Wolfgang's East Africa tourism report
ZIWA RHINO SANCTUARY UPDATE: AND WE BAPTIZE THEE – OBAMA
It was just confirmed by the sanctuary's executive director
Angie Genade that the recently-born rhino baby is,
as has been speculated, a little "boy" and that
his given name will be "Obama."
The reason for this was the similarity in both cases,
whereby the father of little Obama was from Kenya,
brought to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary from Kenya's Solio
Game Reserve, while the American mother was donated
by Disney's Animal Kingdom in the United States and
sent to Uganda a few years ago.
This correspondent welcomes the little "fellow" and
expresses his joy in having our own Obama in Uganda,
who undoubtedly will become a visitor magnet
in the coming years in his own right.
It is in fact, hoped that the real Obama might,
during his term of office, visit Uganda,
as the previous two American presidents have done,
and then make time to also see his namesake
on the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary – what a PR coup
that would be for rhino conservation in the country.
Maybe someone can tip off the White House staff?
SHERATON INTRODUCES CORPORATE LADIES NIGHT
In their efforts to establish the Sheraton Kampala Hotel
as a premier meeting place, the F&B team of Eric Wendel
and James Rattos come up with a once-a-week
meeting platform for corporate ladies.
Being able to meet a cross-section of other
senior ladies working in management, combined
with free and secure parking, free nibbles,
reduced prices for drinks and an appealing
a la carte menu, will undoubtedly attract
the up-and-coming female executives from Kampala.
Meanwhile, as the main holiday season for
the expatriate community is in full swing,
corporate meetings at the Sheraton will attract
a substantial rebate until the end of August,
when "business as usual" is expected to resume.
Finally, in view of recent reports about the latest
developments at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary,
it is worth mentioning that the Sheraton Kampala
Hotel has long been a staunch corporate sponsor
of the rhino sanctuary, the rhino enclosure at
the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe,
and conservation efforts in general.
CAA STARTS ARUA AERODROME WORK
The Arua airfield is being upgraded under a CAA work
program for upcountry aviation facilities.
The runway is due to be extended by 150 meters
to facilitate landing and takeoff by larger aircraft and
will be tarmacked for a length of 2.5 kilometers.
A new passenger terminal is also under construction.
Figures available from the CAA give annual passenger
numbers of around 10,000, with just under
1,800 aircraft movements for 2008.
Once the new facilities are completed,
the aerodrome will be able to handle up to
70,000 passengers per year.
Other aerodromes selected for upgrade are located
in Kasese and in Soroti, where
the national aviation training facility is located.
SSESE ISLAND FERRY OUT OF SERVICE FOR INSPECTION
According to international maritime rules,
which are now more strictly enforced in Uganda,
the MV Kalangala is due for its annual inspection
for the rest of July, during which time
the ferry services will be irregular and only possible
when alternate ships are available.
Visitors intending to travel to the Ssese Islands
should seek early advice regarding their travel plans
and, if necessary, make other arrangements
for their lake journey, such as traveling by road
to Masaka and taking the shorter ferry trip
from there to the main island.
Full services are expected to resume
by early August from the Entebbe pier.
KENYA BUZZ – THE E-LEISURE GUIDE
Kenya Buzz, found on the world-wide web
via www.kenyabuzz.com, has established itself
as the leading e-guide for Kenyan residents
and also for intending visitors, wanting to know
what is happening where and when.
Having this information can add some real spice
to their lives or enhance the visiting experience
to Kenya for all age groups, from children,
to adolescents, to adults, to seniors.
Kenya Buzz provides readers with a
wide range of details, including salsa dancing,
pottery classes, life-enhancing workshops,
sporting activities and events, fundraising
and community festivals, hot tips of
where to stay, the latest restaurants entering
the eating scene, and lots more.
the weekly mailing is free
DRAUGHT IN NORTHERN KENYA HITS WILDLIFE
Reports are trickling in that dozens of
elephants have died in recent weeks,
most of them suspected to be victims
of the severe drought presently experienced
in parts of eastern Africa.
In several regions, the long rains have again
failed this year, already causing
a hydro-electric power plant in Kenya
to be taken off the grid due to a lack of water,
and the populations, of course,
are also suffering from failed harvests.
However, it is the death of the wildlife
which is capturing the headlines,
rather than the growing woes
of the human populations.
Veterinarians from UWA have apparently
ruled out anthrax as a cause of death
but are reportedly looking into other possible causes,
too, as the number of mostly young
elephant deaths within a short period
of time may have other reasons than
the shortage of water in rivers and water holes.
Poaching has also seen an upward trend in Kenya,
attributed to the relaxing of the ban
on the trade of ivory and related products
by Southern African states,
following the last CITES meeting,
a change, incidentally, heavily criticized
and opposed by the Eastern African Elephant Coalition.
Meanwhile, ivory worth nearly a US$1 million
was confiscated while in transit from
Mozambique to south Asia earlier in the week,
courtesy of vigilant security personnel from
both Kenya Airways and other agencies
routinely patrolling the international airport.
