FRIEND A GORILLA NOW ONLINE
Owners of a Facebook account, Twitterers, and My Spacers are now able to befriend a gorilla and donate US$1 to the conservation trust fund of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, following the launch of the new feature last weekend at a gala dinner in Kampala. Those with personal reasons or aversions to subscribe to any of these Internet features, and it is understood that there are many, are, of course, more than welcome to come to Uganda in person and visit the gorillas personally – an even better way to make friends with one of the prized animals, while also being able to interact with the famously friendly Ugandan people – in person that is and not by email or through virtual encounters. Those, however, interested in purely virtual visits, should go to www.friendagorilla.org for more details and donate, donate, donate!
UGANDA SHILLING KEEPS RISING
The Ugandan currency has continued its appreciation march against the US dollar, which now only attracts a rate of slightly over 1,900 Uganda shillings, from a previous high of almost 2,300. Local expenses for visiting tourists, therefore, have correspondingly gone up by nearly 20 percent over the past 6 months when the Uganda Shilling had hit rock bottom. Exporters, too, are now receiving less in local currency when they convert their foreign exchange incomes. Importers, however, continue to profiteer from the situation as externally-sourced items brought into Uganda have not reduced in price at all to the detriment of Ugandan consumers. Other currencies used in Uganda like the Euro, the UK Pound, the Swiss Franc, the Yen, and others have also devalued along the same percentages.
MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON UNIVERSITY GRADUATES OVER 200
The privately-owned Mountains of the Moon University near Fort Portal last week graduated over 200 students of certificate, diploma, bachelor degree, and master degree studies, including some from the tourism and hospitality courses taught at the university. Former Minister of Tourism, Trade and Industry, now retired from politics, Prof. Edward Rugumayo, is the co-founder and chancellor of MMU. During the graduation ceremony, government representatives present also announced the injection of 500 million Uganda shillings as a donation to the university, aimed at improving structures and facilities.
RECENT APPOINTMENTS AT THE MINISTRY OF TOURISM
After the long absence of a substantive Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, following the retirement of Dr. Sam Nahamya in March 2008, Ambassador Julius Onen was recently appointed as new PS, while the position of Director of Tourism, Wildlife, Museums and Monuments was filled by former Commissioner for Wildlife Mr. Justus Tindigarukayo Kashagire. The latter served with this correspondent for several years on the board of the Rhino Fund Uganda and was instrumental to procure the requisite CITES permits for the importation of the two Rhinos donated by Disney, as well as the ongoing shipment of medical samples for the purpose of monitoring them. Congratulations to all of them in their new positions at this challenging time for the tourism industry.
NATIONAL TREE-PLANTING CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED
Last Saturday saw the formal launch of the 1 billion Uganda shilling national re-forestation campaign during a ceremony in Mpigi District, where deforestation is particularly extensive. Figures released by the National Forest Authority sounded a stark warning when it was revealed that Uganda’s rate of loosing forests is amongst the highest in the world, losing some 7,000 hectares from protected forests, while over 70,000 hectares of forest are lost on private and public land outside protected areas. The onset of el Nino induced extremely heavy rains, the effects of global warming already seen in eastern Africa, and the loss of forest in water catchment areas has led to increased flooding on one hand and the drying up of rivers, shallow lakes, and dams during the dry season. The Minister of Water and Environment at the launch of the national campaign also announced the setting up of nationwide tree nurseries aimed to plant trees on bare hills, along water catchment areas, and replenish areas now depleted of continuous forest cover with indigenous and commercial tree species. The campaign will last for at least three years to start with, and the target for the current financial year is at least 3 million trees to be planted over and above commercial plantations under private projects.
