Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Kenya: Update--Gov't Reacts Negatively Toward Foreign Office Warning for Britons to Leave Mombasa

According to UK-based The Independent, Kenya has reacted fervently toward the British Foreign Office travel warning urging British tourists to immediately leave one the country’s most important resorts because of the threat of terrorism:
The Foreign Office said that roughly 5,500 Britons are currently in the Mombasa area and would be affected and no Britons  should travel to the area until further notice. 

A spokesman said that the warning had been “intelligence-led” but would not say if they were aware of a specific terrorism threat. Thus far, the US has not followed suit in warning its nationals to leave Mombasa.

The warning is a blow to Kenya’s already troubled tourist industry which relies on more than 100,000 British visitors a year, many of whom combine safaris with beach holidays in Mombasa.

Mwenda Njoka, the interior ministry spokesman, described the warning as “unfortunate and irrational” and pointed out that the UK was also under terrorist threat. 

COMMENT: Although the interior ministry spokesman is technically accurate, the prompt response to acts of terrorism differ dramatically between London and Nairobi.

It should be kept in mind that all sovereign nations receive intelligence threats in various forms, although it seems logical to conclude that it might be appropriate for London and Washington to chat about the subject.

“Here in Kenya we've taken a number of measures to mitigate against threats and significantly minimized occurrence of the same and as such for any country to issue travel advisory against Kenya it is an unfortunate and irrational move.”

Regardless,  last week three people died when an IED detonated at a bus shelter while another device exploded outside a hotel used by foreigners. No one was injured in the second attack.

In April, three gunmen opened fire on a church service in Likoni, near Mombasa, killing six people and wounding 18 others, while on January 10 people were wounded in a grenade attack on a night club in Diani, a popular coastal resort area near the city.

In its advisory the Foreign Office said: “We advise against all but essential travel to Mombasa island and within five kilometers (3.10 miles) off the coast from Mtwapa creek in the north to Tiwi in the south.

“If you are currently in an area to which we now advise against all but essential travel, you should consider whether you have an essential reason to remain. If not, you should leave the area.”

A Foreign Office source said they did not take the move “lightly” and said it had been decided at the ministerial level.

“We are aware of the concerns this will cause in Kenya,” they said. “But the safety of British nationals is our priority and this decision was very carefully thought through.”