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Following the birth a few months ago of “little Obama,” the first rhino born in Uganda for about 30 years, good news emerged from the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, when the chairman of the Rhino Fund Uganda, Dirk ten Brink, informed this correspondent of the second birth on October 7, this time from “Bella.” Bella originally comes from the Solio Sanctuary in Central Kenya near Nyeri and is now 10 years old. There are now 6 adult rhinos, 3 males, and 3 females on the 17,000 acre sanctuary plus, of course, the two young ones.

Little Obama is now up and running, and visits to him and his still very protective mom are finally possible, as long as safe distances are kept between the visitors and the rhinos, but Bella has gone into overdrive to keep rangers, wardens, guides, and other staff of the sanctuary away from the newborn, resulting in no gender being established yet. Once that is accomplished, the name-giving will be attended to.

Bella was the first to become pregnant some two years ago but then suffered complications and lost her unborn baby, and it is of special joy at Ziwa that she has finally entered proper motherhood.

The Rhino Fund Uganda made all this happen with the help and assistance of many donors and sponsors, which allowed building of the sanctuary at Ziwa Ranch, courtesy of Capt. and Mrs. Roy who granted the land-use rights for initially thirty years and then moved their cattle to a neighboring estate while the funds raised – including a major grant from the European Union – helped to fence the 17,000-acre ranch and turn it into a proper sanctuary. That was achieved after the RFU had first built a rhino enclosure at the Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe, and obtained two rhinos sponsored by the Kampala Sheraton Hotel and the Ruparelia Group, aptly named Sherino and Kabira.

Visitor numbers since the arrival of little Obama have soared, but financial sustainability of the sanctuary is still some time off, as vet bills, security cost, ongoing capital expenditures. and recurrent expenses keep racing ahead of the monthly income.

Write to Angie, the RFU’s executive director and CEO of the Sanctuary via [էլեկտրոնային փոստով պաշտպանված] for more information on how best to contribute to the upkeep of Ziwa and to help the breeding program. The success at Ziwa will determine how fast the first rhinos can then be relocated to their original environment like the Kidepo Valley National Park and the Murchisons Falls National Park. For now, the arrival of baby number two – number three is expected in early 2010 if not before – will be a boost for tourism and conservation in Uganda and hopefully bring yet more visitors to the sanctuary.

It appears that the government has at last cleared the new partnership which has taken over the Shimoni land from Kingdom Hotels, after the Gulf-based hotel company failed to make any progress over the past years, contrary to promises made at the time when they obtained the 17-acre prime city plot. This act displaced a major primary school and teachers training college, the fallout of which is still felt by many teachers and parents and which has repeatedly led to public calls to deal in a sharper manner with fake investors taking the country for a ride after first maneuvering themselves up to the political leadership. The new partnership, which took over Kingdom’s stake, was initially put under the microscope when the former State Minister for Investments and now Ugandan Ambassador to the UAE publicly expressed his doubts over the only recently-formed company, which seems to have now been sorted out after an apparent process of due diligence. The new developers claim to have US$80 million available already, considered enough to start a project of this magnitude. No confirmation, however, has been received about the planned construction start or about size and features of the planned hotel, other than that it will be a 5-star facility. Equally, no confirmation would be given by Intercontinental Hotels that they would indeed manage the facility, leaving this also open to ongoing speculation, which was raised by some of the local media. The nearest Intercontinental Hotel is the one in Nairobi, which was initially built in the 1970s and has since then seen several major refurbishments.

Regular readers of this column will recall the challenges the Uganda Wildlife Authority is facing in its task to conserve the Mt. Elgon ecosystem and protect crucially-important water sources. However, the intimated cooperation and engagement with at least some of the neighboring communities is now bearing fruits, as a Memorandum of Understanding has finally been signed with the Bududa district authorities. Going by comments from UWA, this is only the start of such initiatives, as talks with other districts and local leaders continue in an effort to defuse the tension, which exists between UWA on one side and encroachers, timber thieves, and hooligans used by their political godfathers to cause conflict around the park boundaries.