The cargo, hidden in crates, also contained
rhino horns, thought to have originated
from other parts of Southern Africa,
where poaching in some countries is
an ongoing serious problem.
In particular Zimbabwe is suffering from
wide spread poaching of wildlife, including
the endangered rhinos, with security forces
suspected to be part of the poaching
and smuggling rings.
From usually well-informed sources, it was learned
that while the official destination of the cargo
was Laos, the likely end destination was more likely
to be China (see related column item in
the Tanzania section), which has been at
the forefront of criticism by animal rights
and conservation proponents for
their endless hunger for "blood ivory."
BRITAIN NOW SPREADS H1N1 TO TANZANIA
Another British visiting student was diagnosed last week
in Dar es Salaam as infected with the H1N1 virus
(swine flu), making Tanzania the third country
in east Africa to receive the unwelcome "gift" from
British visitors to the region.
The student was admitted to hospital, subjected
to more tests, and then given treatment,
to which reportedly he was responding well.
Like in Kenya and Uganda, this flu type is not thought
to pose a major problem to the country and
in particular, the tourism industry is
not expected to suffer because of it.
Medication, mainly Tami Flu, has been received across
eastern Africa by the health authorities to
allow prompt treatment of any further cases.
No reports of H1N1 were received from Zanzibar, Rwanda,
and Burundi, nor has the southern Sudan found
any cases within their territories
at the time of going to press.
It was also learned that Britain is the country with
the third-highest number of infections – a clear
indication that the initial containment measures
across the UK by the health authorities have
miserably failed, making Britain one of the
key sources of spreading the disease further
around the world.
The latest information from the UK is that
the NHS intends to vaccinate EVERYONE across
the country to arrest the spread of the disease.
PRESIDENT KIKWETE SPEAKS OUT AGAINST
MORE PARK DEVELOPMENTS
While opening the new Bilila Serengeti Safari Lodge
last weekend, owned and managed by Kempinski Hotels,
the president spoke out strongly against
the immediate addition of new and more properties,
not just in the Serengeti but the other national parks,
While apparently a study commissioned by government
a few years ago indicates that the Serengeti could,
with ease, absorb more accommodation,
it was the president's counsel to TANAPA
to wait and study the impact of new lodges first,
and if at all, only add more accommodation
very gradually to avoid overcrowding and
a negative impact on the environment
and the prized wildlife found in the park.
He also warned of dubious investors wanting to put up
second-rate facilities, which were not
in the interest of the government
and wildlife conservation.
HILTON SET TO OPEN HOTEL IN DAR ES SALAAM
Confirmation was received earlier in the week that
the Hilton Corporation is apparently set to open
a new hotel in Tanzania's commercial capital
of Dar es Salaam, adding over 250 rooms
in the 5-star bracket into the marketplace.
A second property is due to open in Zanzibar,
which has over the years positioned itself
as a very posh upmarket destination with
the addition of a number of luxury properties
along its white, sandy beaches.
The hotels are due to open under the Doubletree
by Hilton brand. Watch this space for updates.
TANAPA DIRECTOR GENERAL RESIGNS
The long-serving TANAPA CEO Gerald Bigurube reportedly
resigned earlier in the week, according to reports
from reliable sources in Tanzania.
While no specific reasons for the sudden resignation
could be obtained, the same sources spoke of
a series of recent investigations and
allegations over financial issues within TANAPA.
The matter was even raised in parliament recently,
when the opposition in the Tanzania demanded answers
over allegedly unauthorized payments
and contracts for advertising, while the report
of the controller and auditor general also highlighted
a range of financial irregularities.
The development could not have come at a worse time
as Tanzania is struggling with a downturn
of tourism arrivals and all hands should be on deck
to turn the trend around.
Mr. Edward Kishe was immediately installed
as the acting director general until the position
will be filled again with
a substantive CEO in the coming weeks.
CHINESE CAUGHT IN DAR ES SALAAM WITH IVORY
In a surprise move, customs at Dar es
Salaam's international airport thwarted the efforts
of a Chinese man trying to take illegal ivory
out of the country.
His baggage was searched after an apparent tip off.
Three accomplices were also arrested
at the same time for allegedly trying
to prevent a thorough screening of the bags.
"Blood ivory" has in recent months made headlines
across eastern Africa and is often attributed
to the softening of CITES' stand on the trading
of legal ivory from Southern Africa, which has
in the past, time and again, led to a prompt
increase of poaching in eastern Africa and
an upsurge in smuggling attempts.
It is hoped that the full force of the law will come
down on the four accused in order to give
them many years of thought
about their crimes and hopefully
some rehabilitation behind prison bars.
RWANDAIR ADDS MORE JOHANNESBURG FLIGHTS
Effective August of this year, a 5th flight will be added
on the Kigali-Johannesburg route,
following rising demand for more seats
from both markets.