NORTHERN BYPASS NIGHTMARE ENDS, FINALLY
The EU-funded, so-called Northern Bypass highway, halfway around Kampala, was finally opened for traffic yesterday when the Ministry of Works and Transport’s Uganda National Road Authority in the end consented to accept the opening of the road by the contractors for traffic users. However, this was a qualified acceptance it was learned when the ministry also announced that more repairs were still necessary before a final handover could take place. The construction started over 5 years ago and was due to be completed within 2 years, but the contractors not only failed to meet the deadline but began in an arrogant fashion to blame all and sundry for their woes, including accusing the EU for meddling and the initial consultants for incompetence over the road design. They also had several run-ins with government and in the public eye lost all respect. Needless to say, cost also skyrocketed and it is understood that a case over penalties may still be pending against the Italian construction company Salini – incidentally also chosen to construct the Bujagali hydroelectric plant on the upper Nile and also in “delay territory.”
The half-ring road is expected to decongest the Kampala city center from transit passenger and cargo traffic, which presently must pass through the city to reach major roads leading north and west from the city. The initial plan was to complete the ring with a southern by-pass, but environmental concerns over the possible route, leading along and through major wetlands used for drainage of excess rainfall towards Lake Victoria, have stalled this project, probably for good.
CHOGM AFTERMATH CONTINUES IN PARLIAMENT
Two years after hosting a successful Commonwealth Summit and introducing Uganda to the world as a country capable to organize and execute major MICE events, sections of parliament continue to hunt ghosts from those days, as opposition MPs chase accountability reports for reportedly 270 billion Uganda shillings, or over US$135 million. One audit report highlights the alleged advance payment to a cuckoo land hotel project on Entebbe road, which the owners at the time said would offer 1,000 rooms and 2,500 shops, and yet not a single guest during CHOGM was allegedly booked into the building site, which to date continues to draw sharp and comical comments as the facility, not far from the main road, sits on a hill top, visible from afar and still uncompleted. On the positive side, however, and often forgotten by the CHOGM opponents, is a hospitality industry, which can now indeed deliver major events and can offer a range of conference and meeting facilities, come adequately-priced hotel rooms, in sufficient numbers to host 3,000+ delegates in the city and its environs.
EL NINO RAINS HIT CITY
Recent torrential rains have once again brought flooding to sections of the Kampala city and its environs, after authorities failed to clear drainages in time in spite of regular warnings by the meteorological department. The heavy rains lashing parts of the country are expected to last until early next year, while warnings of a repeat of the extensive 2007 floods have been voiced again.
SERENA TAKES OVER LAKESIDE RESORT
In a brief press statement, incidentally giving conflicting names for the new property as Port Victoria Serena Resort in the headline and then again Lake Victoria Serena Resort further down the text, the hotel group announced that effective October 1, they have taken on the management of what used to be the Ranch on the Lake some 20 km from the city center along Entebbe road, taking the turn at Lweza towards the lake. The new facility will have 124 rooms and suites, reportedly ready on opening day, while a golf course and marina are expected to be completed late next year or by early 2011.
MAKE AREA SAFE OR ELSE, TOUR COMPANIES TELL GOVERNMENT
Following several robbery attacks on tourist vehicles across the northern safari circuit of Shaba Game Reserve, Buffalo Springs Game Reserve, and Samburu National Park in the recent past, leading tour and safari operators have issued an ultimatum to the Kenyan government to either secure the area or else they will pull their business out of the area. The area is also subject to a nearly unprecedented influx of pastoralists in search of water and pasture for their cattle and goat herds, all suffering from the drought currently holding the north of Kenya in its grip. Area leaders echoed the call on central government for stepping up security as the councils of Isiolo and Samburu depend on the income generated from tourism, which in any case was still down from previous years due to the fall out of the global economic and financial crisis. Tourism trade associations and the Ministry of Tourism have supported the demand for extra security and also warned of the dire consequences at this moment in time for Kenya tourism, should no decisive action be taken. The warnings should not be taken lightly as tour and safari operators have in the past successfully boycotted areas where security was lacking and only eventually returned to those circuits after government had acted upon their demands.
