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News from 'Uganda - Gifted by Nature'

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Second edition September 2008

More Hot News from Prof. Thome
More Flight News from Prof. Thome

Photo: Profl Thome (right) with Forest Whitaker
star of movie Last King of Scotland




During his current nationwide poverty alleviation tour, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni last weekend formally opened a new, privately owned airfield just outside the Southern or 'Ishasha' sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park at Kihihi. While visiting the Kanungu district, part of which also includes the access gateway of Buhoma to the Bwindi gorilla national park, he took the time from his busy schedule to see Mr. Garuga Musinguzi's resort hotel just outside Queen Elizabeth National Park. The new all weather airstrip will ease aerial access to the park as the UWA owned park airfield at Ishasha is not long enough to cater for larger twin engined large aircraft, a situation now resolved by the new field, just a few kilometres from the park gates. At the same time the field will also offer relief to the rather trickier landing strip at the Kayonza tea factory, which was in the past used to fly tourists to Bwindi. Mr. Musinguzi, for long the main financier of the opposition FDC, was also welcomed back by the President into the NRM fold, when President Museveni announced his return to the ruling party.


The main transport axis between Kampala and Eastern Uganda is to be modernized in coming years into a proper highway to facilitate for the growing traffic volumes forecast for the next decades. Already the road from Jinja to the Kenyan border is under full upgrading and rehabilitation but the section between Jinja and Kampala, which is crossing through the (in)famous Mabira National Forest Reserve, is heavily used at present and needs at least a doubling of capacity. This will be achieved in coming years with the help of development partners and in particular the European Union, which is set to co-finance the first sector of the upgrade between Kampala and Mukono with over 20 million Euros.

The long term implications will be faster and safer travel between the capital and the re-emerging town of Jinja, where many of the country's adventure tourism attractions are based along the upper Nile valley. Visitors from abroad and from within Uganda often travel to Jinja to see the Source of the Nile or to partake in white water rafting, bungee jumping, horse riding, quad biking or cross country cycling, all of which is on offer along the River Nile. Visit www.theeye.co.ug for regular updates on the country's attractions, including all the important contact details and new offers on the market or else see the official tourist board site at www.visituganda.com


The national environmental management authority has come under sustained criticism by the environmental and conservation lobby over their approval of EIA's without carrying out proper research. The accusation was made during a Nature Uganda public talk at the Uganda Museum late last week, when in particular the destruction of Cycad forests just outside Queen Elizabeth National Park was highlighted. Almost all of the ancient forest is just outside the park area and was due for cutting down to make way for a hydro electric power plant, which location was highly criticised earlier in the year by conservationists. It was said then as it was reiterated now, that the developer had not done sufficient research into alternative locations for their power plant at the lower end of the Mpanga River, which could and should be built with lesser impact on the Cycad forest. NEMA in turn was blamed for 'rubberstamping' the EIA submitted to them with equally insufficient research into the submissions. Watch this space.


As has been observed for a while now, all construction activities related to the controversial construction of a new hotel on top of Nakasero Hill in central Kampala has stopped again, inspite of regular full mouthed statements by the owners, who seem richer with words than with cash. According to sources from the site no new materials have arrived to advance construction for a while now, leaving the clouds of doubt hanging over the ill fated project.

In a related development, Kingdom Hotels have also so far shown no signs of commencing construction after fencing off their site some months ago. The prime 17 acre site was given to them by government to construct a hotel for CHOGM last year but after displacing a leading city primary school with nearly 1.000 pupils and the adjoining teachers training college and then dismantling the buildings, nothing at all happened causing angry outcries from the public over the hotel company's failure to do anything with their 'gift' so far.


The Executive Director of the Rhino Fund Uganda, Mrs. Heidi Cragg, has given notice that she intends to return to South Africa for family reasons by the end of September. Heidi put the sanctuary at Ziwa back on level keel after the clouded departure of her predecessor, who had only served a few months before becoming involved in an altercation with a staff member and then leaving literally overnight, deserting the sanctuary and work in progress. Heidi has during her nearly two years at Ziwa made substantial progress in relations with donors, development partners and the tourism industry and visitor numbers to the Rhino Sanctuary are now at an all time high. RFU Chairman Dirk ten Brink confirmed to this correspondent that a new Executive Director will be appointed shortly after an intensive search for a successor. Visit www.rhinofund.org for more information on the activities of RFU and how to support it, and watch this space for the new appointment to be announced in due course.


The following item has been drawn from the monthly newsletter of the Aero Club in Nairobi, courtesy of Harro Trempenau:


Reports from the field indicate that, so far, KCAA inspectors have not "swooped down" on aircraft operators in Kenya to enforce the new contentious Kenya Civil Aviation Regulations. (KCARS). Despite the fact that a few dozen of the regulations are virtually impossible to adhere to in an aviation environment like Kenya, where 80% of flying is done into ill-equipped "bush strips", KCAA has so far not harassed anybody or even closed down operators who are every day transgressing the new law. It would appear that, either KCAA does not actually have the enforcement capacity to implement its ill-conceived rules, or it is now happy that at least on paper Kenya has met the ICAO SARPS and procedures. It remains to be seen if this "honeymoon" will last or whether KCAA will eventually produce the army of inspectors that is required if it is serious about implementing its new rules.

