Kilimanjaro News July-September 2013
Nairobi and the Westgate Tragedy
Posted September 25 2013
As you’re no doubt aware, for the past few days Nairobi has been in the grip of a major terrorist attack, when members of the Somali-based Al-Shabaab, an Islamic terrorist organisation, stormed the smart Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi, killing dozens of civilians and taking many others hostage. The president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, finally declared the siege over yesterday afternoon. At the moment the official death toll stands at 62 civilians as well as 5 military personnel and police who were sent in to put an end to the siege. The bodies of five terrorists have also been recovered. The total death toll is expected to rise considerably as the wreckage of the mall is searched and cleared.
I’ve been asked by a couple of climbers whether this atrocity will have any repercussions over the border in Tanzania and specifically with regard to Kilimanjaro. At the moment our clients who are flying via Nairobi all seem to be getting through without any problems and the situation away from the actual site seems pretty normal, though the atmosphere is understandably a little tense.We will of course keep updated should there be any impact on Kilimanjaro (or Tanzania in general) from the fallout to this situation; while for the latest on the tragedy itself and the ongoing investigation, the BBC seems to be pretty much on the ball as usual: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-24271969
Arusha’s Sokoine Road to be made one-way
Posted September 8 2013
Admittedly, this article won’t be particularly fascinating to the average Kilimanjaro visitor. But for those who live in Arusha, or plan to stay there awhile on their visit, the article carried by the Arusha Times this week will be of major interest: plans are afoot, apparently, to convert the (frequently constipated) Sokoine Road that runs from the Clock Tower to the TFA Complex (Shoprite) and beyond into a one-way street. This thoroughfare is one of the busiest in the city, not least because of the shops and banks that line it. Indeed, at rush hour you can pretty much write-off half an hour and more just trying to get through it.
There is no indication in the article of when the switch to one-way traffic is due to be introduced but the move can only be a good thing (assuming, of course, that the increased speed doesn’t lead to a spate of accidents involving pedestrians used to the current moribund speed of vehicles on the road). There are also plans to turn the central Makongoro road (the one that runs parallel to Sokoine to the north, on which one fins the Arusha Declaration Monument) into a one-way street; one can only hope that they will also turn their attention to the road running east of the Clock Tower towards the Impala Hotel (Old Moshi Road I believe its name is), where it is sometimes quicker to dismantle your car, walk to your destination and reassemble it there rather than join the traffic jam clogging the tarmac there.
Deaths from Boda Boda accidents in Kilimanjaro region fall…slightly
Posted September 2 2013
The Arusha Times this week carried a story that deaths from boda bodas – motorcycle taxis – had fallen in the Kilimanjaro region during the first six months of this year. The taxis, which are usually driven by young men, recklessly, with no helmets and little regard for safety or the Highway Code, have sprung up only since 2009, when the government licensed them in order to reduce traffic congestion in the major cities. In the four years since then, however, they have become notorious for filling up the local hospitals with their drivers, passengers and innocent bystanders.
However, there is some bright news amongst the bloodshed: Last year, from January to August, 40 people were killed in boda boda accidents. This year that number has fallen to 29. Regional police commander Robert Boaz said that part of the decline was due to the riders attending driving schools while others have been sensitized on how to observe traffic rules.
However, the motorbikes are still responsible for over half of all serious accidents on roads in the region and our advice to visitors remains the same. You are already taking your life into your hands when you climb Kili – don’t add to the risks by taking one of these taxis too….it just isn’t worth it.
Widower to climb Kili with 200 others!
Posted August 23 2013
An article has been forwarded to me by a reader concerning a trek that is taking place next Month. Mark Roberts, from Cheshire, UK, decided to honour a promise made by his late wife, Elise, who died from skin cancer aged 37 in 2011. Before she died, Elise promised to staff at The Christie hospital in Withington, Manchester, that she was being treated, that she would raise £1 million for them.
Since then, Mark has arranged various sponsored trips for the hospital including a walk along the Great Wall of China, a cycle trip through Vietnam and Cambodia, rafting down Africa’s Zambezi River, an Icelandic lava trek and snow-shoeing in the Pyrenees.
And now, having raised the magic £1 million, Mark is taking 200 people up Kilimanjaro to raise money for the charity he founded, Challenge for Life, which will continue to support The Christie as well as supporting The Royal Marsden, Anthony Nolan, CLIC Sargent, The Eve Appeal, Breast Cancer Care, Melanoma Focus, Macmillan, Marie Curie, Lymphoma Association and Cancer Research UK.
Along with the relief that we feel that we won’t be on the mountain at the sam time as such a hug party – the biggest single group we have ever heard of on the mountain – we do of course wish Mark and all the trekkers well on their latest expedition!
