Kenyan tourism is bleeding
Newton Kanhema
Published: 01-JUL-03

The Kenyan authorities are on a collision course following the American and British governments discouraging their citizens from travelling to this East African country. The Brits and Americans who defy this advice are not covered by any insurance and as a result the numbers of arrivals have plummeted and the tourism industry is bleeding US$1 million every day these advisories are in place.

On 15 May the British government, without any warning or consultation with the Kibaki government, banned all British registered airlines from flying to and from Kenya "as a security measure". Following this action, all the Western governments issued advisories discouraging their citizens from travelling to Kenya.

When Americans and the Brits were being told by the Kenyans what intelligence they had to warrant these travel advisories, the ban on the airlines and closure of the US embassy, the American ambassador, Johnnie Carson went to the heart of their rationale.

"There are not just terrorists in Kenya but there are some Kenyans who are terrorists. It is the responsibility of the Kenyan authorities to go after the citizens of this country who are engaged in activities that kill other citizens in order to advance very narrow, parochial interests that are external to Kenya," Carson said.

Asked what it is that made Kenya so unsafe to warrant it to be listed among the 15 most dangerous places on earth he said: "In the last two overnments, put on trail and in most cases, convicted and punished. In Kenya, there has not been a single arrest - no- one has been prosecuted or put in jail ... despite evidence that those involved might be planning another attack.

"We believe that there are al Qaeda terrorists in Kenya..."

"We believe there are al Qaeda terrorists in Kenya and some of them are Kenyans. If we feel the situation is going to be so dangerous, we will reduce our staff and close the Embassy."

This attack on the Kenyan police's abilities, combined with the closure of the embassy, angered the authorities to openly attack the US government.

Questions are starting to mount over why Britain and the US are warning against travelling to Kenya, but only issuing a mild caution on countries whose security situation it equated with Kenya's. Kenyan authorities were quick to remind the two countries of Kenya's loyalty as a friend over the years.

"The US government have not provided any evidence whatsoever that can be sustained in court or any other forum. Kenyans are not terrorists and there is no proof that they are harbouring terrorists. Why Kenya? This is an insult to Kenya and its people," said Raila Odinga the second most powerful man in Kenya. He described the closure of the US embassy as devastating.

Instead, he suggested that the US government must compensate Kenya in the same way as it has been doing with other countries.

"The US gives Israel a yearly compensation, but not to Kenya. We feel our relationship with the US is the reason for the attacks in Kenya."

He said that there is no evidence that there are al Qaeda pockets in the country.

"Let them give us evidence at least that there are terrorist cells in the country. It is just pure suspicion and we cannot use that to arrest people at random. We require tight and unshakeable evidence," said an outraged Odinga.

Another cabinet minister, Charity Ngilu, supported Odinga and asked the question that all Kenyans are asking: "We have done everything. What more can we do?"

The finding is now viewed in Kenya as ironic, since the US and UK have both warned against travelling to Kenya but not to one another's territory.

Kenyan authorities and the tourism industry suspect that the decisions by the British and the Americans might be a reaction of the two governments to Kenyan's reluctance to support the war in Iraq.

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