The second gorilla national park in Uganda, located near Kisoro along the common border with Rwanda and the Congo DR, has recently welcomed back a group of habituated gorillas, which in the past had made it a habit to migrate across the borders. This made tracking them from Kisoro all but impossible, and for long periods of time, the park only had visitors for hikes in the forest but not to visit the gorillas. This denied the park of income, to be precise US$500 per person, per gorilla tracking, leaving UWA out of pocket after having invested in the 2+ year habituation period for the Nyakagezi group. However, they are now back, and sale of permits has immediately commenced again, while tracking for the so-called golden monkeys has also taken root as the park management developed other tourism products while the gorillas were AWOL. The open borders deep in the forest and up the volcano, however, always contributes to the possibility of the group to migrate away again, either into the Congo or the Rwanda side of the mountain, and should that happen, this column will provide readers with updates. Meanwhile, as the UN Year of the Gorilla 2009 is in its third quarter, the return of the Nyakagezi group will boost tourism in particular in the Kisoro area, and when the new tarmac road from Kabale to Kisoro is finally complete, it will make visits much easier by road and promises a substantial increase of tourists to one of the most scenic parts of Uganda.

Entries have now closed for the KQ-sponsored East African Classic Safari Rally, which will be held from November 23, when the classic cars and “classic drivers” will be flagged off from the Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa. By the time of going to press, some 50 cars had been registered with the organizers. The rally, Kenya Airways’ main sponsorship event for 2009, will cover some 4,500 kilometres, bringing back fond memories when the Safari Rally was still part of the world championship rally calendar and held every year over the Easter weekend, to permit volunteers – including yours truly on a few occasions – help the local entrants compete against the better-equipped work teams. This year’s route also extends into Tanzania, making it an east African event. The first rally was called the “Coronation Rally” and covered all the east African states of old – Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya – before various factors then restricted the Safari Rally to Kenya.

Recent remarks attributed to the Kenyan foreign minister that the 50 percent reduction of visa fees has not yielded the expected results, has met with a storm of objections and condemnation by the country’s tourism sector, with some accusing the minister of putting income over strategy and not understanding what has been achieved so far. Indeed, the halving of the visa fees from US$50 to only US$25 has been credited with stabilizing the downward trend and assisting a reversal and recovery of the Kenyan tourism industry. Ministers are often notorious of only thinking from one election cycle to the next, and being half way through the present term of parliament seems to have spurred thoughts on how best to fill the coffers again to sustain the next campaign. The tourism industry, however, countered these comments, with sections now demanding that the visa fee be dropped altogether while others expressed their opinions to resist increasing it to the previous levels as a minimum condition.

More controversy is brewing between the Kenyan tourism industry and government, as plans became known that a 16 percent VAT would soon be charged on all services rendered to visiting cruise liners to Mombasa. As the visiting ships will not be able to reclaim VAT, being registered elsewhere, prices for visits to the Kenyan coast will rise by an equivalent figure, raising doubts if the progress made in past months to attract more cruise ships to call on Mombasa will not be reversed. Leading coast and Kenyan tourism figures have already made their opposition known to government and warned of a loss of such business to the ports of Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam and that the plans, if not reversed, will spell doom for the local tourism business depending on handling of cruise passengers. Kenya has been partnering with South Africa and of late even the Seychelles and have been offering a joint Indian Ocean cruise circuit, which could be a very profitable business for Mombasa and Kenya in general, but the taxman’s plans are not helpful to support the recovery of the sector hard hit in past years by political unrest after the last elections and the global economic crisis, which has affected the tourism industry considerably before showing a fledgling revival in recent months.

The development of the new B747-8F has now joined its sibling the B747-8I and its sister ship B787 in giving the company headaches over the first flight and further subsequent delays in deliveries. The company, in apparent relation to this situation, will also take a US$1 billion charge into its next balance sheet. Shareholders are now said to have become rather jittery over the financial future of the company, and more departures of senior management are no longer ruled out after Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes president stepped down a couple of weeks ago over the unmitigated disaster of the B787 development and the constant changes of goal posts – referring to announcements made by Boeing about the B787 timelines, each needing adjustments at a later stage and always after initially denying media reports to the same effect. In east Africa, industry observers are closely watching Kenya Airways’ upcoming decision-making process about the replacement of its ageing B767 fleet, and a recent interview by this correspondent with KQ’s CEO Titus Naikuni gave the clearest indication yet that the purchase of Airbus A330s may substitute the airline’s doubtful B787 order.

