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East Africa Tourism

Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Africa  Nov 14, 2008

The population of lions, which stood at nearly 250 a decade ago, according to census figures on file from those days, has now literally halved due to revenge killings by illegal herders driving their cattle into the park in search of pasture. Only now are reports emerging in the local media that another two lions were found poisoned recently. Other predators too are said to be under threat by herdsmen such as hyenas and leopards, all of which consider cattle in the park as prey and follow their instincts of hunting when hungry.

Tree climbing lions within the Southern or Ishasha sector of the park have been a major attraction, as there are few places in Eastern Africa where lions can be seen on trees (only at Kidepo Valley National Park in North Eastern Uganda and the Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania) and a further reduction in the lion population would put this priceless resource at major risk of extinction. Watch this space.

News have emerged in Kampala of fundamental disagreements over the use of the Nile waters by Sudan and Egypt, with the objections being raised by primarily Uganda and Kenya. Both governments demand that the 1929 and 1954 treaties, imposed on the East African countries by former colonial power Britain, be scrapped and the water be treated as a natural resource of the source countries, rather than having Sudan and Egypt carry literal veto powers over any and all developments in Eastern Africa using contributory river waters, lake waters and Nile waters. It was also learned that the Egyptian monitors based in Jinja as the main power plant have been stopped from accessing water flow data for the time being, probably a pressure measure to compel the lower Nile countries concede major points in the ongoing negotiations.

A meeting on these issues between the Nile Basin countries presidents did reportedly not take place. The latest development also puts to rest allegations from other East African countries that Uganda had struck a one-on-one deal with Egypt following a brief stopover by Egyptian President Mubarak in Entebbe a few weeks ago.

In a welcome development for Ugandan exporters and travelers the Dutch airline has now announced the addition of another non-stop flight between Entebbe and Amsterdam, operating every Monday on A330-200 equipment. The flights will commence in early December, in time for the busy holiday season and arrival and departure times at both Amsterdam and Entebbe will remain the same. The airline also announced extra flights to New York and Washington, making connections to and from the US even easier.

As of November 7, 2008, the High Court in Kampala, on repeat application, stayed an earlier order for the immediate sale of the property when it issued an interim stay until the main issue will be decided in court on November 11th, according to local media reports. Earlier court decisions way back in May 2008 in related matters saw Aya’s previous lawyers being awarded nearly 2.5 million US Dollars in fees and VAT, arising from services rendered when securing a loan. Watch this space as the saga continues, none of which is doing the reputation of the project any good.
Meanwhile, another AYA company has reportedly also ran into financial trouble, when the High Court in Kampala ordered the attachment and sale of assets of Pan Africa Commodities Ltd., a subsidiary of Aya Investments. Again at the heart of the issue are unpaid legal fees, in this case worth over US$250,000. It is expected that more full mouthed denials will be peddled in public by representatives of the ‘Aya’ brothers, and again such denials will largely be removed from reality. Appeals in higher courts are not ruled out but this latest case against the brothers companies simply speaks for itself.

The Ugandan private airline has now marked its first anniversary since taking to the skies a year ago. The past 12 months were dominated by a global aviation crisis over exploding fuel prices and an economic downturn with reduced passenger numbers, making the survival of upstart airlines in this environment even more remarkable.

This column is publishing a hard hitting piece from the regular ‘Aero Club of Kenya’ newsletter, in which the (predicted) fallout of the hastily introduced new air services regulations is highlighted:

Following the election victory of Barack Obama in the US presidential elections, the regional media keeps the story on the front and inside pages of all publications, a trend expected to reduce only marginally as time goes on, at least until the date of Obama taking office in late January.

Much expectation is also being expressed on what Obama will do for Kenya, Eastern Africa and the continent at large, often leaving reality out of the equation when writing up wish lists, which the readership is happily gobbling up.

Only weeks after having several of their aircraft out of service due to a failed engine and a cracked cockpit window, this time round it seems to be the absence of tyres for their Airbus A320, which caused the airline to cancel some of their flights. Comments were also sought from reliable sources within and near the airline about the governmental subsidy, which appears not to have been paid for a while now, hampering the restructuring of Air Tanzania to the benefit of other airlines in the country.

