing yet more concerns over the safety of wildlife attempting to cross and being endangered by vehicle traffic.

The ‘main road’ through the national park, connecting Butare with Cyangugu, is also being worked on by contractors at some sections and is due to be completely repaved in the near future, to bring it up to standards with other roads across Rwanda. The bad state of this road has been cited as one major obstacle to have more tourists visit the forest national park, while other sources connected to the tourism sector have pointed to the need for more accommodation around the park and more regular access by air from Kigali to nearby airfields and airstrips, allowing tourists to fly in and out on a daily basis. Watch this space for an upcoming feature article on Nyungwe Forest and its unique attractions like 13 species of primates which can be seen by taking extended forest hikes, while other routes offer sights to some waterfalls and the spotting of over 275 species of birds, hundreds of butterfly species and a wide array of trees, plants and forest flowers including orchids.




(Picture courtesy of RwandAir)


The first of two ordered Boeing 737-800’s, due to join the RwandAir fleet in a couple of weeks, is now on the production line in Seattle, where the hull arrived yesterday from Kansas City.

The aircraft according to the airline’s CEO John Mirenge, is due for delivery on August 25th and a second aircraft then at a yet to be disclosed date in September. A number of RwandAir staff are at present also undergoing training in maintenance procedures at Boeing while the pilots selected to fly the new ‘birds’ are taking their type conversion courses and are undergoing simulator training to be ready to fly the new aircraft home to ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’ and deliver it to a proud nation.

RwandAir is the African launch customer for the new ‘Sky Interior’ look which Boeing is now starting to deliver to customers around the world and the airline’s passengers will be the first to experience this new inflight experience on the continent.

The final production stage is expected to last for 11 days after which the aircraft will undergo pre-delivery testing of all systems and conduct a series of test flights before being handed over to RwandAir in August.

Meanwhile, in a related development, has outgoing US Ambassador Stuart Symington during his official fare well visit to President Paul Kagame in Kigali yesterday praised Rwanda’s fast pace of development during the years of serving as the Ambassador of the United States and especially highlighted the ‘astonishing’ development of RwandAir, now flying to various corners of the continent within a very short period of time since government embarked on the airline’s restructuring. Astonishing indeed and Happy Landings to the new ‘birds’, their crews and passengers.



RwandAir has commemorated the 17th Liberation Day in Rwanda in their own unique fashion by offering a 17 day period of sharply reduced fares across their entire network, from Libreville and Brazzaville via Kigali to Johannesburg and Dubai, but also from their regional destinations into network connections.

Nairobi, via Kigali to Johannesburg for instance sells during this period for USD 378, just a tiny bit more than what Fly 540 charged between Entebbe and Mombasa, and the return fare, while restricted in a number of ways, is inclusive of all taxes and regulatory fees. The Kigali to Entebbe fare was dropped to US Dollars 152, return of course too. Contact reservations@rwandair.com for more details or visit their website for bookings via www.rwandair.com. And as I keep saying, with such fares GO FLY!



The ‘new’ Rwanda, which miraculously rose from the ashes of the 1994 genocide, yesterday celebrated their 17th Liberation Day, commemorating the end of the long dictatorship in Rwanda after all the remnants of the former rag tag army and killer militias had been driven out of ‘the Land of a Thousand Hills’.

The liberators, like American troops freeing Hitler’s victims from the concentration camps, were taken aback at the time to witness the aftermath of a mega scale slaughter of the innocent, which shocked even battle hardened RPF soldiers, who’d seen it all before or thought they had seen it all before, to their very core.

Over the past 17 years though has the government engaged in deliberate measures to bring the people of Rwanda together in reconciliation and forgiveness, except for the ringleaders of the genocide, the inciters and those denying it today, and these efforts have spurred a remarkable economic growth with benefits for all in society and helped the country to not only get back on track but become a shining example of modern Africa, of how a country on the continent is able to leave a dark and clouded past behind and set out on a path of development almost unprecedented in the history of Africa. Rwanda has since then become a leading tourism destination, excels in conservation and environmental protection, has engaged in the world’s leading re-forestation programme which by 2020 will see 30 percent of the country under forest cover again and established itself as a communications hub, courtesy of huge investments in the ICT infrastructure which now spans the country. And even RwandAir has in recent years shed the hibernation and started to grow in leaps and bounds, connecting Rwanda to the entire region and well across the continent to South and West Africa.

