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Tunisia’s tourism rebounds despite high terror alert

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Holiday-makers lie on sun loungers at a Tunisian luxury hotel where everything from the swimming pool to the wall paint, furniture at the shiny reception hall, police post at its gate and even its name is new.

Nothing reminds holiday-makers of the day in June 2015 when an Islamist militant shot dead 39 foreigners in this beach resort, triggering an exodus of tourists from the North African country and severely damaging its economy.

Thanks to a massive security presence and advertising abroad some tourists have returned, helping boost revenues from the sector by 21 percent to $851.06 million in the first nine months of 2017 compared to last year, according to central bank data.

Westerners are still reluctant to come back despite most countries having lifted travel warnings.

But hotels have managed to fill rooms with Algerians and Russians, the latter group avoiding Egypt since Islamic State downed a Russian plane in October 2015.

Alexander Maslenikov from Siberia, Russia said he was enjoying the temperatures, while Lidia Maslenikov approved of the whole resort.

“It’s cheap, good price, good time, good hotel, I like everything,” she said.

The Steigenberger Kantaoui Bay in Sousse – a tourist beach town located some 150km south of the capital Tunis – reopened this summer after undergoing a facelift, dropping even its old name, Imperial Marhaba.

“In terms of safety, we have taken a very big step forward,” said the hotel’s owner Zohra Driss. She says the hotel is fully booked until October.

Tourism accounts for about 8 percent of Tunisia’s gross domestic product, provides thousands of jobs and is a key source of foreign currency, but it has struggled since two major attacks in 2015.

The first at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis left 21 tourists dead, while 39 mostly British holiday-makers were killed in the Sousse attack.

But with hotels resembling fortresses many holiday-makers book “all inclusive” tours benefiting hotel chains while staying indoors – leaving souvenir traders and cafes idle in the old city.

Shopkeepers in Kantaoui Port miss their traditional clientele.

“We are happy when there are English, Europeans in general, French, Italian, Dutch, really happy when we exchange with them, when we give them information, they leave happy and we stay happy,” said shopkeeper Charfeddine.

Officials say tourism revenues are rising, despite risks from I.S. and a weak dinar.

“Revenues for the period from January to September 20 in Tunisian dinars increased by 21 percent, in euros, we recorded a slight increase of 6.4 percent,” said head of the national tourism office Neji Ben Othman.

He said Tunisia aims to attract tourists from new destinations like China and Canada as well as its traditional markets like the UK and Germany.

Tunisia has increased security in Sousse and other tourist spots, erecting checkpoints on main roads and at hotels after police came under fire for a slow response during the 2015 attack.

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Lake Victoria Island in tension as Uganda arrests Kenyan fishermen

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The arrest of 12 Kenyan fishermen by Ugandan security operatives has caused fresh tension in Lake Victoria islands in western Kenya.

In what is seen as retaliation after Kenyan security officials secured the release of their three police officers arrested by Ugandan soldiers last week, fishermen on the Kenyan side of the lake are in fear of a fresh wave of arrests.

Local politicians have reignited the debate on ownership of Migingo Island in Lake Victoria, saying they have been raising these issues yet the government has done nothing about it.

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Barely a week after Ugandan authorities abducted three Kenyan police officers and five fishermen from Nambo Beach in Siaya County, they struck again on Saturday, seizing two boats.

Witnesses say the officers’ guns and phones were taken away before the officers were transferred to Namaingo in eastern Uganda by boat.

Siaya County Administration Police Commandant Patrick Lumumba said the incident involved up to eight soldiers on patrol who arrived in a Kenyan boat.

On Saturday, according to an incident reported at Usenge Police Station by Nambo Beach Management Unit chairman Gabriel Onyango at 4pm, two Kenyan boats – one with an engine and the other without – were confiscated by Ugandan soldiers.

According to Mr Crispin Nyaga, Usenge police boss, the soldiers were three, one in uniform and armed. They seized the boats, arrested six fishermen, and took away hundreds of kilogrammes of fish.

The boat without an engine belongs to a Mr Omollo. On board were fishermen Daniel Oyugi, John Liepa and Daniel Odhiambo.

The other boat is owned by Mr Atepe Okinya, and was being used by fishermen Evans Ochieng, Sadam Onyango and Kevin Otieno.

“The authorities took away about 400kgs of fish but released the fishermen,” said Mr Nyaga.

This time round, the Quick Response Team of the Administration Police of Kenya gave hot pursuit and rescued both fishermen and the boats, he said.

He added that the area needs frequent patrol by Kenyan officers to prevent unnecessary arrests by Ugandan soldiers.

A day earlier, six fishermen from Ringiti Island were arrested and released on Saturday after paying some money. The fishermen were arrested on Friday morning near the island while fishing.

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Harare central hospital investigates burning of five-day-old twins

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A pair of five-day-old twins were burnt to death in an open cradle at Harare Central Hospital.

The hospital says it is still carrying out investigations since last week it happened, but negligence is suspected.

The twins were reportedly placed in an isolation ward as they were recovering from jaundice.

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They were placed in an open cradle and a beam of light was used to provide heating.

However, something malfunctioned and the babies were dehydrated and burnt to death.

Their mother, Belinda Balalika found the babies dead when she went to breastfeed them at midnight.

A source who spoke to The Standard said,“ Something malfunctioned and the babies were burnt to death, but what is saddening is the fact that the staff did not check on the babies on time.’

Harare Central Hospital CEO Nyasha Masuka added, “We will be able to give details on Monday when all the investigations have been completed.”

 

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Nigeria: Makarfi joins presidential race, ready to pick PDP nomination form

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A former Governor of Kaduna State and immediate past Caretaker Committee Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator  Ahmed Makarfi,  has joined the race to contest the nation’s presidency in 2019.

The two-term-senator said at a press briefing in Kaduna on Sunday that after wide consultations with party men and women as well as other major stakeholders, he had decided to seek the party’s nomination to contest the poll.

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According to Makarfi, he is now ready to pick the PDP nomination form ahead of the 2019 presidential election.

Makarfi will battle a former Vice President and presidential hopeful of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, who had recently appointed a former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, the Director-General of his 2019 presidential campaign.

Though he had yet to intimate his party through writing, he added that “one has to come to the decision to seek the nomination before you even seek formally.”

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