Meanwhile, former managing partner South African Airways has taken the Tanzanian flag carrier to court over alleged outstanding loans advanced to the airline during the period of cooperation. This is again casting doubts over government’s commitment to put the airline on a sound financial footing by meeting, as agreed under the separation between the two carriers, all related cost and obligations. There are fears now that the Air Tanzania aircraft may be impounded at some stage in the future when landing in Johannesburg, if the debt worth over 4 million US Dollars is not settled soon. Watch this space.

Further to the previous report on Air Tanzania, news have also been received that Tanzania’s leading private airline (Kenya Airways holds 49 percent of the shares in this company) has now formally launched the second of their ordered seven brand new ATR 72-500 fleet. The fast turboprop aircraft is offering greater flight economics, very important at this day and age of volatile fuel prices. The first new aircraft joined Precision already in March this year as reported in this column and five more ATR’s will be delivered in coming months to support route and capacity expansion. Precision Air’s investment in the new fleet is valued at nearly US$130 million, a firm commitment to the future of the airline in difficult times for the global aviation industry.

With the arrival of the new aircraft Precision will in early December begin to offer twice daily Mwanza flights and expand their Nairobi schedule too to meet the extra demand for seats.

The Rwanda Office for Tourism and National Parks was recently merged together with several other governmental bodies and authorities into the new ‘Rwanda Development Board’, which will under one combined governmental budget oversee several functions, including that of tourism promotion and wildlife management and conservation.

The director general of the former ORTPN, Mrs. Rosette Rugamba, is now holding the position of deputy CEO in charge of tourism and conservation at the new organization. New email and web contacts will be availed in due course. Congratulations to Rosette and all the best in the future within the new organization.

The information received last week from usually well informed sources in Rwanda, that Zimbabwean troops were fighting alongside Kinshasa regime units and their allied militias, has now been amended. It has been confirmed in both Kinshasa and by UN sources in Eastern Congo, that Angolan army units were indeed flown into the Congo and have been deployed. Angola in an earlier Congo conflict was fighting on the side of Kabila senior (who had welshed on earlier commitments made to his erstwhile supporters Rwanda and Uganda), alongside Zimbabwe, which could have been the cause of the erroneous naming of the outside country now involved again in the struggle.

Meanwhile, calls have been emerging to break up the Congo into more manageable and cohesive regional units of government so that peace could return to those self-governed areas, but Kinshasa is likely to resist any moves to have parts of the country like the mineral rich Katanga region secede and taking the revenues accrued and so far largely kept in Kinshasa with them.

The presence of foreign, non UN or AU troops in the Congo may also draw the other protagonists back into action, as the political lines continue to be drawn as sharply as they were back in the ‘90s.

The peace summit in Nairobi last week also failed to reach a lasting conclusions and negotiations and discussions on how to best solve the problems of Eastern Congo are said to be ongoing at regional, continental and international levels. Also, contrary to reports in some select international media, there is no evidence of any direct involvement in the fighting from either Rwanda or Uganda and both governments have issued strongly worded denials to the allegations, which were likely peddled by the Kinshasa regime trying to deflect international attention from their own sorry situation.

Meanwhile, the provocative and irresponsible arrest by German border police of Rwanda’s Chief of Protocol upon arrival in Frankfurt, where she arrived to prepare for the visit of President Kagame a day later, was condemned by both Rwanda and Uganda in the strongest possible terms. It is understood, that 23 French nationals, leading politicians and military personnel, will be indicted soon by Rwandese prosecutors, while another 10 cases are nearing the completion of investigations. This is for their alleged complicity in the 1994 Rwanda Genocide, where France played – to put it mildly – a most dubious role. Relations between France and Rwanda have now again hit rock bottom and the German Ambassador in Kigali has also been asked to leave the country within 24 hours. The African Union is in full support of Rwanda’s position and has equally lodged protests with the European Union. This ‘side show’ will obviously not be helpful for a swift and comprehensive solution of the conflict in Eastern Congo, so watch this space as future newsbreak.

News have been received from Addis Ababa about a recent volcanic eruption in the North Eastern region of Afar. According to additional information some 30 square kilometers have been covered by lava from the eruption, which also registered as a minor earthquake.

Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report
Photograph by Nelson Alcantara

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