The long awaited airpark on the Athi plains is now being prepared for the grand opening, due on Saturday, October 17. Aviators and aviation faithful are all invited to go and witness the event, which will be accompanied with a show of air acrobatics, or so the story has been told. Having been asked on some occasions in the past, when reporting about progress, how this name came about and if it has anything to do with the Paris airport of the same name, here is the answer to the riddle provided by the venerable Harro Trempenau, chairman of the Aero Club of East Africa in Nairobi: the exact area of location is by the Masai called “Olooloitikosh,” clearly a tongue breaker for most, and hence it was shortened into the “Orly.” which most can pronounce and yet have no clue how it came about, until now that is. The new facility, in which the Aeroclub is a shareholder, already has 15 hangars, seven houses (off the field), a proper lounge, and club house, of course, and a landing strip fit for most light aircraft, both single and twin engine. The 240-acre piece of land is undergoing further development, and aviation fans can see skydivers, microlights, gyrocopters, and much more in a friendly atmosphere and without the mindboggling and smothering circumstances now witnessed at major aerodromes and airports around the world, where getting near an aircraft is all but impossible – at Orly the kids will still be able to put their hand on the real thing and touch the aircraft skin, which may stir the interest of the next generation of fliers. So don’t miss being there on Saturday, October 17 at 1:00 pm to witness Kenyan aviation history being made. Write to [էլեկտրոնային փոստով պաշտպանված] for directions, if needed.

The region’s first true low-cost airline with operational bases in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania has recently added a Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft with 37 seats to supplement its fleet of ATR 42s and ATR 72s, which continues to be its workhorse aircraft. The new aircraft will be deployed for extra flights on routes within Kenya but may also appear from time to time across its regional network. In a related development, it was also confirmed by Fly 540’s senior management that the long-expected Bombardier CRJ is due in Nairobi by next week and will, upon the completion of all registration formalities, be deployed on the Entebbe route as of November 1, operating the two daily services. Fly 540 offers the first flight out of Nairobi to Entebbe and a convenient early evening return from Uganda to Kenya for “one-dayers.” The entry of the Fly 540 jet aircraft on the route will then make for up to 8 daily connections between Entebbe and Nairobi, all operated by jet aircraft of CRJ and B737 makes, undoubtedly bringing more choices to travelers and keeping fares in check. All eyes are now on the regulators, which have faced acid criticism over keeping regulatory charges and taxes high, in some cases almost doubling the cost of a flight when added on the airlines’ fares.

The following webcams are now operating on www.kenyawebcam.com: Kijabe-Rift Valley, Wilson Airport – Aero Club of East Africa, Ngong Hills from Langata, Lamu, Kilimanjaro – Kampi ya Kanzi,
Nyeri, Kilima Camp- Masai Mara, and Watamu. Two webcams at Diani Beach, to be sponsored by www.Kikoy.com, will be up soon. Keep checking for updates. Sponsors are needed for additional webcams, especially at Kericho, Marsabit, Nanyuki, and other key areas. Adds this correspondent: what a wonderful initiative to improve aviation safety by giving the pilots up-to-date weather information at their destination. Read the following piece to learn even more about the impact of this private sector driven project.

On September 9 and 10, the Aero Club and the Kenya Association of Air Operators attended a two-day workshop on aviation weather forecasting and reporting. The event, organized by the Kenya Met Department, was very interesting in that it revealed that the Met Department actually possesses plenty of good aviation weather information, but somehow this does not reach the consumer. For example, the department has excellent satellite shots of Kenya on the quarter hour showing winds aloft, location of rain and thunderstorms, etc.