Some examples of KCARs that are injurious to operators of aircraft and airfields are:

 1. All airfields (even the most basic bush runway) must be "fenced", have a "Security Plan", an "Airport Manager", a "Security Committee", etc. All that of course also applies not only to private airstrips, but also to Government runways in the outback. Most operators do not believe that the Government (Kenya Wildlife Service, town councils, villages, Kenya Police, etc.) will ever be able to adhere to its own rules, leave alone the missions, camps, farmers, etc. out there who have landing strips that may be used once or twice a month. It is also a question whether the KCAA actually knows where most of these remote airstrips are located. The private sector knows that there are at least 600 airstrips in Kenya, but the official AIP only shows about 350. KCAA will have to do a lot of flying and driving around to find the rest.

2. Each airstrip, according to the regulations, must undergo an 'annual inspection'. It is doubtful that KCAA has the capacity (vehicles, inspectors, aircraft) to actually do that.

3. Commercial aircraft are required to fly only into airfields that are adequately equipped, manned, have 'security' in place, are able to offer the latest weather information, etc. It is doubtful that Kenya can actually provide such facilities, but insurance companies are likely to fall back on the latest law in case of a claim.

There are many other requirements that will affect operators and adherence will drive up the cost of operating aircraft. Examples: Two Crew operations under some conditions on even small Cessna Caravans, reduction in the number of passengers that can be carried, new expensive equipment requirements such as TCAS and Ground Proximity Warning Systems, etc., etc.

It does indeed appear that Kenyan General Aviation has been sacrificed on the altar of the FAA and ICAO.



The light aircraft crash earlier in the year in which all passengers, including two government ministers, and the pilot were killed while enroute to Western Kenya, was blamed by the air accident investigators on the lack of experience by the pilot and subsequent mistakes by him which led to the crash. The Cessna 210 aircraft was reportedly in good condition and all equipment functioning as prescribed. The pilot was reportedly not well acquainted with the terrain en route and the plane crashed due to judgement errors during VFR operation.


Reports have been received that Kenya Airways has formally applied for a second daily flight between Nairobi and Kigali to add much needed extra capacity to the route. The airline presently flies only once a day between the two capital cities. It is expected that KQ will use their new Embraer 170 aircraft to operate the flights but this has not yet been confirmed. Once the flights commence operations Kenya Airways will become the number two airline after Rwandair in terms of flights in and out of Kigali. It was also learned that KQ was considering the launch of flights to Congo Brazzaville after a new bilateral air services agreement was signed between the two governments earlier in the week.

Rwandair in the meantime is seeking to employ a Chief Operating Officer in an ongoing effort to restructure the airline and expand its capacity and operations. In another twist of events it was also learned that Air Uganda's Commercial Director will be leaving the airline after serving for less than a year as the upstart was dogged with challenges since its inception. Watch this space.


Boeing's so called 'dreamliner' is getting deeper into the nightmare territory, as furter delays are now envisaged for the first flight, already repeatedly delayed over the past 18 months. This has both technical reasons over certification processes but is also due to the now repeated strike action by Boeing factory floor staff, having to fight for a fair deal with their company in the face of further intended corporate plans to 'slim down' their take home salary and other pay package components. Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines both have the modern jetliner on order so as to replace ageing B 767 aircraft and improve on their flight economics.

The B 787 is said to offer substantial savings in fuel compared with presently used wide bodied aircraft, as will incidentally the rival Airbus A350, which is also under development. Should the deliveries of the ordered 787 aircraft be delayed even further than presently expected, the two East African airlines may be compelled to consider their fleet and route developments in coming years and could be forced to make alternative arrangements to meet their targets, including opting for other models made by Boeing. Both airlines are long time Boeing partners, although Kenya Airways is now also operating three Embraer 170 aircraft on domestic and lesser density regional routes as Boeing has no suitable aircraft below their 737 family.

It was also learned that new B787 customers, considering to order the aircraft from Boeing, are now being told that delivery may come as late as 10 to 12 years down the line, a situation thought to benefit Airbus Industries for their A350 series as the two aviation giants are trying to attract new customers and orders. Over 900 B787 models are said to have been sold already by Boeing, with additional options by airline customers running into hundreds too, and the delivery time frame has slipped further and further away from the initial projections. Some customers may now try to obtain B777's to cover for fleet and route expansion and Boeing of course may also face more financial claims for delayed deliveries, a potentially costly situation as Airbus's delays with their A380 all too well demonstrated.