KITICH AND LEWA CAMPS UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT
It was learned earlier in the week that the main camp on the Lewa Downs Conservancy in Kenya has now been handed to Cheli and Peacock Camps for management to integrate into the greater circuit, which this up-market company has put together over the last two-plus decades. More exciting, however, was the news, that one of this correspondent’s all-time favorites, Kitich Camp in the Matthews Range, has also come under C&P’s management and will undergo refurbishment and enlargement of the tents to include attached bathrooms, while also adding a new observation deck for visitors adjoining the main bar and lounge area. The Matthews Range in the north of Kenya is still largely underexplored by visitors streaming to the main game parks and best known attractions, often overlooking the lesser known gems in the Kenyan collection of up-market and remote places, which – besides equally good and often better game viewing – give privacy and near exclusivity at not much more of the cost of staying in a normal lodge or tented camp. Use Google to get more information about Kenya tourism, Cheli & Peacock’s safari camps, the Matthews Range and Kitich Safari Camp, and my thanks to Deena of Concorde Safaris in Nairobi for the tip off and information.
KENYA AIRWAYS PAYS DIVIDEND
In spite of the difficult market conditions, and in spite of the illegal strike action against the Pride of Africa a few weeks ago, the airline has nevertheless proposed to pay a small dividend to its faithful shareholders of 1 Kenya shilling per ordinary share. The airline also reaffirmed its drive towards becoming the dominant African airline offering connections to the key south and west African business hubs, with passengers connecting through Nairobi from the airlines’ long-haul flights to Europe and the near and far east. The airline also called for swift improvements at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, as congestion was not considered conducive for attracting more transit passengers, while also asking the Kenyan government to show some flexibility in granting visas to passengers from west Africa wanting to stop over in Nairobi en route.
KENYA AIRWAYS RECRUITS NEW PILOTS
Giving the clearest sign yet of a recovery underway, the Kenyan flag carrier announced plans to recruit up to 68 new pilots, including up to 20 starters, to be ready for additional aircraft deliveries and upcoming retirements of long-serving senior captains and first officers due to reach their age limits. Additional staff training has been announced following the AGM of the company in late September as were measures towards systems optimization. Kenyan civil aviation regulations put a limit of 63 years on commercial pilots, unlike some other countries where this limit has been pushed to 65, subject to additional medical checkups and related regulations on the staffing of the cockpit.
KQ’s chief executive officer Titus Naikuni has also answered some questions by eTN’s Executive Talk from the sidelines of the company’s AGM, and the interview will be published today alongside this column.
FLY 540 FLEET UPDATE
It has been confirmed by this column earlier in the week that the expected delivery of Fly 540’s first – of overall three – CRJs has been slightly delayed. No reasons for this late delivery could be established before going to print. Deployment on the Entebbe route, the first commercial use of the new jet, is now expected in early November.
TSAVO ELEPHANTS SUFFER THE MOST
Information received from sources in Kenya speaks of increased deaths of elephant in the Tsavo East National Park area as a result of drought- related complications. Over a hundred of the animals have died in recent weeks due to a lack of water, bringing back memories of the 70s drought when the elephants changed the landscape of Tsavo East by knocking over literally every tree in sight in their attempts to reach the remaining leaves and stripping the bark in search of moisture. Since then, several severe droughts have hit eastern Africa, and the cycles seem to get more severe with shorter intervals between drought periods. However, the immediate rain forecasts for eastern Africa remain positive, in fact threatening, as an el Nino-induced rainy season is feared to bring with it wide-spread flooding when the downpour eventually hits the rock-hard Earth in areas scorched by prolonged drought.
CLINTON PLEDGES CONSERVATION SUPPORT
Former US President Bill Clinton, a repeat visitor to eastern Africa during and equally regular visitor after his presidency, has reportedly pledged to help raise funds for the reforestation of the crucial Mau Forest, a major water catchment area affecting Kenya and Tanzania through rivers emerging from the area. With international pressure by conservation groups now mounting on the Kenyan government, officials have given notice to illegal squatters that fresh eviction notices will be served on them soon, but it remains to be seen if only the poorest of those will be affected or if palatial homes of former and current senior officials in government will also be targeted. At the sidelines of the recent UN General Assembly, Bill Clinton reportedly committed himself to supporting the reforestation in the Mau area, and probably beyond, of 100,000 hectares of land with trees, a crucial element of support from the US sure to embolden conservationists agitating for stricter legal and policy measures to protect the country’s main water catchment areas and raise forest cover to at least 10 percent of Kenya’s land area.