In a PowerPoint presentation, Harro Trempenau made it clear to the weathermen that
the target group that does not have sufficient weather information is the 80 percent of Kenyan aircraft that fly VFR and do not necessarily fly in or out of any of the seven airports where there are MET stations – Mombasa, Malindi, Wajir, Nairobi JKIA, Nairobi Wilson, Kisumu, and Eldoret. He explained that what is needed are decent satellite shots on the Internet or through GPRS, weather information enroute and at airfields of destination, information about winds on the ground and aloft, etc. Trempenau explained that right now the majority of pilots in Kenya gets their weather info through a “marifa” way, i.e., “self-help” way. Pilots use their mobile phones to call someone at airports of destination to ask “iko mvua?” meaning “do you see any blue holes?” or they go to foreign web sites to get TAFs and METARS from the US government and Eumetsat, etc. The official Met Department web site contains little of use to pilots.

The eyes of those in attendance really popped out when Trempenau illustrated the webcam system that the aviators in Kenya have created, with great initiative by Elsen Karsted. The KQ rep had just complained that its aircraft had no weather information when flying to Lamu. Trempenau was able to pull out the Lamu webcam to show him that Lamu had blue skies and the tide was high one minute ago.

The inevitable question of user fees also came up. The Met Department wants a share of the income from KAA and KCAA. Stakeholders argued that they should pay nothing until they get a product that is useable. They pushed for an aviation web site run by the Met Department, showing an hourly high-quality satellite shot of Kenya and the region, Tafs, and Metars for all seven airports where the Met Department is based, as well as an ATIS at all airports where the Met Department has offices, introducing Automatic Weather Recording Stations in critical areas like Mau, Marsabit, Aberdare’s, Nyeri, etc, and sponsoring a large number of webcams from www.kenyawebcam.com. Trempenau also pushed for more accurate seven-day forecasts of rain and vertical velocity, etc.

It remains to be seen if the message was received. Until the Met department improves services, the majority of pilots, most of whom fly VFR at lower altitudes, need different information than the high-flying airliners. The Met guys really thought that information about upper air turbulence is what was wanted. Basically, they had no idea that more than 80 percent of all flying in Kenya is done by little airplanes, flying VFR, and hoping for the best at any of the 650 bush strips at the other end.

After the huge political fallout over the almost total destruction of the Mau forest water catchment area, and similar development elsewhere in the country, the Kenya government has ordered a full, up-to-date inventory of existing forests and the extent of any encroachment. The Ministry of Forests and Wildlife will be overseeing the exercise, which is estimated to cost at least 30 million Kenya shillings. Qualified foresters and support staff have reportedly already been recruited to kick-start the research. By the end of the year, the ministry hopes to have covered at least 80,000 hectares of forests, but final results are not expected before some time well into 2010.

The Kenyan tourism minister has commented on the Kenyatta International Conference Centre’s plans to expand, by saying he would welcome investors’ expressions of interest to partner in the expansion of the government-owned facility. When being built in the 1970s, the KICC was a sparkling piece of architecture in the heart of the city, only a few minutes’ walk from the Hilton and Intercontinental hotels. After years of decline, however, the facility was refurbished and has managed to reclaim its former market position by bagging many international meetings, conferences, and conventions and by being a key participant in Kenya’s drive to capture a bigger market share in the MICE segment, which is considered highly profitable for the country, with average spending by a conference tourist being about 50 percent higher than that of a leisure tourist. The expansion plans include the building of a hotel, underground parking, and a top-of-the-range mall on land adjoining the KICC and presently used for outdoor exhibitions or as recreational grounds.

The ongoing drought conditions in Kenya, frequently referred to in this column, has brought global media big gun SKY News into the fray, when its African news team filmed the hardships of life in northern Kenya, causing people to starve, livestock to die, and game reserves and national parks to be made a last resort of survival for cattle, goats, and the wildlife inside already struggling to make it to the next day. In Kenya, as is the case in Tanzania and Uganda, pastoralists have invaded protected areas in search of pasture and water for their animals, disregarding the standing rules as their last resort. It is understood that the regional wildlife managers are seeking a way out of these circumstances, but until the rains fall, it will be hard if not impossible to force the herders away, some of whom have taken to defending their livestock by force to have at least some animals left when the drought breaks. Tourism marketers have also been struggling to come to terms with the weather conditions, as wildlife has died alongside livestock for lack of water or edible greens and all hopes are now pinned on the onset of the coming rains. This is, however, not without its own risks to the populations of drought-stricken areas nor the wildlife and livestock, as the soil is baked hard like cement after years of no rain, which is fueling fears of flash floods and subsequent wide-spread flooding during which animals can drown and homesteads be destroyed, worsening an already alarming situation.