The Justice Cockar Commission of Enquiry has last weekend ruled that in the face of emerging evidence the hotel, sold some weeks ago under clouded circumstances, must be valued afresh at the expense of the Kenyan government and paid by the Central Bank of Kenya. The sales price immediately raised the emotions across Kenyan society and politics, as it was described as a 'throw away' and even a 'gift' to the Libyan purchasers. Allegations of backroom deals and corrupt practises went hand in hand with the public outrage. Parliament then constituted their own committee to investigate claims made in connection with the sale and government, under pressure from parliament and the public, launched a judicial commission of enquiry chaired by respected Justice Cockar.

The new 'owners' were reportedly reluctant but eventually agreed to give access to the valuers just as soon as a team has been put into place. The hotel was sold at 2.9 billion Kenya Shillings but some opinions given in private and public put the value as much a four times higher. The Libyans last week also changed the name of the hotel which was described by many as a vain attempt to set themselves apart from and put some distance between them and the raging scandal. The name change however only seems to have inflamed the situation some more and the Kenyan public is eagerly awaiting the outcome and final verdict of the two enquiries.

The judicial commission of enquiry has also asked for a second extension of their term to interview yet more witnesses and unravel this complex net of allegations made over the 'sale'. Amongst the witnesses who only recently testified after finally receiving their subpoenas was reportedly also the Minister for Lands, whose testimony was considered crucially important for the outcome of the case, when he denied the sale was between government and government in the absence of cabinet resolutions, casting yet more doubts on the whole affair. If accepted by the Commission of Enquiry the testimony would lend credence to claims that the sale was done secretly and without following proper procedure. The Minister further went on record to have instructed the lands registry not to transact any business in connection with the hotel sale while he was away at the time from Nairobi but found his order ignored when he returned to the city.

A new valuation is expected to be presented to the Commission of Enquiry any time from now and will be reported in the next column edition. Watch this space.


Paul Allen, who founded Microsoft together with the better known Bill Gates, has been paying a visit to the Kenyan coast with his private luxury yacht during the week. While the cruise liner was anchored off the 'old Mombasa' waterfront it attracted large crowds on shore trying to get a glimpse of the ship and its owner. Paul Allen and his entourage meanwhile visited the sight and reportedly took regular trips with the ship based helicopter to the nearby national parks. The visit was undoubtedly a boost for Kenya's efforts to revive its tourism industry as it gives a clear signal to would be visitors that the country is safe and sound once more.


In a further effort to make Kenya more attractive as a tourism destination, Minister Balala recently called for a waiver of Visa fees for children accompanying their parents on a holiday to Kenya. The cost of Visa, often criticised in this column as making visits to the region too expensive, can run easily into the 200 US Dollar region, when visiting just one country as a family of four, while visiting the entire region can set a family of four back by a multiple of that amount. Kenya has already made re-entries easier for tourists, who also visit a neighbouring country within the East African Community, by granting free re-entry, but overall the problem requires a joint solution within the EAC to more fully exploit the tourism potential of the East African countries.


Tanzania's national airline, presently undergoing a fleet renewal programme and on the way to revive it's fortunes, has been struck by some misfortune during the week. Their B 737 suffered from engine damage when taking off from the lakeside airport of Mwanza, reportedly after sucking in an object from the runway while trying to take off. The resulting engine change has to be carried out by the lessor of the plane but the aircraft remains grounded until the new engine has arrived and been installed and the plane then re-certified for flight operations. At the same time both of the airline's new Bombardier Q 300's were also grounded, when one of the two aircraft encountered nozzle problems while the other had a cockpit window pane crack. Both of the aircraft are awaiting the spares which should get the 'birds' back in the air later in the week.

Meanwhile, operations with ATC's Airbus A320 continue uninterrupted although the domestic schedule has been thrown into some disarray as a result of the three aircraft being temporarily unserviceable. Air Tanzania is expected to resume their full schedule later in the week.


The Tourism Confederation of Tanzania has recently entered into an agreement with the International Labour Organization, aimed at improving training for hotel staff to increase and refine the quality of service delivery in the hospitality industry across the country. It was pointed out that this was not to rival existing training institutions and programmes but to supplement industrial training and intensify training in the workplace. The 'Pilot Apprentice Programme' was also endorsed by government, when the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour opened the first of three workshops in Dar es Salaam last week. Additional stakeholder meetings are planned for Zanzibar and Arusha, to comprehensively consult with the private sector at all the key tourism centres.


Dozens of passengers were reported stranded in Kigali yesterday following a yet unspecified incident with a Kenya Airways plane on landing. There are unconfirmed reports that the plane collided with an electricity pole and that subsequently the plane did not proceed with its journey to Nairobi to allow engineers evaluate any damage to the aircraft. The plane was reportedly coming from Bujumbura and was to pick up passengers in Kigali enroute to Kenya.

No injuries were reported to any passengers or crew on the plane by the time of going to press and no damage report was available either.