Hence and in light of all these achievements, as was the case on Independence Day, here again the best wishes to the government and people of Rwanda on the 17th anniversary of driving the dictators and killers out of the country.


Mauritius News


Shanghai is the latest destination for Air Mauritius after the destination was launched earlier in the week. The inaugural flight, there is for the time being a once a week flight to Shanghai via Kuala Lumpur before going nonstop by early 2012, left SSR International Airport (Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam) with over 200 passengers and an official delegation on board of an Airbus A330-200 aircraft, which offers 275 seats in a two class configuration. It was reported that both the Mauritius president Sir Anerood Jugnauth as well as the Mauritius Tourism Minister Hon. Nando Bodha were on the flight on an official visit to China to discuss bilateral cooperation. They were accompanied by private sector stakeholders, in particular from the tourism industry, to also launch a tourism promotion to bring more Chinese visitors to the island in coming months. The head of the Air Mauritius delegation, Mr. Andre Viljoen, then officially opened the airline’s new offices in Shanghai, expressing hopes that the flight will grow in popularity and that the promotion of tourism and trade between the two countries would be to the mutual benefit of both nations. Happy Landings.



Information from this Indian Ocean island just received talks of substantial profits for the Airports of Mauritius corporation, in excess of over Rupees 770 million. This according to the source constitutes an increase of about 8.4 percent over the financial year 2009, leaving shareholders and management satisfied with the results. Only recently was it learned that the government of Mauritius was considering allowing more flights by foreign airlines into the country to support tourism growth and match seats with beds, and added air traffic will of course then also reflect in the books of the airport company through greater fee income as a result of more aircraft movements. The main shareholder, the Government of Mauritius, reportedly received a dividend of 160 million Rupees, or 10 percent of the overall revenue of 1.6 billion Rupees the airport made in 2010. The balance of the profits was retained in order to roll out and pay for an ambitious modernization programme for the international airport. Watch this space.


Seychelles News


Information was received from Mahe over the weekend that the new ‘green’ tourism masterplan, which is presently being developed, will go into the public consultative stages with a major public forum planned on the 18th of July at the International Conference Centre.

While a great deal of work has already gone into the draft document, with input from a cross section of experts coming from the tourism industry but also other sectors, society at large is now called upon to read the draft document and then make suggestions and recommendations to be taken on board by the ‘drafters’ before a final version is then launched later in the year.

The new tourism master plan is due to set the course and direction the industry is supposed to take over the next 10 years, with regular performance reviews in between to make adjustments, should that be found necessary. Tourism is together with the fishing industry and trade the main component of the archipelago’s economy and the sector has managed to translate global visibility into business success, as the country is posting new record figures for the first half of 2011 in terms of tourism arrivals. Several high profile campaigns to promote the islands, from ‘The Big Five to the Best Five’, over ‘Affordable Seychelles’ to ‘Seychelles – Another World’ has captured the imagination of travel publications and travelers alike. More airline connections have put the archipelago ‘just one stop away’ from most global destinations, and the recent addition of a third weekly flight by Kenya Airways from the African mainland is thought to be just a precursor for yet more flights, not just connecting Nairobi with Mahe but soon from other key African cities too.

The major turnaround of the Seychelles’ fortunes since the global economic and financial crisis however has also made it necessary to formulate a new masterplan to guide the growth of the sector while keeping ambitious targets in line with overall sustainability. The country will shortly expand the size of its protected areas to over 50 percent of the archipelago, giving notice that environmental protection and maintaining biodiversity has to go hand in hand with tourism developments along at times critically sensitive coastal areas. This unique approach sets the Seychelles apart from many of her competitors in the world tourism market where ‘development’ is promoted at almost any cost, while in the Seychelles the long term impact and sustainability ranks top on the agenda. Watch this space.