DEPORTED ERITREAN DIPLOMAT SNEAKS BACK – ARRESTED
The former First Secretary at the Eritrean mission in Nairobi was some time ago declared “persona non grata” and shipped back home within 24 hours when allegedly involved in aiding and abetting alleged terror groups. Under globally-accepted diplomatic rules, an accredited diplomat cannot be arrested nor charged without the consent of his home country, in this case, of course, not given. It now appears that the fellow did, however, return under disguise using a different passport, and when spotted in Nairobi by informants, he was this time promptly arrested. It is not clear if he will be charged in court for illegal entry or using false documents, as an intermediate holding charge, to later give way to possibly more severe charges in connection with his previous activity in the country, or if he will again be deported. Eritrea has been playing a dubious role in the Horn of Africa, to say the least, and often times been allegedly supporting arms, ammunition, and other goods to Islamic militias fighting in Somali to establish an al Qaida friendly regime similar to what the Taliban did in Afghanistan.
THE HAGUE TO TAKE ON KEY VIOLENCE SUSPECT PROSECUTIONS
Senior persons suspected to have been involved in the Kenyan post-election violence, either directly or through proxy, can now expect to have the International Criminal Court in The Hague issue arrest warrants, after the Kenyan government has failed to get legislation passed by parliament to establish either tribunals or a special court to deal with the crimes. Former UN supremo Kofi Annan and the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC Ocampo are due in Kenya soon towards this end and possibly achieving some much-needed reforms. It was also learned that the US government has recently handed “ban” notices to at least 15 senior politicians barring them from obtaining visas to the US.
AGREEMENT ON COMMON MARKET VERY NEAR
Negotiations have been going on and concluded in Kampala last week, ahead of the Head of State Summit in Mombasa, from September 30 to October 1, to put the finishing touches on this controversial protocol aimed at integrating the east African economies. The council of ministers’ meeting then put final touches on the wording before presenting it to the full summit. Once the long-awaited common market protocol is signed by the Heads of State – as is expected – and then ratified by the respective national parliaments, the door will open for east Africans to move freely and without criminalization by their host countries for being an illegal immigrant or alien any longer, a deplorable situation many east Africans suffered from periodically by their host countries. Significant decision by the Heads of State will be reported in this column next week. Equally important, from January 1 next year, a full zero rating of customs duties will be in effect, at least for goods produced within the EAC and meeting the required input criteria, removing any duties thereafter for trade within the 5 community countries. It is also understood that the Mombasa Summit, held at the Sarova Whitesands Hotels along Mombasa’s north coast, focused strongly on the Northern Transport Corridor, which requires major infrastructural upgrades and innovations to sustainably carry ever-increasing cargo and passenger numbers from the Indian Ocean ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam to the hinterland nations of Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, eastern Congo, and southern Sudan.
TANZANIA TOURIST BOARD TURNS TO ARTISTS
Tourism promotion is likely to get new perspectives and new impetus after the tourist board in Dar es Salaam announced last week that they would use local artists and local events sponsorship to boost domestic tourism. The details were given following the board’s sponsorship of Miss Tanzania contestants to visit Arusha and Lake Manyara National Park, and future activities will also use sporting events to draw attention to the tourism attractions everywhere in the country.
TURN WATERFRONT INTO TOURISM ATTRACTION
Last week saw emerging demands on the Tanzania Ports Authority, during the World Maritime Day celebrations, to provide access to the waterfront and create a good road so that Tanzanians and visitors alike could appreciate the beauty of the ocean. It was also mentioned that access to the port itself by visitors was difficult, and unlike other harbors and waterfronts, this was denying the city a tourism attraction. A major beach cleanup went on alongside the celebrations, when port staff and other volunteers cleared the beaches of rubbish. Well done and what a splendid idea to create such a project as a cornice along the Indian Ocean frontage.
WHERE ARE THE BUTTERFLIES?