Having seen the success story of Rwanda's tourism revival over the past decade, Burundi too has now set its sights on making tourism a major part of the national economy in coming years. President Pierre Nkurunziza last week launched a coordinated campaign towards this end in Bujumbura's Hotel 'Club du Lac Tanganyika'. The President spoke of the positive impact tourism can have on environmental protection and in particular praised the values of ecotourism. Although geographically a small and densely populated country, Burundi nevertheless has three national parks as well as some nature reserves and monuments and most notably a Ramsar site where the Rusizi River enters Lake Tanganyika.


In yet another hard hitting story, unearthed by BBC reporters and informers, the DR Congo army is now accused to cooperating with the Hutu killer militias in Eastern Congo, and instead of fighting and containing them said to work hand in hand to exploit the mineral riches found in the region. Only recently have UN, EU and other parties admitted that no progress was being made in reigning in the freely roaming militias, who are responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and large scale killings since. The DR Congo army however in stark contrast always pursued the Tutsi self protection forces in the Eastern Congo, which constituted themselves to avoid another genocide being inflicted upon them. The latest findings also seems to confirm a long standing suspicion, that border transgressions by the militias into Rwanda and Uganda may well have been not just tolerated but initiated and encouraged by the Kinshasa regime's army units with the ultimate aim to perpetuate conflict in the region in order to continue to exploitation for cash of the country's mineral riches. The reports also give renewed credibility to 'renegade' General Nkunda's claims that the Tutsi population is being deliberately targeted, a reason for his troops not to disarm and 'integrate' into the Congolese 'army', where they would more likely than not then be isolated and assistance to their brethren be made impossible.


A regular reader of this column sent an email last weekend from the Big Apple, expressing disappointment over the absence of the scheduled A380 from Dubai to New York. Having booked this particular flight to experience the comfort of the giant Airbus for the first time, the traveller was taken aback when the aircraft was substituted against a 'normal' B777. Said the traveller in the mail: 'at least they did not cancel the flight and I got to New York, but I was so excited with the prospect to fly on the A380 and then bitterly disappointed'.

It was subsequently learned that the aircraft at the time was used for training purposes but it was later discovered that additional maintenance work was required, causing further A380 flights to New York being operated with other equipment over the coming days.


The recently ended 29th Olympic Games of modern times in China again brought success to the East African nations, with Kenya in their best Olympic showing ever bagging 5 Gold, 5 Silver and 4 Bronze medals, putting them firmly on top of the African rankings. Ethiopia came a close second with 4 Gold, 1 Silver and 2 Bronze medals, while Zimbabwe came a respectable third in the African standings, a major miracle considering the economic and political turmoil back home. Cameroon and Tunisia also got one Gold each, while some of the African political and economic powerhouses like Egypt, Nigeria or South Africa ended up way down the scale having to settle for some of the runner up spots or third places or even no medal honours at all. Well done in particular to the Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes for doing Africa proud and putting East Africa on top of the world news with good news. Well done indeed!


After receiving an approving nod from the African Union, Uganda seems set to be voted on the UN Security Council for the next term of non permanent members, representing the African continent. Rival Madagascar has apparently stepped aside in favour Uganda. This is perceived to be not just an honour for the country but also an affirmation of the democratic progress made since dispatching the former dictators in the mid 1980's. Uganda is also reportedly set to assume the African Union chair at the next major AU summit, which would add further profile to the country and should attract more investment, more trade and more visitors in coming years, all of which will benefit the nation. Uganda has in the recent past participated in global UN missions with peace keeping troops, most notably in Somalia but also in West Africa. Reports from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also indicate that Uganda would use her position to lobby for a radical change at the UN Security Council's set up which could see two African nations hold permanent seats, should the demand for change be accepted by the global body's assembly.


What has often been described as Kampala's first boutique hotel, the Emin Pasha, has now added a brand new Spa to their range of services. The small &endash; only 20 rooms &endash; but very posh hotel has since it opened its doors a few years ago become an instant favourite with the Kampala 'who is who', most of whom regularly frequent its acclaimed restaurant, while the rooms are often oversubscribed, such is the demand. The new Spa is available free of cost for guests staying at the hotel (certain treatments and ingredients do however attract a nominal fee) and Kampaleans can acquire a membership, of which a few are available to keep the clientele as exclusive as possible.

The hotel has also gained a special niche market with its art exhibitions and music sessions, which are regularly sold out days before the event.



The long awaited and equally long promised tarmacking of the scenic Kabala to Kisoro road is running substantially behind schedule, according to recent reports from regular users. The road, a key element in opening up the Kisoro area for greater tourism opportunities, leads from Kabale through bamboo forests and along the edges of Bwindi forest across the hills towards the border triangle between Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. Road users pass the so called 'Kanaba Gap' where the forests open to allow a magnificent view towards the towering volcanic mountains in both Uganda and Rwanda. The road already suffered delays before, during and after the tender stages, once funding from the African Development Bank had been secured for the project and construction start was also late in coming, causing protests from the local communities. Besides tourism, which requires good access roads, Kisoro is also a production area for cash crops, but again transporting perishable goods require good roads to reach the consumer markets in time. Follow this column for future updates, although the project completion may now well stretch into 2011.

