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East Africa Tourism

East Africa Tourism Report

Wolfgang H. Thome  Jul 31, 2009

When I often hear, and on occasions say so myself, that conservation has its price, no one could have foreseen exactly how heavy that price could be for those on the frontline of enforcement. A recently-recruited forest officer, deployed at the Nakalanga forest reserve near the township of Mukono as his first assignment, was cruelly murdered along with his pregnant wife and three-year-old daughter, when suspected forest encroachers and illegal loggers set their house on fire in an apparent act of revenge. Earlier in the day, he had detained timber suspected to be from the illegal felling of trees, which must have caused the ire of the loggers. Only last month, also in the Mukono district, illegal loggers incited a riot against two forest officers, killing one and seriously injuring the second one before making their escape. Illegal logging is said to be a lucrative business, and the NFA has been fighting an uphill struggle to evict squatters from the central forest reserves. Earlier in the year, also reported in this column, a similar killing took place in a forest near Masaka, where again NFA officers performed their duties according to the law.

Calls have been on the increase to provide armed security for forestry officers on patrols to not only ensure their safety but also prevent forest encroachers and illegal loggers from getting away and avoiding prosecution. Some sources also called for the government to be clear in its policies and stop interfering with the work of the NFA, and UWA for that matter, when evictions of illegal encroachers are undertaken. At least six suspects have since been arrested and the police are still searching for others suspected involved in the illegal timer racket. This column offers condolences to the NFA, friends, and family of the recent victims and hopes government will do all in its power to successfully prosecute the culprits and act decisively to stop further attacks on forestry wardens and staff.

Gadgets worth over 100 million Uganda Shillings were recently purchased and installed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority at the Rwenzori National Park, to keep tabs on the receding glaciers, the weather pattern, and in particular, average temperatures recorded on a regular basis, which can then be used for further research into the causes and impact of climate change in the region.
Some time ago, the Italian Alpine Club had donated equipment for the same purpose, and the extra capacity will undoubtedly add more information for the researchers.

Sources attributed to the government have denied that there is any intention of selling the country’s only international airport, but sources conceded that discussions were ongoing about concessioning out the facility to an investor. The assurance, however, did little to calm the stormy waters earlier reports have caused across the aviation fraternity and society at large. Demands continue to be raised by the public through call-in, radio-talk shows and other media to have an open transparent process put into place with an international tender, if at all it is found necessary to take the airport management away from the Civil Aviation Authority. For that decision, a public discussion was also demanded by members of the aviation fraternity and leading business association members, saying that a policy decision of this magnitude must only be taken after an extensive and all-inclusive consultative exercise and not by government alone, considering the value of this public asset and the ongoing press reports and allegations made by investigative reporters.

Meanwhile, the President’s office also rubbished suggestions in sections of the media that the president was in any way, shape, or form involved in these developments, and that categorically no directive or instruction was ever given to sell the airport or find managers for it. Watch this space as the saga continues to raise the heat in public debate.

As reported in this column a few months ago, ICAO – the International Civil Aviation Organization, is holding one of their regular global meetings between August 17-20 at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala. Additional meetings dedicated to African aviation regulatory bodies are also scheduled to take place at the same time to discuss further steps of liberalizing continental air traffic as provided for under the Yamoussoukro Declaration.

Negotiations between the eastern African countries producing the Nile waters, and in particular Egypt, have hit another snag after Egypt, in a departure from previously-negotiated positions, once again insisted on the old treaties of 1929 and 1959 to be respected. Those treaties were entered into by the colonial masters Britain with Egypt at the time, and on independence forced down the throats, of the newly-independent countries like Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. The latter has for quite some time now already ignored those treaties and uses water from rivers emptying into Lake Victoria for irrigation, as well as industrial and domestic uses, claiming that those treaties were illegal and irrelevant in today’s situation.

Uganda, from where the Nile start’s its long journey to the Mediterranean Sea at the “Source of the River Nile” in Jinja and also Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia – where the “Blue Nile” starts its journey to meet the “White Nile” in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum – are all ready to negotiate a new treaty with Egypt, as long as their fundamental rights are acknowledged. That acknowledgment would say that these waters are a resource of these countries first and foremost, and that the downstream countries of Sudan and Egypt can only use a negotiated and agreed-upon portion of those waters, without their current veto powers over the use of this natural resource in upstream countries.

One Boutros-Boutros Ghali (former UN secretary general), while still serving in the Egyptian government in the 70s, is reported to have made it clear that Egypt would go to war over water if necessary – a vile threat never fully recanted or withdrawn by subsequent Egyptian administrations.