A forest conservation project in the Usambara Mountains and forests has drawn attention to falling butterfly numbers in the area and vowed to help restore them to the habitat. Collecting butterflies for preservation and sale has been a community activity for many years in the area, producing cash flow into the local villages from the proceeds of selling the insects. However, butterflies are also thought to play a major role in preserving the local ecosystems and forest conservation, besides attracting a niche market of tourist visitors keen to see those species of butterflies not found elsewhere. It is understood that an NGO, called the Tanzania forest conservation group, is overseeing the project and assisting the local residents with guidance and advice. The estimated income for the villagers reportedly stands at about US$50,000.
ROTARY DAR ES SALAAM RAISES FUNDS FOR TREEPLANTING
A charity walk by the Rotary Club of Dar es Salaam, attended amongst others by former Tanzanian President Ali Hassan Mwinyi, last weekend raised about 90 million Tanzania shillings, way beyond its target of 75 million, to assist in the planting of about 100,000 tree seedlings in crucial areas across the country needing reforestation. Way to go – action instead of talk by going on a “support a tree walk.”
VOCATIONAL TRAINING THE KEY
The Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism in Tanzania last weekend recognized the importance of vocational training in the human resource development for the hospitality and tourism sector. She made her encouraging comments while meeting with teacher graduates and members of the Vocational Education and Training Authority. She called upon those in positions of authority to raise the levels of training standards in order to produce sufficiently-qualified staff for deployment in the hospitality sector across the country.
ZANZIBAR LOOKS AT TOURISM FOR POVERTY ALLEVIATION
The Zanzibar Association of Tour Operators and Zanzibar tourism investors came together earlier in the week under the auspices of Dutch NGO “SNV,” UK’s Voluntary Services Overseas and the Norwegian Embassy, to discuss how tourism could become more beneficial to the people and grass roots of Zanzibar. Opinions were wide ranging, but there was consensus that the poorest and those most in need saw little benefit from tourism operations. Zanzibar achieves almost half of its economic output through tourism activities and linkages between the private sector and civil society were mentioned as the most desirable way forward to percolate benefits down the ranks of society. Job creation and economic empowerment through cooperative initiatives and cottage industries were also mentioned as a roadmap to achieve the objectives of the seminar, which was titled, “Tourism – More Value for Zanzibar.”
FRANCE LIFTS FINAL CONDITIONS ON ROSE KABUYE
The judicial charade involving Rwanda’s Head of Protocol Rose Kabuye is now in its final stage after the French judiciary removed the few remaining conditions after Rose was freed last year from a French jail. This came after being arrested earlier in Germany where she went to prepare for the official visit of President Kagame, at the time in breach of diplomatic immunity. Germany then extradited her to France, where a clearly-misguided magistrate had issued an arrest warrant against her for the alleged involvement in the shooting down of the plane of the late regime leader Habyarimana, which also cost the French crew their lives. No sooner, however, was Rose in Paris, was her arrest warrant lifted, bail extended for her to return home, and she has since attended repeated sessions in France, belying those suggesting she would abscond. It is expected that the French judiciary will now formally put an end to the charade, leaving them with the proverbial egg all over their faces and their reputation in tatters. Several so-called witnesses have, under cross examination, withdrawn allegations attributed to them, while some others claimed never to have made statements or allegations against Rose in the first place.
RWANDAIR CUTS ENTEBBE FARES
It was learned this week that Rwanda’s national airline has cut its fares between Kigali and Entebbe by US$50 US for a return ticket in order to woo more passengers to use air services instead of traveling a full day by bus between the two capitals. Flying time on the airline’s CRJ jet is only around half an hour between Entebbe and Kigali, compared to between 10 and 12 hours by bus, including border crossing procedures. Other selected destinations will also benefit from promotional fares as the airline is now taking its fight for market share on its main routes to its competitors.
This latest incentive will be welcome news to the hundreds of participants in the Uganda Manufacturers International Trade Fair next week, where about 150 Rwandan companies are showcasing their products.