The contractor blamed the difficult terrain and unfavourable weather for overrunning the timeframe by several months at this stage, and altogether worn out explanation as both terrain and weather patterns were well known to them when signing the contracts.

Kisoro however has a good tarmac airfield which allows for flights from both Entebbe as well as from the Kajjansi airfield outside Kampala, where Uganda's main air charter company is based. Visitors arriving by chartered aircraft to track in the Mgahinga and Bwindi gorilla national parks can stay right near the action in the Volcanoes Safaris owned and managed Mount Mgahinga Lodge or at 'Clouds', recently opened by Wild Places Africa, which has already become a magnet for up-market clients from around the world.


The Kyambura Game Reserve, which adjoins the Queen Elizabeth National Park, has long been one of the easiest places to track for chimpanzees in the area, but tourists staying at the other lodges in the park had to commute some distance for this activity. The reserve is also home to several crater lakes and borders Lake George and the Kazinga Channel, offering a unique safari experience. Volcanoes Safaris is now in the process of adding an 8 room eco-lodge on their 60 acres site adjoining the upper Kyambura gorge, allowing more or less instant access for their guests to the starting point of the tracking. The new lodge, which like all other Volcanoes properties is expected to blend well into the surrounding landscape, is expected to open its doors to the public early next year.

Volcanoes has also partnered with the neighbouring community to intensify protection of the wildlife. Towards this end they acquired a former clay extraction site used for making building bricks, which will be converted into a wetland, aimed to attract birds and wildlife to the location. Queen Elizabeth national park is already known as home to over 600 species of resident and migratory birds, making it arguably one of the richest bird watching destinations on the globe.


The Kampala Aero Club and Flight Training Centre, based at the Kajjansi airfield a short distance outside Kampala on the main Entebbe road, has just added another plane to their growing fleet of light single and twin engined aircraft. Their new PC12 will commence operations imminently now catering for growing demand of tourist charters and flying oil company personnel to and from the exploration sites in the Albertine Graben. Senior management of KAFTC has also indicated that yet another Cessna 208 Grand Caravan may be on the way to Kajjansi, should traffic growth continue as experienced in recent months. Visit www.flyuganda.com for more information.


An apparent engine problem, some 15 minutes into the flight from Entebbe to Kilimanjaro International Airport via Mwanza, caused the pilots of the Precision Air ATR 42 aircraft to turn

around and return to Entebbe on Monday afternoon. None of the about 2 dozen or so passengers were hurt in the incident and the plane landed safely on one engine without further problems.

Precision Air is an IOSA certified airline and its pilots undergo simulator training twice a year preparing exactly for such situations. The ATR aircraft series is designed to be able to land safely on one engine.

Two recent major air accidents and a number of other scares in past days including an

aircraft fire at Munich's international airport earlier in the week have heightened awareness amongst airlines and pilots, putting operational safety once again on top of the agenda.


The Kampala office of Dubai's global airline has now given out information, that the airline will move all operations to the new terminal 3 at Dubai's International Airport from about mid October this year. The new terminal is expected to double the airport's current passenger throughput and the opening will come into effect over several phases. This is thought to avoid a repeat of the disgraceful opening of the new Terminal 5 at London's Heathrow Airport a few month ago, for which both BA and the British Airport Authority came under sustained criticism. Thousands of pieces of luggage were lost at the time and passengers messed about to no end, compounding the loss of popularity of BA from the former 'world's favourite airline' to 'Best Avoided', as voiced by many travellers.

Emirates and the airport management in Dubai are already, according to the report, training staff and testing systems. Eventually all Terminal 1 operations of Emirates will move to the new terminal, concentrating all the airline's arrivals and departures in the new facility.

Several more test runs and trials will be conducted between now and the expected opening date. Dubai expects to handle up to 40 million passengers this year and inspite of the global aviation crisis Emirates seems nearly immune against the global trend bedevilling the industry right now. There seems no end in sight of the boom created by 'Dubai Incorporated', which started its vision for a transformation of the Emirate in the late 70's and subsequently saw the biggest building boom and infrastructural developments over the past 30 years ever witnessed in human history.



Uganda's ongoing failure to pay arrears accumulated as well as the current subscription to the World Tourism Organization had left the country's membership in suspension. For much of the past decade the Ministry of Tourism failed to raise the funds needed to maintain membership and benefit from WTO programmes aimed towards developing countries and in particular the group of Least Developed Countries &endash; LDC's, for which marketing support and human resource development funds worth a multiple of their actual dues are readily available. During a hearing in parliament over the Ministry's budget it was also learned that membership dues for other continental and international bodies remain in arrears due to lack of funds. The Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry has long been one of the least facilitated government ministries inspite of tourism's generated income topping the list of economic sectors. Ministry officials preferring to remain unnamed blamed the situation on a lack of understanding about how tourism functions amongst the Ministry of Finance budget planners and senior staff.