The pending application for World Heritage Status for the ‘Mission Lodge’ on the island of Mahe / Seychelles has gathered added information to strengthen the case when more ‘digs’ unearthed more evidence of human population around the area, which if granted UNESCO WHS status will be the Seychelles third overall but first purely cultural site.

As reported here previously, Mission Lodge was opened in 1985 by the Anglican Church to provide shelter and education to the children of freed slaves, ancestors to many of the people today living on the islands.

The Seychelles’ Department of Culture is working together with experts from the National Museum and the Centre for Heritage Development in Africa to provide a compelling case for UNESCO for recognition, when the body is next considering applications, and amongst many Seychellois, this correspondent during a recent visit asked about this process, there is no doubt that the country will indeed be given another World Heritage Site to boost the cultural and heritage aspects of the Seychelles tourism industry. Watch this space.



Ahead of the June 2012 Rio de Janeiro UN Conference on Sustainable Development has the Seychelles President James Michel asked the rest of the world to embrace sustainability in their economic activities, so as to preserve the planet for future generations.

A two day meeting at the Le Meridien Barbarons brought together delegates from the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Seas regions – in short AIMS – discussing a common position ahead of the Rio Conference and the Seychelles, as often before, is leading the way in proposing forward looking measures to protect the world’s remaining resources. The issue of in particular small island developing countries, depending on the protection of the oceans for their very survival, has been put to the forefront of the meeting by the Seychelles, which has been a leading voice in the struggle against overfishing and ocean pollution for many years now.

The Seychelles, presently with over 48 percent of its landmass under special protection, is increasing this percentage to nearly 51 percent soon with the creation of new added protected areas across the various islands, making it the undisputed leader in conservation across the entire family of nations.

Worth a visit any time says this correspondent – ‘Seychelles, Another World’ in the truest sense.



True to a recent comment made by the Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon. Joel Morgan, in an interview with this correspondent, is the Seychelles’ fight against terror in all shapes and forms continuing, this time with a three day workshop organized by the African Union and the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism on the main island of Mahe. The gathering of 25 experts from 15 participating African countries is taking place between 04th and 06th of July at the Le Meridien Barbarons Resort and is tasked to look at increased protection of existing ‘sensitive sites and areas’ but also to identify new threats and develop recommendations but also look at the real root causes of terror in Africa, which can be taken on board by the AU and member governments. Such threat assessments have in the recent past expanded from aviation over land based infrastructural assets, meeting places and hospitality businesses to e-Trade but also into the open ocean, where the minister in the interview left no doubt that piracy is just another form of terrorism and needs the same level of global cooperation to identify ringleaders, ring-fence the money flows and bar access to such accounts and decisively engage the ocean terrorists as soon as they leave Somalia’s national waters with the aim to become a menace to international shipping. The Seychelles have become a centre piece in the global fight against piracy in the Indian Ocean and the country’s example has triggered interest by other Indian Ocean countries on the mainland, like Tanzania, to work closer together to protect the sea lanes and keep them open for commercial and passenger shipping.

The Seychelles has also as one of the first countries come out in the open and insisted on shipping to and from the archipelago, and through the national waters, to carry armed guards for added protection of cruise liners and cargo vessels, with the experience from this showing that not one of those under such special protection has been captured by the Somali terrorists.

The Seychelles are now the base for much of the aerial surveillance carried out through assets offered by friendly nations and the country’s own aircraft and considered absolutely crucial in the protection afforded to shipping across the economic exclusion zone which expands 200 nautical miles around the 115 islands of the archipelago, all the way to the Mozambique channel where the Aldabra Atoll is  the last and remotest of these islands. As a result cruise lines are now starting to come back to call on the port of Victoria to the benefit of the entire tourism industry and the economy at large. Watch this space.