HOTEL STAFF FIRED FOR SCREENING PORN
Several staff members involved in the screening of a porn film in Kigali’s Sports View Hotel were fired by the owners when they were found to have put on prohibited material in the hotel’s main bar DVD player come TV. It appears that only a section of the crowd present enjoyed the movie while it lasted, and some other patrons promptly complained to the general manager and the owners, who then rushed to the scene and stopped the “performance.” The owners and GM apologized to the public and those negatively affected – a stark warning that porn in public places, be it in Rwanda or elsewhere in eastern Africa, is a strictly “no-no” affair.
NEW FOREST CORRIDOR TO COST US$5 MILLION
The Rwandan government is set to invest major money into the creation of a forest corridor, which is due to connect the Nyungwe National Park with the Gishwati Forest. The challenge is said to be made easier as the Mukura Forest is en route to the planned corridor. Conservation of 13 species of primates and yet more monkey species is expected to be boosted, as the habitat of many of these endangered species will be substantially enhanced, while tourism activities will then bring money, employment, and investment opportunities to those newly-designated areas. It is, in fact, expected that once the project is complete, that additional national parks may be created to include the newly-forested areas, which would boost the tourism industry in Rwanda. The forest corridor is due to expand over 50 kilometers in the south of Rwanda.
EGYPT TO SUPPORT RWANDA AND BURUNDI OVER WATER HYACINTH
The river Kagera, which originates from Rwanda and secondary sources in Burundi, according to recent reports carries nearly 1,000 tons of water hyacinth into Lake Victoria, where the aquatic weed then spreads ever more, causing problems at ferry landing sites – especially in Kenya’s Kisumu harbor – and piles up in front of the main hydroelectric dam, causing excess pressure on the main dam walls and potentially causing damage to the turbines. Egypt, long engaged in carrot-and-stick approaches over the outdated 1929 and 1959 water treaties governing the use of the Nile waters and its original sources, has now committed to assist the governments of Rwanda and Burundi to capture the weed at its source and minimize the flow of the hyacinth along the Kagera river into Lake Victoria. In a related development, the Egyptian Minister for Water Resources and Irrigation denied in Kampala earlier in the week any attempt by Egypt to delay or stall a new agreement, contrary to all evidence of recent meetings pointing indeed to such deplorable tactics.
PULL UP YOUR SOCKS, HOTEL SECTOR TOLD
An official of the Rwanda Centre for Skills Development has urged local hoteliers and restaurant business owners to build the workplace capacity of their staff by training them properly. This went along with a warning that if service standards were not improved, the Rwanda Development Board would begin to close such hospitality businesses, which were not meeting the required minimum standards set across the East African Community starting from later in the year.
SEYCHELLES HOSPITALITY AND TOURISM ASSOCIATION MEETS IN PRASLIN
The sectoral apex body of the Seychelles tourism and hospitality industry has reportedly met for the first time on the island of Praslin, instead of only concentrating on meetings in the capital Victoria or outlying areas of the main island of Mahe. The board of SHTA felt, according to information availed to this column, the need to fully integrate the other islands tourism and hospitality businesses into the national association to allow all the islands involved in the tourism industry a piece of the action. It was also pointed out that the board of SHTA has also met with its members from La Digue Island, and meetings with members on the other islands are to follow in due course.
CONCIERGE SERVICE NOW AVAILABLE TO ALL
Business support, bookings, transportation, airline ticket reconfirmation or changes, deliveries, and lots more is all in a day’s work for a new service available at the main island of the Seychelles, Mahe. Even other chores, like babysitting services, school runs, recommending and booking a restaurant, and even gardening services are now available for residents and visitors to the island at nominal fees. For intending visitors, the full scope of Seychelles Concierge can be accessed via www.seychellesconcierge.com, while those already on the islands for a visit can make a simple call to receive any of the services advertised.
AIR SEYCHELLES GETS EXTRA B767
Information was received that ILFC has signed an agreement with Air Seychelles for an initial three-year lease of another Boeing 767-300ER. The additional aircraft will boost the airline’s capacity to add frequencies to its main core markets while considering network expansion as the tourism sector of the archipelago continues to expand once again, as the end of the global financial and economic crisis is now drawing near.