In the run up to the Commonwealth Summit last year hotels were told that they needed to permit their staff to join a trade union of their choice, something many hotel owners had fought up to this point with determination. At the time only the Sheraton Kampala Hotel had signed a collective bargaining agreement with the union representing hotel workers. However, the summit preparations changed all of that and finally, almost a year after the summit, the hotel owners association signed an agreement with the two key unions representing hotel staff. The signing ceremony took place earlier in the week. What however caused some consternation was the comment by an assistant commissioner for local government, calling on the hotels to promptly pay the hotel tax recently made operational.



The meteorological department in Entebbe has given an early bird notice to authorities in the East of the country about expected heavy rains over the next two or three months, some of which may cause flooding similar to the situation experienced last year. However, the advance warning will now allow governmental agencies and bodies to prepare for the heavy rains, which took the country by surprise a year ago and led to the closure of roads and bridges while displacing many people and ruining their planted crops. Meanwhile nights were unusually cool recently with temperatures falling as low as 14 degrees centigrade, caused by a combination of overcast skies and unfavourable winds. Kampala was also once again pounded by strong rainstorms, causing flooding in some city and suburban areas after the heavy down pours.



German holiday airline Condor, enroute from Mauritius to Frankfurt / Germany with over 270 passengers and crew on board, had to make an emergency landing at Kenya's Mombasa Moi International Airport last Thursday around lunch time. Reports from Kenya's coastal city say that problems apparently occurred inflight with one of the plane's two engines, which developed vibrations and probably also leaked fuel. The crew, after shutting down the faulty engine, then decided to land the plane in Mombasa, where the emergency services including fire engines were subsequently put on alert and deployed. The Boeing 767 landed however without any incident and all passengers and crew were able to disembark normally. A relief plane was due in Mombasa the next day (Friday) to fly passengers and crew home to Germany after they spent an extra unscheduled day at the Indian Ocean beaches of Mombasa.

Happening only a day after the Madrid Spanair crash the precautions taken by the crew and their prompt reaction and decision to rather land the plane in Kenya to establish the cause of the problem was generally applauded by the affected passengers, according to a report from Mombasa.



If Laico, the Libyan Africa Investment Company, thought that by changing the name of the recently 'acquired' hotel to 'Laico Regency' it would remove the spotlight from the disputed transaction, they have to go back to the drawing board. When the name change was announced last weekend, it rather had to effect to crank up expectations on the parliamentary and judicial enquiries presently underway, whose findings may yet overturn the sales agreement. Said one hotelier from Nairobi to this correspondent: 'they are probably trying to create facts on the ground with the name change, but then no one will call it that. It was always the 'Regency' and few of us bothered about the 'Grand' in the name, almost like with the Lake Victoria Hotel, where they also changed the name and no one seems bothered now to call it Libyan Hotel or Laico Lake Victoria. In any case, if the Cockar Commission finds that Kenya has been cheated over the value of the hotel, they will decide which way to go, also the parliamentary committee, and if they say reverse, then government has to follow and the name change will have been in vain anyway'.

Another source from Nairobi accused the Libyans openly of contempt of court by belittling the Justice Cockar Commission of Enquiry and also contempt of parliament, as the investigations into the controversial sale were still ongoing and a verdict by in favour of the sale by no means certain. Watch this space for updates in coming days and weeks.


The Arusha International Conference Centre Director of Marketing and Conferences, Mr. James Mgani, has passed away last week following a short illness. Mr. Mgani had met members of the Africa Travel Association during their global summit earlier in the year and will also be remembered by the Leon Sullivan Summit participants, besides the many more visitors from around the world who had attended meetings and conferences in Arusha in recent years. James worked in the tourism industry in various capacities for the past two decades and was a dedicated promoter for the country and its tourism sector. He had joined the Arusha International Conference Centre in 1990 and is mourned by his family and the many friends he made inside and outside Tanzania during his career


The Rwanda Office for Tourism and National Parks is set to spend nearly another 600.000 US Dollars in supporting communities neighbouring national parks and reserves. This will include some 20 projects near the Akagera national park (see next column item).

Since the start of the programme in 2005 nearly a million US Dollars were spent by ORTPN on community related projects, aimed at propagating conservation and protection of wildlife and preserving biodiversity amongst the population, while showing them direct benefits from doing so. The funds helped build schools, class rooms, hospitals, water catchment tanks, wells and community run shops for visitors, where the can buy locally made curios, carvings and fabrics. The funds are drawn from gate receipts and park income generated through visitors. Besides a gate receipt sharing scheme ORTPN also operates a fee sharing with neighbouring wildlife management bodies for groups tracked inside Rwanda but 'belonging' to either Congo or Uganda, where the groups were habituated but migrated across the border. Well done!