During recent negotiating sessions, there were already spats of disagreement when it became clear for Egypt that they could not break the unified agreed position of the eastern African countries, and on one occasion they were left to hold on alone in the negotiating panel, after the Sudanese delegation had prematurely left for home. The forthcoming referendum on independence for southern Sudan in early 2011 will also play a major role, as in the case of independence for the south. If another entity would enter into the equation, it would be no wonder that Egypt has already overtly and covertly worked against the likely outcome of this vote, only recently saying that southern Sudan would not be viable as an independent country. Watch this space for updates.

In a recent full page advertisement, the Ugandan aviation regulator advertised for open positions within their regulatory and supervisory department. UCAA intends to employ airworthiness inspectors specialized in avionics, power plants, and airframes, while also looking for a senior flight operations inspector, the latter of which requires an ATPL and at least 3,000 hours of flying experience. More information can be found via or by writing to

Edward Nsubuga, founder chairman of the Uganda Hotel Owners Association, passed away a few days ago in a hospital in Nairobi. Nsubuga built the Ranch on the Lake resort, located off the main road to the airport in Entebbe, in the mid 1990s, which after changing hands, is now set to reopen shortly under Serena management with the present working title, “The Citadel.” Condolences are extended by this column to the late Edward’s family and friends for their loss.

A dedicated media forum will take place in Kampala next month, bringing together the east African media houses and their leading journalists, columnists, and photojournalists. No specific details about the agenda or the dates of the meeting, however, could be verified at the time of going to press, in spite of relentless efforts by this column, which does not speak well for the media promoting itself.

Hotel room occupancy in Nairobi during this week and next week reaches near full house as first the East African Community held an EAC investment conference in Kenya’s capital to attract more investments into the region. This meeting is to be followed next week by the AGOA conference, when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to lead a large delegation from the United States to discuss AGOA-related matters with participating countries. A large number of private sector participants are expected in Nairobi for the meetings, and intending travelers to Kenya’s capital city are advised to check their hotel bookings and not rely on booking on arrival.

Following the increase in flights from Nairobi to the coastal city of Mombasa by both Air Kenya and Fly 540, Kenya Airways has reportedly added more services, bringing the total flights per week to no less than 58, an average of 8 flights per day.

This more than doubles the number of flights KQ has operated on the route until last week. The airline also announced special fares of KShs 2,750 one way, plus taxes, or 5,500 KShs for a return, again plus taxes. Larger aircraft such as the B 767 will also be used on weekends and for high-demand, mid-week flights to accommodate the growing number of passengers expected in the coming months. Flying time, depending on the type of aircraft used, varies between 50 minutes for jets, to about 1 hour and 25 minutes with turboprop aircraft, sparing air passengers the arduous journey by road from Nairobi to the coast, which can take up to 8 hours for the nearly 500 kilometers. The route by road, however, is not without its own highlights, as it passes through the Tsavo East and West game parks, permitting on occasions, a glimpse of wildlife along the main highway. The route is also considered scenic in its own right, as it descends from the Athi plains near Nairobi, progressively towards the Indian Ocean.

Effective early September, Kenya Airways will begin three weekly flights between Nairobi and Gaborone, Botswana, adding yet another African destination to their growing continental network, now comprising 35 airports across the continent. The newly-introduced flights will route via Lusaka, Zambia and will be code shared with Air Botswana. This makes Kenya Airways the industry leader for connections across Africa with conveniently-timed flights via their Nairobi hub. Visit for more information on their network, fares, and schedules. Bookings through their website are also possible for would-be passengers, although KQ’s flights can also be booked through their own sales offices and, of course, through traditional travel agencies.

Meanwhile, it was also learned that the Aviation and Allied Workers Union in Nairobi has issued a strike notice against Kenya Airways to the Ministry of Labor, as now required under the latest amendments to the labor laws in Kenya. This shows a distinct lack of appreciation and comprehension over the extremely difficult financial situation of the airline, or the aviation sector worldwide in general, as the airline during the last AGM posted a substantial loss. Elsewhere in the world of aviation, airline personnel are not just having to contend with salary cuts, cuts in benefits, and increased working hours, but also, to a large extent, a loss of jobs altogether, while KQ has so far been able to refrain from such harsh measures to ensure financial survival. The airline management pointed out that in a total lack of courtesy and usual practice, they learned of the intended strike notice through the media and not by letter or other means of direct communications from union representatives. Further information provided also shows that while some 25 meetings had been held to progress the negotiations, the demand of a 130 percent salary increase was simply not viable nor did it reflect global trends in the aviation sector.