Kenyan Masai pastoralists were expelled not long ago from an area near some national parks in Tanzania, where they had taken their herds in search of water, and park invasions in Uganda are also of concern to UWA, as they are in Kenya – especially around the northern parks – to KWS. However, no easy solution will be found to resolve the human -wildlife conflict now brewing, and the tourism industry is scratching its combined heads to find a way out of the “between a rock and a hard place” scenario. Senior tourism stakeholders are trying to use the situation to streamline the management of game reserves and other protected areas to have them all brought under KWS auspices and management, allowing a unified policy approach towards park invasions and the practice of a predictable and enforceable response to such situations in coming years. However, it is people who carry voter’s cards in upcoming elections, not animals, and unless government is able to look after the drought-stricken populations and offer them assistance and support when most needed, it will undoubtedly see a backlash come the next elections. That said, considering the Mau disaster where a crucial water catchment area was almost destroyed and sacrificed for those very votes, a fine balance needs to be found between conservation and tourism on one side and the immediate survival needs of the pastoralists, farmers, and general population on the other. Meanwhile, the local Kenyan press projected a dire future for the lion population in Kenya and eastern Africa in general and details of that article can be found via: www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/672370/-/uo092o/-/index.html.

The founding father of Tanzania, “Mwalimu” Julius Nyerere, was remembered mid-week, ten years after his passing. The national service took place in Tanzania’s commercial capital of Dar es Salaam while the family, friends, and surviving political allies remembered Mwalimu – a Kiswahili word for teacher – in his home village of Butiama, Mara region. Nyerere, a staunch nationalist, led Tanzania down the slippery economic slope of socialism, leading to the near collapse of the economy, before revising his stand and in his latter days, acknowledging the mistakes of economically-failed policies. He made history when he voluntarily left office at a time when many African leaders were hanging on to their jobs by hook or crook. He remained a powerful figure in Tanzanian politics until his passing, putting to rest the common fear of African presidents that after leaving office they become pariahs – persecuted and prosecuted – not in this case though, when Mwalimu was held in high esteem right through his twilight years.

Extensive fire has again swept up the sides of Mt. Meru, which overlooks Arusha and the surrounding areas. While those fires were eventually brought under control, fresh fires ignited on the lower slopes of the mountain from the Momella side. None of the outbreaks are thought to be outright arson, but the careless use of open fires and trying to smoke out bees to access their honey may have contributed to the present situation, which is mirrored across eastern Africa due to a long drought and dry undergrowth along the edges of forests, which aids the fast spread of blazes. Again, no tourists have come to any harm, but some activities in Mt. Meru National Park have been suspended or moved to other areas.

It was learned during the week that the State Department, on recommendation by the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam, has maintained its harsh anti-travel advisory against visits to Pemba ahead of the elections coming in 12 months time. No amount of reasoning by the tourism sector and business community at large have born any fruits, as the American Embassy claims there were several cases of civil unrest alongside voter registration. Thankfully for Pemba, many Americans saw right through those advisories and often ignored them, while it was understood that there are sections of American travelers actually defying such advisories and deliberately traveling to places slapped with such diplomatic courtesies. Wrote one tour operator from Dar with business interests in Pemba – which is part of Zanzibar – to this column: “If those diplomats are so scared, let them go home until after the elections. We welcome any American tourists here, even business people, who are visiting in good numbers and are not scared by those tactics. What is it the Americans want to extort from us? Let them be open and not hide behind such bureaucratic barriers.”

One of the better-known hotels in Arusha, the Mt. Meru Hotel, which is under Novotel management, has started a 1 ½-year refurbishment and modernization project to restore the hotel to 5-star status when it reopens as the New Mt. Meru Hotel. The hotel, which was initially given out by the government-owned Tanzania Hotels for management, was eventually privatized some 5 years ago and any hopes to see it refurbished had almost dwindled to zero, when the announcements finally came through. Meanwhile, several new hotels were built in Arusha over the past years, chipping away on Mt. Meru’s former market position, while others like the New Arusha Hotel have also undergone substantive refurbishments and upgrades, leaving the managers of the Mt. Meru to face the market challenges when re-entering this competitive market. Arusha is the springboard to the northern safari circuit of Tarangire, Manyara, Ngorongoro, and Serengeti and generally considered the “safari capital of east Africa.”

