Aga Khan to help start new Ugandan airline

The spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, The Aga Khan, will help Uganda set up a new national airline and will bring competition to the region's aviation industry, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has announced. Uganda's new national carrier will mainly ply regional East African routes.

Kenya's national flag carrier, Kenya Airways, and its sister Tanzanian carrier, Precision Air, currently dominate air traffic in the region. Museveni said the move is likely to make Uganda's Entebbe International Airport even more competitive in the region.

Choosing unusually harsh words for the presently operating airlines, Museveni described them as "burlish, arrogant and expensive", simply because Uganda has no airline of its own. "They are fond of frustrating us simply because ours is mlambo (a corpse)," he said.

Museveni said he was forced to bury the defunct Ugandan national airline after it "died a natural death", saying it was against his culture to maintain dead things. Uganda Airlines collapsed in 2000. But the monopoly that followed, he complained, had pushed the costs of flying through the roof, especially for routes in East Africa.

For instance, it costs about $400 (Rs16,420) to fly return from Entebbe to Nairobi, only an hour away. "They (existing airlines) thought they will dominate forever. Now Aga Khan has said he will give us an airline and so they will not dominate forever," said a triumphant Museveni, speaking during the foundation stone laying of the Bujagali Hydro Electric Power Station in Jinja, Uganda, last week.

The president said airlines plying the Entebbe route were "mistreating" Ugandans. "They operate at ungodly hours," said Museveni, referring to the fact that Kenya Airways has flights that depart Entebbe International Airport at 5am for Nairobi, which means that passengers have to check in at the airport at about 3am.