The Executive Chairman of Rwandair earlier in the week confirmed that Rwanda's national airline is due to establish a separate cargo operation in a few months time. The strategic objective of this move will be to guarantee affordable, regular and dedicated airfreight capacity to export flowers, fruits and vegetables to the consumer markets in Europe and the Middle East, as the present capacity for palletized cargo is limited to the flights of Brussels Airlines, and for loose cargo to Kenya Airways and Ethiopian. It was also confirmed that negotiations with Lonrho Africa's airline partner Fly540 are on course and expected to be concluded soon. This will result in the Rwandan government selling 49 percent of its stake to Fly540 while a portion of the remaining shares will then go to some institutional investors from Rwanda itself, to retain the required number of shares for the nationality clauses in international and bilateral agreements with other countries.

The airline has also confirmed that they are putting together a team of consultants to develop a new strategic plan and a new business plan to be prepared for the challenges ahead in coming years.


President Paul Kagame formally welcomed the leaders of the EU election monitoring team, who arrived in the country early in the week. Unlike in other African countries the Rwandan government had invited monitoring teams for the forthcoming parliamentary general elections. The visitors will undoubtedly boost hotel occupancies substantially across the country but are also expected to take in the sights of Rwanda, and maybe even track for the mountain gorillas, while in country. The main elections campaign was launched by the President at the main Kigali stadium before thousands of excited RPF supporters.


Sections of Rwanda's Akagera National Park were last week ravaged by a bushfire, which was only brought under control after several days. 5 suspected poachers were arrested by the task force and the men are thought to have started the fire to flush out game from their hiding places and thickets to have easy targets. The only lodge in the park is part of Dubai World's investment programme which intends a full refurbishment of the property and upgrading to 5 star standards.

The lodge was reportedly not affected by the fire and the current rains will support sprouting of new vegetation.

Game rangers are now also patrolling areas where previous fires were started in order to prevent further outbreaks while neighbouring communities are being sensitized about the issue and will benefit from a major financial support programme by ORTPN.


A local 'journalist' with apparent issues landed a South African investor in a Rwandan magistrate's court in Musanze recently. The Managing Director of Elegant Africa Ltd. was charged over wearing a T-shirt with the old Rwandan flag printed on it and the scribe, for undisclosed reasons, decided to rat him to the authorities, a matter which then ended up in court. The judge hearing the case however showed some remarkable compassion and found the South African 'not guilty' of the charges, as there was obviously no evidence of him having deliberately manufactured the T-shirt, which he must have bought outside of Rwanda where it was peddled as the 'real thing'. The investor is in the process of establishing a tourism business worth 1.5 million US Dollars and showed appreciation to court when he was told he was free to go. Barbs however for the overzealous scribe who made a disgraceful figure of himself and was, according to sources in Kigali, acting out of jealousy or an unsubstantiated feeling of anger towards the investor and sought revenge in accusing him falsely.


Complaints have emerged from Juba, Southern Sudan's capital city, that of late the Air Uganda service was erratic which led to regular delays, at one stage to the point that permission for take off had to be denied by Air Traffic Control as darkness settled over the airport. In the absence of functioning lighting systems the airport is only conducting daylight operations, a fact well known to most airlines, and the Air Uganda aircraft had to stay in Juba overnight before returning the next morning to Entebbe. At least some clients were reportedly lucky that afternoon to 'hitch a ride' on one of the Nairobi based airlines' planes, which routed via Entebbe dropping them off, while the rest of the booked passengers had to make their own arrangements for the extra night in Juba. Upon some further investigation it was then learned that one of the airline's two MD aircraft was away for at least a month on an ACMI lease arrangement in West Africa, leaving the remaining aircraft struggling to perform all the required scheduled flights, leave along doing them on time. During subsequent days a number of other travellers also apparently flew via Nairobi to reach their final destination. Oooops.


And more news again from down South, i.e. Gill Staden's tourism update from Livingstone / Zambia:

From Safari Par Excellence

As a matter of respect for the Late President and during this period of National mourning, please be advised that Safari Par Excellence shall not be conducting rafting and canoeing on 28 August - elephants and cruises shall continue as normal.

On 3 September Safari Par Excellence operations shall be limited to our accommodation and related services and transfer of guests to the airport.  We shall not be doing any activities which include rafting, canoeing, elephant back safaris, cruises, game drives and other tours.

Safari Par Excellence shall be contacting respective companies regarding the bookings currently being held for the above-mentioned dates. 

 Kind regards

Graham Nel (MD)


During the week, as part of my investigations into tourism companies in Livingstone, I took a wander around the airport to see what companies operate there.