South Sudan News


Next Monday will see the launch of the South Sudan Pound – yes, not the hoped for South Sudan Shilling as was anticipated in East African circles – which will become the legal tender for the new Republic of South Sudan just as soon as the new notes and coins ‘hit’ the commercial banks, foreign exchange bureaus, shops and markets.

The move was long expected to avoid the North swamp the South with paper money, driving inflation up and disturbing the money markets, but also to give the citizens of Africa’s youngest nation a sense of belonging, a sense of pride and a sense of true independence from the former slave masters.

The value of the new currency was initially pegged at 3 South Sudan Pounds to 1 US Dollar, and the exchange with the ‘old’ currency will be taking place at a ratio of one to one. No deadline for the end of the validity of the old notes was given but it is expected to be relatively short to avoid the North messing with the process.

In a related development it was also understood that the formal request to become an applicant member to the East African Community, by the new government of the South Sudan, is expected to be submitted in the very near future, triggering a period of harmonization and consultations with the EAC head quarters in Arusha but also with governments of the present five member states of Uganda, Kenya Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. Joining the EAC is an expressed objective of the new government in order to reduce the cost of trading and to attract investments from neighbours, but the process, as was the case with Rwanda and Burundi, can be lengthy and complex as all key sectors of the economy of the South Sudan need to be aligned to the regulations and legislative frameworks of the EAC as it now stands. Watch this space.



With the restrictions placed on the 08th and 09th of July on commercial flights to and from Juba now lifted, airlines are back on the route in full swing, if not more. Jetlink, in the run up to the Independence Day on 09th of July, went from 2 to 3 flights a day, all operated on their modern CRJ200 aircraft carrying up to 50 passenger on each flight, while Kenya Airways, now operating twice a day, up from previously one flight a day only, has in fact switched from the Embraer jets to the B737-800, doubling the seat capacity compared to the E170 they otherwise used before on each departure.

Said a source from Juba’s international airport: ‘we are experiencing a high volume of passenges now. After the independence weekend many travelers on business are flooding into Juba. They are looking for trade and investment chances and there are plenty. We are a new country now and need a complete infrastructure and our government is keen to get private investors in all sectors. So for now we welcome every one coming here and thank the airlines for their support. Some are flying more often than before and others are using bigger aircraft so that everyone who wants to come has a seat. Fares are still a bit high but we expect this to reduce because of competition between the airlines.’

Airline sources however lamented the crammed facilities in Juba for departure and arrivals and asked, without wishing to be named, that the new airport be finished very soon to avail better facilities for travelers and airline personnel working at the airport.

Hotels in Juba are reportedly fully booked, have been in the run up to the independence weekend and continue to be for the time being as the ‘novelty’ of visiting a new country and getting new ‘stamps’ in passports seems to hold a special attractions for many travelers, now reading ‘Republic of South Sudan’. Watch this space.



Following the sequence of events yesterday, and tweeting it to the world, was playing living witness to a very rare event, the birth of a new nation, as the Republic of South Sudan was finally launched. For many in the crowd of what can only be described as massive, the key events were the signing of the new constitution and then the taking of the oath of office by new President Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit and the raising of the flag at 13.35 hrs and their voices rose to the skies when singing their own new national anthem.

In a surprise move was it also announced that the lowered flag of the erstwhile united Republic of the Sudan would not be handed to Khartoum’s regime leader Field Marshal Omar Hassan Al Bashir to take back with him from the celebrations in Juba to his own capital, but that it would be kept in the South. Norway gifted the new republic a National Archives building to begin gather evidence of the 56 year long independence struggle, which cost over 25 million lives, and the flag will be kept there as a reminder for future generations of overcoming oppression through hardships and sacrifice and determination to be free.


