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East Africa

Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report

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Wolfgang H. Thome  Apr 04, 2008

The successful term of office of (now) immediate past president James Rattos, Sheraton Kampala Hotel, came to an end last week when Skalleagues elected a new leadership and club committee during their annual general meeting. Mr. Rattos, the first single term presidential office holder in the 15 year history of the club, made a sound financial success of the club meetings with record takings through raffles, donations and the proceeds of the annual dinner dance. Attendances were at a long time high and so were membership levels during his term of office. As has become custom with the club much of the annual proceeds was donated to conservation projects in the country to support the long term future of tourism in Uganda. James declined his nomination for the proposed unopposed re-election and cited work reasons for not standing again. He did however accept to serve as a committee member for the 2008/9 term after it was decided to keep the immediate past president ‘on board’ for another year. The club members then elected Ms. Kainembabazi Sabiti, general manager of Amadeus Uganda as the new club president. Well done James and all the best for equal success to Kaine, who was previously Vice President of the club.

The Uganda Association of Travel Agents has just elected a new board, with the new chairperson being Mr. Stephen Mworozi of Kampala’s Tour and Travel Centre. Also elected to the board, amongst others, were the former Kenya Airways country manager and now agency owner Emmanuel Okware and Ms. Pearl Horeau, general manager of Kampala’s oldest and still leading agency the Uganda Travel Bureau. Long serving Chairperson Eugenie Nsubuga Windt of Swanair Tours and Travel/Carlson Wagonlits Uganda retired from the board and this correspondent hastens to express his own and the tourism fraternity’s gratitude to Eugenie for the work done for the sector over the past years under at times very trying and difficult circumstances. Eugenie, in her TUGATA chairperson capacity, had successfully served on the governing council of the Uganda Tourism Association, representing the travel agents interests on the national tourism apex body but also represented the private sector on the Board of Trustees of the Uganda Tourist Board in the past. Well done Eugenie and all the best to the new board members.

Domestic and charter airlines operating from the Kajjansi airfield outside Kampala will soon get further relief through another fuel facility by Shell. The new AVGAS storage tank is due for commissioning in mid April, as has been reconfirmed during the week. Lack of fuel storage has long been a major concern for the airlines using the convenient airfield nearer to Kampala, many of whom had to resort to use drums or else refuel in Entebbe. However, beyond the AVGAS propelled aircraft fleets there are now 5 Cessna Grand Caravan permanently stationed and operating from this airfield, not at the main Entebbe airport, and they require JET A1 aviation fuel.

Shell’s managing director for Uganda Mr. Ivan Kyayonka has now confirmed that they are looking into stationing a fuel bowser at the airfield, which has become surplus requirement in Entebbe, to allow convenient and safe aircraft refuelling at Kajjansi, without the risk of adulterating the fuel when transferring and transporting it in drums. At present consumption in Kajjansi the 18,000 litre capacity vehicle would make up to three trips a month to the main fuel storage in Entebbe to be able to supply all the required fuel to the Kajjansi operators. Air operators in Kajjansi however were more than a little reluctant to accept an old fuel bowser, which may be susceptible to breakdowns and are now looking into the option to construct their own fuel tank, which could then be refilled by Shell on demand. Watch this space to follow the situation and developments in the Ugandan aviation sector.

In a rather belated, but nevertheless welcome move, Libyan President Gaddafi has expressed his regrets over the unfortunate remarks made in Kampala two weeks ago, when on the occasion of the official opening of the new national mosque he declared the bible forged and altered. The local media gave the apology front page prominence as it is still considered somewhat unusual, that someone of Gaddafi’s history actually would regret what he ever said. His comments continue to attract animated discussions, still born out in the ‘letter to the editor’ columns of local newspapers, although the Uganda Government will be relieved to see that the inciting statements were now withdrawn.

The ongoing heavy rains, which presently mark the beginning of the ‘long’ rainy season this year, have again caused extensive flooding in Kampala. Drainage wetlands towards the lake have been extensively built on and blocked in past years under the sleepy eyes of National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), leading to water backlogs in low lying areas of the city. Business owners have once again suffered losses from flooded premises and motorists had to struggle to find a way to their destination, making long detours. NEMA has of late shown a somewhat greater determination to deal with the problem and started last week to demarcate wetlands (reportedly ahead of some planned evictions and demolitions) to avoid such problems in the future, but it will be years before the damage done so far can be mitigated through new drainage channels and culverts. Sadly, a young child seems to have drowned in the latest round of city floods and many mud and wattle houses in poor neighbourhoods have reportedly collapsed from the onslaught of the raging waters, rendering their occupants homeless.

