Uganda: Internet Shutdown Forces Govt to Postpone Arrival of New Airbus

Internet, laptop
20 January 2021

Government has pushed the date on which it had expected to receive the second Airbus from France.

The postponement, according to Mr Waisswa Bageya, the Ministry of Works permanent secretary, was occasioned by "communication technicalities" that had resulted from the five-day Internet shutdown.

"We postponed the dates [from January 25 to February 2] because of some communication technicalities, which were occasioned by the Internet shutdown," Mr Bageya told Daily Monitor on Monday.

However, he did not explain the kind of technicalities that had occasioned the postponement.

It was not immediately clear how much government would have to spend due to the postponement.

Government, on January 13, shutdown the Internet on claims that it had received intelligence information, pointing to a plan in which certain individuals, had mobilised protests after being defeated in the just concluded elections.

The shutdown has resulted into massive losses for a number of sectors, key among them banking, telecommunications, aviation, financial technology (Fintechs) and e-commerce companies, among others.

However, on Monday the Internet was restored but government has maintained a blockade on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, among others.

The Airbus, whose payment, according to Mr Bageya, had been fully cleared, is expected to arrive in the country on February 2.

It had earlier been scheduled to arrive on January 25.

Mr Bageya also noted that a delegation composed of technical people from Uganda Airlines and Uganda Civil Aviation Authority will be leaving for France early next week ahead of the February 2 planned handover.

The Airbus A330 Neo, will be the second to arrive in the country, adding to another, which arrived on December 22.

The two aircrafts, which cost $145m (Shs536b), will bring the number of Uganda Airlines' fleet to six as government seeks to enhance operations of the national carrier, which was relaunched last year after the airline was liquidated about 20 years ago.

Last year, Uganda Airlines acquired four light flight 72-seater planes for shorter routes, especially within East Africa and some parts of Africa.

The two Airbuses are expected to operate long-haul flights to Dubai - Abu Dhabi, London - UK, Guangzhou - China, Mumbai - India and some routes in southern and West Africa.

At the close of December last year, Mr Perez Ahabwe, the Uganda Airlines chairman, told Daily Monitor, they would begin to fly to Dubai, after the airline was accredited.

He also said they were working on getting accreditation to fly to London (Gatwick or Heathrow), which he noted would hopefully come through at the end of February.

Uganda Airlines currently operates shorter routes to Bujumbura (Burundi), Nairobi (Kenya), Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), Juba (South Sudan), Mogadishu (Somalia) and Kinshasa (DR Congo) is the latest route.

But it has plans to launch new routes to a number of metropolises such as Asmara (Eritrea), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Lusaka (Zambia) and Harare (Zimbabwe).

Uganda Airlines

Uganda Airlines was founded in 1976 but was liquidated in 2001 during a broader push to sell struggling state-owned enterprises.

However, government in 2018 yielded to demands from various stakeholders including tourism promoters and players and National Planning Authority that had expressed frustration, especially in marketing Uganda as a tourism destination.

In August last year, Uganda Airlines was relaunched after 20 years of closure, banking on traffic from the country's emerging oil industry and the tourism sector.

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