Latest News on Nairobi Airport
Posted August 19 2013
It’s been just over a week since the fire and events have continued apace. Currently a series of marquees and tents are serving as the terminal following the destruction of the Arrivals Hall and other buildings. Nevertheless, flights are continuing to fly in and out of NBO and the authorities are hoping to have a new terminal building within eight weeks (http://www.voanews.com/content/kenya-expects-temporary-airport-terminal-in-eight-weeks/1730667.html).
In other NBO news, seven police officers are being questioned after they were caught on CCTV camera looting the airport during the chaos. Alcohol and cash were taken. And according to a report in the Jerusalem Post, the Israeli Secret Service Mossad are investigating the fire – even though terrorism was ruled out by the Kenyan authorities just a couple of days after the fire (http://www.jpost.com/International/Report-Mossad-joins-investigation-on-Kenya-airport-fire-323305). And UNEP – the United Nations Environment Programme – will be investigating the environmental impact on the fire after it was revealed that asbestos could have been used in the construction of the building and harmful chemicals could have been used in extinguishing the blaze too (http://allafrica.com/stories/201308161153.html).
Arrivals Hall at Nairobi International Burnt Down
Posted August 7 2013
News is coming in that the Arrivals Hall at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport has burnt to the ground overnight. Details are sketchy at the moment and we have no idea how the blaze was started, whether there were any casualties (though ambulances are at the scene) or whether flights are being rerouted and, if so, where to. What we do know is that the entire airport has been closed and passengers evacuated, and the authorities are saying that the fire is now under control.
Jomo Kenyatta is the main hub for East Africa and also one of the main airports for trekkers looking to climb Kilimanjaro. Though the mountain has its own airport – Kilimanjaro International – many climbers fly into Nairobi instead as the airfares tend to be a fair bit cheaper due to the sheer volume of flights that use Nairobi when compared to the half-dozen airlines that utilise JRO. From Nairobi a shuttle bus takes just 6-8 hours to get to Arusha in Tanzania, where many Kilimanjaro trekking outfitters are based.
Possibly coincidentally, the fire comes 15 years to the day after the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam US Embassy bombings in which 224 people were killed – though there has so far been no suggestion that terrorism has played a part in this disaster.
We have no idea at the moment how long Jomo Kenyatta will be closed for and where passengers will be rerouted to in the meantime but we will of course keep you updated on any news as soon as we have it.
For more details on the blaze visit the bbc website and the following URL:
Police hunt culprits behind Kilimanjaro fire
Posted July 23 2013
Those responsible for starting the fire that blazed on Kilimanjaro’s northern slopes are still being hunted by the authorities, according to reports. The Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner (RC), Mr Leonidas Gama, visited the affected area this week to witness the devastation for himself. The fire raged for four days in total and over 40 hectares of forest were destroyed, affecting the Amboni, Ushiri, Keryo, Kimori and Shimbi districts.
However, hopes that the culprits would soon be apprehended are slim, given that they entered into the conservation area through illegal routes through the Amboni region and fled as soon as the blaze got out of control.
Obama (and Bush)in Tanzania
Posted July 2 2013
On Monday US President Obama finally flew in from South Africa to Tanzania as part of his eagerly waited three-country tour of Africa.
Having been greeted by throngs of locals, many dressed in white T-shirts emblazoned with his image, the president spent a long while greeting the crowds who lined the temporarily named Obama Avenue.
The president’s trip is seen as vital for the long-term economic and strategic interests in the region, particularly after the new Chinese president, Xi Jinping, made Tanzania his first port of call in a three-country tour of the continent just ten days after taking office. He also signed 16 trade, cultural and diplomatic accords in the country, and there are said to be more than 8000 Chinese-owned businesses operating in Tanzania. It is also the second largest entity trading with Tanzania with only the EU now doing more business).
For his part, Obama announced a US$7 billion programme, Power Africa, to improve the continent’s electricity supply and Tanzania’s power grid. He also announced Trade Africa, an initiative aimed at doubling intra-regional trade in East African Community (EAC) countries and boosting exports to the United States by 40%.
“I’m making this trip early in my second term, because I intend for this to be the beginning of a new level of economic engagement with Africa,” Obama said. “If people across this continent are just given a chance, if they’re just empowered with the skills and the resources and the capital … they can achieve extraordinary progress.”
Meanwhile, today, (Tuesday), Barack Obama joined ex-president George W Bush in laying a wreath at the memorial to those who died in the bomb blast back in 1998. The bomb, planted by Al Qaeda, targeted the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam and killed eleven people, as well as injuring hundreds more.