In a related aviation development, it was also learned that smoking at the Seychelles International Airport and the Praslin Island aerodrome has been banned in line with the relevant law now in place, prohibiting smoking in the workplace, public-enclosed places, and public transport.
MORE SEYCHELLES TOURISM BOARD STAFF POSTED ABROAD
STB announced earlier in the week that following the successful posting of a staff member to Paris ahead of the TOP RESA travel fair, another one has now been sent to assist in the board’s Rome office. The postings are for a given period of time to permit the respective staff members of STB better understanding of the markets they are assigned to support while adding, during this crucial period of tourism recovery, more manpower to serve travel agents, tour operators, and individual travelers better. The information was released on World Tourism Day last Sunday, when the Seychellois Vice President and Minister for Tourism spoke to the nation on the theme: Tourism – Celebrating Diversity – and put the spotlight on culture, including crafts, song, dances, and fashion, in addition to the natural beauty of the islands. The Seychelles are renowned for its diversity of races and different cultural backgrounds, all of which, over the centuries, melted into the unique Creole traditions for which tourists from around the world come to the archipelago. It was also learned that a dedicated public safety and ecology committee of the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association was formed to enhance public safety, in particular for tourist visitors, supposedly also in a long line of activities coming to its peak on World Tourism Day.
AIR FRANCE IN MAJOR DEAL WITH SEYCHELLES TOURISM
During the recently-concluded TOP RESA travel fair in Paris, a partnership agreement was signed between Air France and the Seychelles Tourism Board, permitting for closer cooperation and paving the way for the airline to support the island’s efforts to promote the destination and bring more passengers to the country. The Seychelles has, in recent months, signed similar deals with Air Austral of La Reunion, Kenya Airways, and South African Airways, all aimed to aggressively market the Island archipelago in its core tourist markets and increase visitor numbers.
JUBA TO GET NEW RIVER HARBOR
Information received from southern Sudan’s capital indicates that the government in Juba has decided to build a modern river harbor to facilitate easier transport of goods, as well as passengers on the River Nile. While the Nile is a key potential transportation axis across the entire Sudan, there is little in terms of infrastructure or navigational aids from the Sudd upriver towards Juba, and the occasional rapids also make navigation difficult if not fully conversant with the river’s course. Other river towns in the southern Sudan will also require major investments in the coming years to create river ports to allow for easy loading and landing of cargos. The cost of the construction in Juba, including dredging, is estimated to be in excess of US$10 million.
KHARTOUM REGIME THROWS DOWN GAUNTLET
In a not entirely unexpected move, the Islamic hard-line regime in Khartoum has upped the stakes in its dealing with the semi-autonomous south of the country, when demanding that an independence vote across the south, due for 2011, must reach 90 percent yes votes to succeed. It is now a strong possibility that the regime in Khartoum, often described as anti-African and driven by Arabic superiority feelings against the southern African tribes, seems to set a collision course with the south aimed to break the Comprehensive Peace Agreements signed under military and political pressure in Kenya in early 2005. Already the regime is accused of having doctored the population census, being in the process of pre-rigging national elections in 2010 by redrawing constituency boundaries based on the fraudulent census figures introduced by them, and stalling a bill for the independence vote in the south, all in an attempt to drive the southern leadership to make rash decisions, which could give the northern regime a reason to re-start an armed conflict. Other problems have emerged over allegedly wide-spread fraud against the south over the sharing of oil revenues, withholding foreign currency from the southern banking system, fuelling proxy-armed incidents in the south, and covertly supporting Ugandan rebels presently camped in the Central African Republic and eastern Congo to do the bloody handiwork to the bidding of their masters in Khartoum. A new policy announcement in Washington towards both the Khartoum regime and the southern semi-autonomous region was also expected by middle of this week, giving hope that the south will be exempted in the future from the sanctions imposed on the regime in Khartoum, permitting greater economic cooperation between the US and the south and giving hope to the southern population of rising prosperity.