Zambian Airways

There are heaps of flights to Lusaka now

Sun, Wed, Fri &endash; 12.50

Tues, Thurs, Sat &endash; 06.30, 09.45, 16.00

And to Johannesburg

Sun &endash; 14.20

Mon, Tues, Wed, Fri &endash; 14.25

Thurs, Sat &endash; 13.45

They also operate to Ndola, Solwezi, Mfuwe and Chipata

The cost of a ticket is around US$254 to Lusaka return and to Joburg return &endash; US$326



Every day to Lusaka &endash; 12.45. Cost - about US$400 return, but specials are available

Proflight also goes to Ndola, Mfuwe and Solwezi


British Airways

Livingstone to Johannesburg

Mon &endash; Fri at 11.05

Sat &endash; 9.20

South African Airways

Livingstone to Johannesburg &endash; 12.15 every day


* * * * *

Then I found two Air Charter companies


This company has taken over from Livingstone Air Safaris.

Contact Michael on 0977 707967


They work with Wilderness Safaris to move their clients about Zambia and neighbouring countries.

Contact Nixon on 0977 640602


Finally, I came across:


Voyagers Car Rental

Voyagers has 11 vehicles, although they are not always stationed in Livingstone. With a bit of notice, though, they can get vehicles here if they are required. They have five saloon cars, four 4x4 vehicles and two buses.

Contact them on carrental@voyagers.co.zm

Beyond the Victoria Falls

I am sure that all of you who read the Livingstone Weekly will think that I spend a lot of my time on holiday &endash; travelling around the National Parks. Actually, I do travel around, but I am researching for a book which has yet to be printed. The book will be called, I think, Beyond the Victoria Falls. It is a travel book which covers the area around the Victoria Falls and covers parts of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana. The main aim of the book is to bring all the countries together and work together to market the whole region.

There are four main architects of the book &endash; me, Gill, from Zambia, Katy from Namibia, Jayne from Zimbabwe, Karen from Botswana - one from each of the countries. And we are going to portray the area as it is, from our local knowledge. We will tell visitors how to get here, where to stay and what to do.

The book will be typeset by Belinda Hodge of Peppercorn Design. The maps will be produced by Surveys Department in Mosi-O-Tunya Building, under the supervision of Bernd.


Hopefully, 1,500 copies of the book will be given out free at Travel Shows, to Tour Operators and Travel Agents throughout the region. 1,500 copies will be sold.

The book is supported by advertising. So, if you want to be included, please let me know &endash; I can send you details.

From the Zambian Ornithological Society Newsletter

Siloka Island by Bob Stjernstedt

This is the largest island in the Zambezi close to the Victoria Falls.

A lot of people visiting the National Park driving along the Riverside Drive do not realise that the bank opposite the wide stretch of river from David Livingstone Lodge almost to the Old Drift Monument is not Zimbabwe but Zambia.

It is a large, and well vegetated, full of elephants which you can almost always see from the Mosi O Tunya National Park riverside drive. ZAWA do not allow any visitors there, so it is a beautiful, completely protected area. We have to get special permission to do the waterfowl count twice a year, and we do not begrudge this.

Siloka is Chief Mukuni's name, and the island historically is his home, and contains his traditional burial ground. It is often called "Chief's Island" for this reason. We are lucky to be allowed to visit this lovely island twice a year to carry out the International Wetland Waterfowl counts.

The terrain consists of a number of parallel sandy ridges separated by strips of wetland with a dense grown of Muchenje trees (Diospyros mespiliformis) and Waterberry (Syzigium cordatum). Some water remains all the year round in one of the wetland strips, although later in the year it becomes covered with reeds, good for Crakes and Moorhens but no good for Ducks and Grebes. It is a good spot for Rufous-bellied Herons and Little Bittern.

I first visited the island in 1997 in pursuit of the Long-toed Lapwing, common enough in the Okavango and Kafue Flats, but new for Livingstone. There are usually one or two still around, and now they sometimes frequent the Sewage Ponds. One grove of tall Waterberry trees is a good undisturbed roosting site for Pel's Fishin Owl.

It is necessary to go there with an armed ZAWA scout because elephant can often be encountered unexpectedly at very close quarters, and the hippo there have a clear run and spend a lot of their time on land.\

We did a rather rushed and incomplete Waterfowl Count, due to difficulties in organizing a boat and scouts with ZAWA. Although it is rather late, we (myself and Chiinga Siavwapa) hope to have a more thorough visit in a week or two's time. We missed out the major lagoon in the middle of the island, as we were late and time was running short. Undoubtedly we should have found greater numbers and variety had we been earlier in the day, and covered the whole island. I estimate our coverage was 50 percent at the most. Nonetheless there was an impressive assemblage of ducks and geese on the smaller lagoon in the north-west of the island, but we were very short on waders.

A nice immature Martial Eagle passed over, and there was a huge raptor nest in a tree in the centre of the island, very like the Martial Eagle. There was no obvious occupant but plenty of whitewash and there could well have been an invisible incubating bird. We intend to leave time for investigating this next visit. Disappointingly we found no Fishing Owl in the usual Waterberry tree opposite the National Park.

Plenty of fresh elephant signs but we did not encounter any. A sizeable 'pod' of hippos was basking on a sandy rise in the middle of the island far from the shoreline. Plenty of bushbuck, and water monitors.

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