The process which started with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 in Kenya concluded yesterday with the birth of a new nation, the 54th recognized by the United Nations in Africa, but the road is by no means at an end. Many contentious issues remain to be resolved between the now sovereign countries of the Sudan and of the South Sudan, and while now speaking with each other on truly level terms, that will make the task not any easier. President Kiir in his inaugural address was magnanimous by offering the Khartoum regime to forgive, though not forget, the immense damage done to the people of the South during the years of the civil war. The offer for cordial if not friendly relations is on the table for the North to consider and embrace, but notice was also served when President Kiir assured the people of Abyei, South Kordofan, the Blue Mountains and of Darfur that they were not forgotten and he would do all he and the new Republic of South Sudan could to help them reach their own destiny.


The most contentious issues between the two countries are in fact over Abyei and the delayed referendum where that state’s people wish to belong to, expected to be another massive vote in favour of separation. Equally contentious is the area of South Kordofan where recent elections were widely regarded as hopelessly rigged in favour of Khartoum and where military and militia interventions, a la Janjaweed, have driven over 100.000 people from their homes deep into the South for refuge, trying to cleanse the area of Africans while ‘stuffing’ it with Northern puppets. Other issues are remaining border demarcations, a process which in the case of Ethiopia and Eritrea led to a bitter war, the future ‘transit fees’ for crude oil to be pumped from the Southern oilfields to Port Sudan for export, water rights over the Nile, and the quantification of the national assets and debts of the previously united Sudan, amongst many other open questions.


President Kiir reminded his fellow country women and men of the need to start work on building a nation immediately the celebration ended, and the tasks are truly herculean. The country needs a complete infrastructure from roads to rail, from bridges across the rivers to airports, from hospitals to schools to vocational training institutions and universities, from social services and administrative structures to creating a conducive business environment, while creating a corridor of trade for exports and imports to the Southern neighbours of Uganda and Kenya to reduce reliance on installations in the neighbouring ‘North’ Sudan.

Investment opportunities exist as in few other countries now but also required are conducive laws and regulations, including resolving the issue of land for investors, to build on across the towns and cities but also for commercial scale farming, forestry projects and not the least for tourism investments in the present 6 national parks.


From this correspondent, a long time friend and ardent outspoken supporter for independence, come the best wishes and heartiest congratulations, and as the 10th of July dawns across the South, let the work begin to build Africa’s and the world’s youngest nation.



As tomorrow, 09th of July is coming ever closer in the Southern Sudan, parliament in Juba finally, in a near overnight session, passed the required Constitution, governing the new country for the next four years from the day of Independence, before a new, broadly agreed upon constitution is developed in a consultative fashion. The passing of the new constitution was the final hurdle to be taken before Independence Day, paving the way for the new country to be ‘born’ on Saturday, when the flag of the Republic of Southern Sudan will be raised and then fly all over the new state.

Notably will the constitution allow for dual nationality, aimed at empowering Southern Sudanese forced into exile by the slave regime in Khartoum during the years of the liberation struggle, who will now be able to retain the citizenship of their host country while also showing solidarity and belonging to the new Republic of Southern Sudan. The new constitution will be promulgated by President Gen. Salva Kiir prior to the Independence ceremony which will be held in the heart of the new capital city of Juba. Watch this space.



Information was finally confirmed that on Saturday 09th of July NO flights will be allowed into the airport in Juba although it appears that no NOTAM has been formally issued, still in the domain of the ‘united’ Sudan civil aviation body in Khartoum until independence finally arrives in the South when their flag will be officially raised on Saturday. In fact some air operators have hinted that a second day of no flights was likely  but were unable to confirm even at this late stage if that second day would be tomorrow 08th July or Sunday 10th of July. Commercial passenger flights are hence not expected to resume normal levels before 11th of July and even now all Juba flights are fully booked and the same can be expected on the outbound flights as of next week, when scheduled operations resume.

Sources in Juba did confirm that the lack of a formal NOTAM was making it difficult for airlines presently flying into the South Sudan from Nairobi, Addis and Entebbe but also confirmed that they had notified the local airline offices at the Juba airport to inform their head offices accordingly, verbally as Khartoum had not issued formal notices.

However that said, problems with flight clearances appear to have taken place already today when an Air Uganda flight had to delay due to lack of clearance by Juba airport but this was resolved swiftly it appears and the flight, fully booked, took off for the soon to be capital of the new Republic of South Sudan.