The rains have also promptly opened up more and new potholes across the city, with a particular giant at the main Bugolobi junction along the Old Port Bell road. Motorists are now in danger of damaging their cars trying to negotiate the crater, while the Kampala City Council is once again dragging their feet over repairs. Unlike ahead of the Commonwealth Summit in November last year, the council seems to be sitting on its hands again, possible still recovering from the work done then ?!?

Umbrella sellers are in the meantime doing booming business everywhere in the city, as are suppliers of Wellingtons, roof repair men and grass cutters. Watch this space – and the weather reports.

As reported last week, a major gully opened up across the main traffic artery from Kampala to Eastern Uganda and the Kenyan border, after torrential rains hit the area since Easter. The Ministry of Works has now closed the road to all traffic in order to carry out major repairs and lay new culverts, one of which is suspected to have collapsed under the rush of the water.

All traffic is now diverted between Mukono and Jinja along the Kayunga road for the time being, however only leading to a minor delay in terms of time travelled and only marginally longer distance. The closure is expected to last approximately two weeks, during which that section of the highway will remained closed for all vehicles.

Traffic police has in the meantime started a safety in traffic campaign across Kampala and the rest of the country, arresting hundreds of drivers on the first day for using motor vehicles in ‘dangerous mechanical condition’, driving without using their seatbelts, lack of insurance certificates and using expired licences or having none at all. This follows a spate of recent accidents, partly caused by the heavy rains and subsequent bad road conditions. A large number of ‘boda boda riders’ – moped or motorbike taxis – were also arrested for ignoring traffic rules, which will come as a temporary relief to motorists suffering from the most extraordinary – and often outright dangerous – behaviour on the roads by some of these fellows.

A new date has just been advertised by Celtel, main corporate sponsor of the planned AKON concert in Kampala. This is the second time the date has shifted, and now stands as May 02nd at 8 pm at the Lugogo Cricket Ground. The same artist was repeatedly mentioned to have agreed to perform in Nairobi, but no such concert has taken place there, causing some concern here in Uganda too. Celtel however has given a public statement that all required payments to the artist have been made and preparations were in high gear for his visit to Uganda, dispelling rumours that the whole thing was a hoax. Watch this space to hear what eventually transpires.

Veteran casino operator Bob Kabonero of the Kampala Casino now has opened a fourth gambling spot in the city, the Pyramid Casino and Restaurant along Kitante Road near the city’s golf course. This brings to three the number of casinos in the city opened over the past year, after almost a decade of the Kampala Casino dominating the market alone.

As mentioned on occasions in previous column items, the signing of the long awaited peace deal with between the Uganda Government and a Northern Ugandan rebel group has now bounced again. Kony, wanted by the ICC with some of his henchmen on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes, recently escaped from his Garamba National Park hideout in Congo into the Central African Republic, but has been stringing mediators and negotiators along with vague assurances that his dwindling group would comply with assembly requirements. However, UN envoy and former Mozambique President Joaquin Chissano has now confirmed that the group was not at the assembly point in time for the proposed signing date of April 5. Confusing information given by the LRA team in Juba also introduced a new piece of information that Kony was ill in the bush and could therefore not make it to the signing – as predicted in this column weeks ago. New provisional dates have now been set for the middle of April but as the ICC warrants continue to hang over Kony and his co-killers – the ICC has not lifted the indictments inspite of Kony’s threats – a true signing may still be way off. However, with the LRA ranks decimated and its remaining core camped in the CAR, at least peace has returned to Northern Uganda for now even without a formal deal.

While calm has returned to Kenya in recent weeks, following the Kofi Annan-sponsored peace agreement between the main political foes and the amendment of the country’s constitution to make way for the appointment of a prime minister, the final enactment still seems some time away. For the past weeks the two sides cannot seemingly agree on cabinet positions and distribution of jobs amongst their supporters, and Kofi Annan had to step in once again to get some movement back into the process. Outbreak of violence however is presently most unlikely and with Annan’s efforts redoubled a positive outcome is expected in due course. Watch this space, and visit Kenya now to take advantage of some extraordinary low season offers.

Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report

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