Saturday, March 29, 2014

Kenya: Kenyatta Worries That He Could be Unseated in March 2014 Re-Election Bid

According to, Kenya’s vital tourism sector is “on its knees” after attacks by al-Qaeda-linked militants carried out in retaliation for the country's intervention in neighboring Somalia, President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Friday (March 28).

Kenyatta met with ethnic Somali leaders and asked for their help in identifying people they thought may be behind attacks that have dented the president’s plans to boost the tourism sector in east Africa’s biggest economy.

Kenya has large Somali communities in parts of the country near the frontier with Somalia and in Eastleigh, a part of the capital Nairobi known as “Little Mogadishu” for its large Somali population.

“We all have a responsibility to bring this to an end. Tourism has been greatly affected by these terror activities. The industry which contributes 10% to the gdp is virtually on its knees,” Kenyatta said.

Tourist arrivals in Kenya in the first five months of 2013 declined by 15% compared to the the previous year as visitors avoided the country, worried by attacks blamed on Somalia’s al- Shabaab and by fears of trouble around the elections in March 2014.

COMMENT: Tourism statistics for 2013 have not as yet been released, but they are expected to not be encouraging. 

The tourism sector employs 150,000 people in a country desperate for jobs. Underemployment in Kenya is estimated to approach 40%.

Kenyatta’s own family owns the Heritage Group of hotels that range from a beach resort in Mombasa to an Indian Ocean island hideaway in Lamu, and others in the Maasai Mara National Reserve in the great Rift Valley.

President Kenyatta ordered police to stop taking bribes from suspects arrested on suspicion of being linked to attacks. He said action would be taken against “the fools who take bribes and allow criminals to commit crimes.”

On Tuesday, Kenya ordered all Somali refugees living in towns to return to their camps in a bid to end the attacks.

In the latest incident, gunmen killed six worshippers in a church near the port city of Mombasa, the heart of the country’s coastal strip and a tourist magnet. Police said they shot dead two suspects in that attack on Friday, but a third escaped with gunshot wounds.

Last week, police arrested two men found with two large IEDs in a car that they intended to use in Mombasa.

In the worst attack so far by al-Shabaab, which wants Kenyan troops out of Somalia, at least 67 people including one of Kenyatta’s nephews were killed at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in September 2013.

Appeasing terrorists for economic concessions has never worked in the past and is unlikely to be effective in the future.

In the end, President Kenyatta is far more worried in hanging on to power in Nairobi at a time when it is entirely possible that he potentially could be unseated.