Both Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways are now left pondering about their pending orders for Boeing’s Dreamliner turned nightmare 787 as reports received from the US indicate yet another delay in the production of the latest addition to the Boeing aircraft family. There are now some indications that the first test flight may be delayed a further 3-4 months. This could result in the expected delivery of the ordered planes to be pushed back once more, all the time considering that Boeing may be facing heavy penalties, while Ethiopian and Kenya Airways are made to look either for alternatives or have to continue flying their ageing B767 fleets, which were due to be replaced with the much more cost-efficient 787.

Related to this development, and in an unusually candid comment from the CEO of Qatar Airways, a customer with plenty of orders to worry about for Boeing, Mr. Al Baker over last weekend said heads would roll were he the CEO of Boeing. Qatar Airways, with over 30 Dreamliners on firm order and a further 30 options, is one of the largest B787 customers and has previously already made strongly-worded statements about a possible cancellation of the order and a switch to Airbus. Watch this space for updates.

Nairobi will host the forthcoming EU – Africa Business Forum between September 28-29 this year under the theme, “Africa and Europe: On the road to a new win-win partnership.” Governmental bodies and representatives, the business community, and the respective diplomatic representatives are all expected to mingle and discuss ways and means to bring entrepreneurs from Europe and Africa together.

Only recently was the Asia-Africa Business Forum held at the lakeside resort of Munyonyo, just outside Kampala, where the meeting focused entirely on tourism, while the Nairobi meeting is thought to have an agenda mainly focusing on investments, trade, and related issues.

The legal case over alleged misappropriation of funds, this column has reported about it in the past, has now opened in court in Nairobi. After hearing statements from some witnesses, going to the core of the allegations, the case was eventually adjourned until early October, causing yet more suspense for the accused and those eagerly awaiting a final outcome and verdict.

Reports in the Kenyan media suggest that over the past couple of months, nearly 30 black and white colobus monkeys have died in traffic accidents and by high-voltage power lines, reducing the rare animals even further. Their normal habitat has already shrunk considerably since the 1970s, when this correspondent first visited the area and found a still largely intact forest along the Diani Beach side of Ukunda, Mombasa South Coast. In spite of all conservation efforts, the population has since then shrunk considerably, caused by the forest being encroached and increasing traffic along the road, which often recklessly knocks crossing animals down before speeding off, as well as other habitat changes reducing breeding of the rare monkeys.

The Colobus Trust at Diani has, over the years, constructed multiple devices allowing the monkeys to cross the road from above, from one side of the forest to the other, but the latest spate of dead animals has sounded a warning to conservationists and the Kenya Wildlife Service to do still more to preserve the animals, such as adding speed bumps along the road and insulating the high-voltage electricity wires on their route through the forest to protect the unsuspecting animals climbing the poles.

As flights by Fly 540 Tanzania are now also using the Arusha municipal airport, an office was opened last week by the airline for the convenience of travelers boarding at the old airfield and saving themselves a 50+ km drive to the international airport near Moshi. Visit for more details, schedules, and fares of the new flights from Arusha to the game parks and other Tanzanian destinations, including Zanzibar.

Earlier in the week, news emerged from Kigali that the Uganda-based Madhvani Group, already engaged in the hospitality sector in Uganda with three safari lodge properties, was about to take over a 3+ hectare piece of land in the Rwandan capital with the aim to build and then manage a 4- or 5-star hotel. The new development would be strategically located next to the proposed new convention center, in combination with which the new hotel would be able to offer synergy effects to their clientele. Rwanda is keenly pursuing the MICE market and intends to triple available 3- to 5-star rated hotel beds in the coming years, as it seeks to carve out a sizeable slice of the global convention, meeting, conference, and incentive markets.

This would be the Madhvani Group’s second venture into the main stream city hotel business, after owning for some time the Intercontinental Hotel in Lusaka, before selling it off.
In a supporting measure, Rwanda will also start to implement the East African Community guidelines for grading and classification of hotels to ensure the quality which visitors will expect when visiting the land of a thousand hills.

Although fighting in the eastern Congo has of late intensified and tens of thousands of area residents are again on the move to find safe havens, this has no visible effect on the region near the borders with the Congo inside Uganda and Rwanda, although surveillance and patrols have been increased to prevent any problems from spilling across the frontiers. It is, however, not advisable at present to visit the Congolese side of the border in search of gorilla tracking, as this can be safely done in Uganda and Rwanda without running into unnecessary encounters of the guerrilla kind, while searching for the gorillas.

As interest has been expressed in regard of my column item of last week, here is the email contact of Gadsden Books in Lusaka, Zambia:

The guide book can be ordered from them and will be shipped subject to advance payment for the book and shipping costs. I can only recommend the guide book, once again, as it provides a treasure chest of information about areas of Zambia, of which otherwise not much is known or published.

East Africa Tourism Report

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