The airline's head of marketing and corporate
communications Michael Otieno has also confirmed
that RwandAir is planning to eventually go daily
on this key continental route, probably
as early as the end of 2009 or early 2010.
The airline will offer attractive tour packages prior,
during, and after the FIFA World Cup 2010,
which is, of course, hosted by South Africa.
Visit www.rwandair.com for more information
on destinations, schedules, and other points of interest.
THE EYE RWANDA THIRD QUARTER NOW AVAILABLE
The third edition of 2009 is now available both in print,
across the usual Rwandan outlets, and more importantly,
on the web via www.theeye.co.rw for
the overseas community of east Africa fans.
Like the Ugandan sister publication found
The Eye Rwanda offers topical articles
on Rwanda's tourism attractions and is
the most diverse guide for restaurants, hotels, inns,
and safari lodges while also offering airlines,
embassies, doctors, and related contacts
along with phone numbers.
Any intending visitor to Rwanda should seek
out a copy on the web before
then obtaining a printed copy on arrival in Kigali.
RWANDA JOINS EAST AFRICAN CUSTOMS UNION
July 1 saw both Rwanda and Burundi formally join
into the EAC customs union, further aligning
the two countries to the economic integration
so far experienced by the initial
three member states of Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.
The customs union will allow trade of
regionally-manufactured goods at
reduced duty tariffs, which in fact should,
after a 5 year timeframe of gradual tariff reduction,
come to zero at the beginning of next year.
The customs union has driven regional
trade volumes up by an estimated 40 percent
over the past 5 years, and a full integration
of the 120+ million citizens into
a single domestic market is likely
to further boost economic development
across eastern Africa.
Tourism integration, however, is still some way off,
as the financially most sought-after domestic
target group – the expatriates working
in the region – are still required to pay
for a visa to cross the borders, arguably
denying neighboring countries tourism revenues,
as often this group rather travels
to other countries like South Africa
or the UAE, where most of them need no visa
and can spend the saved funds
on personal expenditure.
Only when a regional tourist visa is in place
for visitors from overseas and
expatriates registered in one country
can freely travel in the region,
will the full benefit of the East African Community
be thought of as producing
the best possible results.
Non-tariff barriers, as continuously seen
in cross-border tourist traffic by road and air,
is also considered an impediment
to the free movement of tourists across
the region to make the most out of their visit
to east Africa.
Hence, while there is hope, there is also still
a long way to go to make
the east African dream come true.
OBAMA SPEECH TO AFRICA
Listen up Africa, "YOU CAN, too" ...
President Obama's speech last Saturday afternoon
in Ghana to the African continent had scores
of the Ugandan and arguably much of
the continental population glued to
the television screens to hear about
America's new policy towards the African countries
under his administration.
A significant shift was observed, geared to assist
capacity building on the continent,
help restore crumbling primary health systems,
and make it possible for farmers to grow enough
food to eliminate hunger and famine.
This column also appreciated the candid words
about dictatorships, genocide, and strife in Africa
and the need to root out corruption from the day-to-day
life while building democratic institutions.
President Obama's words, "We do not need strong men,
we need strong institutions," will undoubtedly echo
across Africa, and it is hoped the bell will toll sooner
rather than later for those well-known despots
who continue to smear Africa's image around the world
on a daily basis.
President Obama offered the friendship of America,
as well as assistance, while demanding accountability
and transparency from the current breed of African leaders.
Meanwhile, the ICC's chief prosecutor visited Uganda
recently from The Hague to discuss matters
of mutual interest and concern with the government,
ahead of a planned visit to Kampala
by Khartoum's regime leader Bashir,
to attend the Smart Partnership Dialogue set for
late July at the lakeside resort and conference
center in Munyonyo.
Uganda presently holds the presidency of the United
Nations Security Council, and the Ugandan action
will undoubtedly be keenly watched across Africa
and the world as it sends out signals
to other African nations reluctant to cooperate
with the ICC.
It is understood that the ICC arrest warrant
is now in the possession of the Ugandan government,
and information from reliable sources confirmed
that the arrest warrant will be served and executed
by the Ugandan police should Bashir indeed come to Uganda.
The prosecutor's visit also prompted immediate
threats from Khartoum to the government in Uganda
not to cooperate with the ICC and respect
the AU's recent non-binding resolution
to desist from arresting the alleged war criminal.
These threats, previously considered empty,
may now carry more substance as reports
also emerged earlier in the week
that China had sold the regime medium to long-range
rocket systems, probably in violation of UN sanctions
in place against the regime.
The new weapons cannot reach Ugandan territory o
utright from the regime's military positions but,
of course, constitute a serious military threat
against the southern Sudan,
which will vote on independence in early 2011
and has long complained about i
ntimidation and threats from Khartoum.
The latest information available at the time of going to press,
speaks of intense diplomatic efforts to avoid
an incident – with speculation pointing in the direction
that Bashir may be persuaded NOT to come
to Uganda any time soon.
Watch this space for updates.
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Kigali - RWANDA
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