The Rwanda Workforce Development Authority has thrown its weight behind vocational training in the hospitality sector, as it launched a one-month intensive training course in the Musanze and Rubavu districts, both of which are in the thick of tourism activities. It is understood that through a Commonwealth initiative – Rwanda is expected to join the group of nations shortly – trainers were receiving instructions in Singapore and are now, like their Singaporean colleagues, rolling out the courses back home in Rwanda. In past weeks, various bodies connected with the tourism sector in the country have stepped up their efforts to spur workplace training for hospitality staff to equip them with skills similar to that found in other parts of eastern Africa – ahead of common standards coming into effect soon.

Information for intending visitors to Rwanda about the H1N1 flu type, otherwise referred to as swine flu, is now available at www.tracrwanda.org.rw. Entry to Rwanda at land borders and airports continues to be uninterrupted, and the information on the web site is regularly revised and updated.

Favorable investment conditions have supported growth in the hospitality sector over the past years in Rwanda, and the country has already added 23 percent more rooms, according to statistics released by the RDB – T&C, since the end of 2008. Renovations, modernization, and expansion of existing hotels and lodges have contributed to this trend, along with newly-built properties, which are on the rise. Rwanda aims to offer about 6,000 rated rooms (compared to the present 4,225 as of mid-2009) by the end of 2012 in order to meet the accommodation requirements estimated by the sharp growth of tourism and business visitors to the “land of a thousand hills.” In a related development, the present implementation of the EAC’s common standards in the hospitality industry is also progressing well and expected to wind up by the end of the year. All hotels and lodges in Rwanda must submit their particulars to the Rwanda Development Board for Tourism and Conservation to permit a timely conclusion in line with East African Community deadlines. Alongside this, training and human resource development activities are also being rolling out country wide to upgrade the skills of Rwandan staff and meet the expectations of international clientele now coming to Rwanda in ever-growing numbers.

Last weekend saw a brand new road being commissioned by the Rwandan Prime Minister, connecting the Musanze district with the border to Congo, which will bring the area closer to tourist visitors and provide a lifeline for farmers to get their produce to the markets. The road was largely funded by the EU, although Rwanda added some branch-off roads to one of the Lake Kivu harbors and to the Bralirwa brewery. Roads in Rwanda are in remarkably good shape as maintenance seems to be ongoing year round, keeping the main traffic arteries intact and not falling to pieces as often seen elsewhere in the region.

It was learned from aviation sources in Rwanda that the country is open to the possibility of Uganda Air Cargo Corporation flying to Kigali, after they reportedly acquired two turboprop passenger planes and were licensed in Uganda to commence passenger operations. The UCAA, however, was not able to confirm, what type of license, if any, UACC does in fact hold, in particular if any such license was for scheduled or for charter services. UACC has in the past operated cargo charters with a single C 130 aircraft even though it has no apparent experience in passenger operation, and whenever it was not undergoing service, being repaired, or being hired out on a long-term basis.

Some readers may still remember the story of a mayoress who went on a rampage when she had part of a hotel in the outskirts of Kigali partly demolished in a cloak-and-dagger action in the early hours of that fateful day. In Rubavu district, another such situation arose during last week, when another Kigali-based businessman, trying to build the Palm Beach Hotel on Lake Kivu, found himself at the receiving end of another local council gone wild when part of his hotel was demolished. Sources close to the businessman wrote to this column expressing their – and apparently his – anger, claiming it was spoiling a joint venture with an Italian businessman wishing to invest in the hotel industry in Rwanda. They also suggested a hidden agenda being at work, but no independent confirmation could be obtained towards that end.