When that historic development has taken place a new civil aviation authority or department of civil aviation will then oversee the sector from Juba as all oversight functions from Khartoum will have ceased on Independence Day.

The new Republic of South Sudan will then also become an ICAO member directly, something which is also due to happen in the international telecommunications, postal, banking and other sectors which are governed by global bodies where only the Khartoum regime was represented in the past.

Watch this space as Independence Day comes closer and closer.


Zambia News



My friend Gill Staden, well known by my own readers for the regular content featured here from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’, has outdone herself, when she had her first ‘big book’ titled ‘Beyond the Victoria Falls’ published the other day and put on the shelves of book stores in South Africa, before reaching Zambia, Zimbabwe and the other countries mentioned in her lastest work.

Gill, an ardent writer and fellow ‘safariafficionado’ has spent much of her recent years driving around Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and other parts of Southern Africa, and has truly not just seen it all but been able in her book to show us readers too and create the ‘taste for more’, hopefully attracting more visitors to Zambia, the falls area on both sides of the river and the wider region.

A resident in Livingstone / Zambia for the last 20 years and with an almost equal time previously in Nigeria and Botswana, Gill like few others captures the sights of the magnificent Victoria Falls of the Zambezi River and has plenty of stories to tell her readers, making the effort all worth the while to order the book, available now under ISBN 978-1-77007-856-7 which sells in South Africa at the recommended retail price of Rand 175.

More details are available from the publishers via kimt@randomstruik.co.za or by visiting the website of RHS – Random House Struik at www.randomstruik.co.za

Many sales should make for happy smiles all round, not just at Gill’s but the regular recipients and readers of ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ too, which she produces week in and week out with a passion as I myself know only too well. Congrats Gill for a piece of art, because that is what it is, a piece of art, passion and love for Africa.


Congo News



At least 53 occupants of the stricken B 727 which crashed short of the runway while on the final approach into Kisangani airport were reported to have died, while sources from Goma, also Eastern Congo, claim that over 40 passengers appear to have survived the crash. The aged B 727 came down short and available details on the weather conditions at the time of the crash were spoke of ‘heavy weather conditions’. This may have been a factor in the crash but as always other circumstances too will need looking into, leaving the accident’s exact causes to be established by the enquiry which will now go underway by the civil aviation authority in Kinshasa. Hewa Bora has in the recent past suffered two other fatal incidents when 3 years ago a DC 9 crashed in Goma on takeoff following an engine failure. This was some time later followed by the crash of a smaller commuter plane killing all 17 on board. Calls have emerged from sections of the aviation fraternity to close the airline down, as would most likely be the case anywhere else in the world, and ban the owners and their managers from engaging in any aviation business again.

The Congo has failed to implement aviation safety measures as demanded by ICAO and as a result all their airlines are banned from flying into the European Union but continue to fly domestic scheduled and charter flights and also fly to neighbouring countries. Condolences are extended to the families and friends of those who perished in the crash.

Another aircraft crash in the Congo DR has shaken that country, when reports began to emerge less than an hour ago that a plane belonging to EU banned Hewa Bora Airlines crashed while attempting to land. The aged Boeing 727 carried reportedly some 112 passengers and crew. Information at this stage is still sketchy but a number of passengers seem to have survived the crash and were rushed to local clinics and hospitals. The airport has according to added information received from sources in Goma been closed for operations while and accident investigation is expected to go underway involving staff of the totally discredited Congolese civil aviation body – unable to halt the seemingly never ending series of plane crashes in the country – while Boeing staff are also expected to assist in the unfolding investigation. It could not be ascertained at this time which foreign accident investigation organizations will be invited to join their Congolese counterparts in order to add expertise and experience in unearthing the causes of this lastest crash.

Congo has arguably the worst aviation accident rate in the world and all its airlines have been banned from flying into European airspace over safety concerns. Maintenance and crew training were in the past cited as major causes for crashes in Congo.

Watch this space as more information becomes available.