The archipelago’s national tourism and hospitality training academy has launched a new DVD to promote its courses to school leavers and others seeking a vocational education in the country’s main industry, the tourism sector. The Seychelles has a deliberate policy of training nationals to be absorbed in hotels and related businesses to gradually substitute expatriate staff, but skills transfer and human resource development are a mandatory first before this can be achieved. The academy is a brainchild of President Michel whose advice two years ago is now bearing fruits. The DVD was formally launched at the end of September while commemorating World Tourism Day.

During a recent meeting on Mayotte, the Indian Ocean Islands Chambers of Commerce and Industry decided to hold its 2010 conference in the Seychelles, a major boost for the island nation. Over 300 delegates from the 6 island countries of La Reunion, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mayotte, Comoros, and Seychelles discussed economic cooperation between the islands, and tourism in particular was singled out as a primary opportunity to attract more tourist visitors and cruise ships into the region, the latter possibly with special circuits between the islands and the various African mainland destinations like Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, Maputo, Port Elizabeth, Durban, and Cape Town. The Seychelles delegation took the leadership in proposing closer tourism cooperation and joint marketing activities, again underscoring the strides the archipelago has made since its tourism board was partially privatized.

Information received from Victoria indicates that the Seychelles, together with Mauritius, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique, will be one of the African participants of a coordinated tsunami exercise, which extends to 18 countries around the Indian Ocean rim. The 2004 tsunami wreaked havoc on many countries, and the waves reached the African continent where it hit Somalia most severely but also had noticeable effect in Kenya and Tanzania. Data from the drill will be used to refine the warning system across the Indian Ocean to give maximum warning, once an earthquake – often the trigger for a tsunami – has been registered. The longer the advance notice, the better the chances to evacuate populations along the respective coastlines, as well as from hotels, to avoid the mass casualties that marked the Christmas 2004 disaster. Initial feedback from the islands about the conduct of the drill and related exercises and training were positive in regard of command and control functions and preparedness of the Seychelles administration to deal with such disasters. This will be good news for island citizens, as well as tourist visitors, who can be assured of added safety measures if indeed a major tsunami comes to the shores of the Seychelles.

The Seychelles aviation regulatory regime will now progressively move towards adopting the European Union format, it was said when staff of Helicopter Seychelles and other aviation companies completed various courses conducted by a German expert. After the successful exams, the certification will be recognized across the EU and will also enhance skill levels for staff working in the aviation sector across the archipelago.

About 250 Rotarians flew to the Seychelles earlier in the week to participate in the 40th anniversary celebrations of the local Rotary Club, the only one on the archipelago. Part of the celebrations includes an international conference focusing on development priorities in Africa and community-supported projects.

Information received from the Seychelles capital Mahe indicates that the recently-boosted Seychellois Coast Guard has, for the first time, flexed its muscles and, together with coalition naval and air support, engaged suspected Somali pirates and arrested 11 of them inside its maritime boundaries. It was learned later in the week, however, that there was apparently insufficient evidence to take the 11 to court, and they were subsequently deported and ordered to leave the economic exclusion zone immediately. The Seychelles has, in recent months, actively strengthened its patrol capacities and are now, with ongoing assistance by the naval coalition, able to operate right up to the boundaries of its 200 nm economic zone, offering a serious and growing deterrent for Somali criminals trying to enter its waters to try their luck in hijacking ships there. The Seychelles’ main economic activities are based on fishing and tourism, and the government in Victoria simply cannot tolerate any attempts of Somali-based pirates, or anyone else for that matter, to disrupt or endanger the archipelago’s mainstream sources of income. Meanwhile, a conference of 10 countries took place in Victoria to draw up an action plan for the implementation of the Djibouti Code of Conduct on how to best deal with piracy in the region. The International Maritime Organization, Interpol, and observers from the naval coalition also attended this crucial regional gathering.

Information received from Juba indicates that the first batch of wildlife wardens-to-be has been sent to Kenya to undergo training with Kenya Wildlife Services. The first group of about 50 trainees has been received at two of the training camps of KWS and will be there for at least three months. Home training, however, is also going on in southern Sudan with courses continuously being conducted at Nimule National Park and the Boma National Park, the latter offering leadership and advanced courses for more senior personnel, while Nimule trainees acquire more basic skills to carry out their functions in the protected areas when deployed into the field.


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