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Travel warnings no help to already struggling economy

15 May 2014, 18:59

Nairobi - Kenya on Thursday slammed four Western countries who have issued travel advisories to warn their citizens against visiting Kenya due to increased terror attacks.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Ministry Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho expressed disappointment that the governments of Britain, Australia, France and the United States issued such warnings in view of allegedly "continuing and recently heightened threats from terrorism and the high rate of violent crime in some areas."

"The challenges arising from acts of terrorism require concerted efforts to fight it and not behaving in a manner that accelerates it by causing fear and panic," Kibicho said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

"Issuance of such travel advisories only plays to the whims of bad elements in society whose aims is to spread fear and panic among otherwise peace loving people."

The British government has advised the country's citizens to avoid travelling to Mombasa, Eastleigh in Nairobi and areas within 60 kilometers of the Kenya-Somalia border.

In its latest update published in the British High Commission website, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) further advises against nonessential travel to Garissa and slums in Nairobi and other towns.

The FCO said they estimated that around 5,500 Britons currently in the area would be affected and no one else should travel to the area until further notice. Australia, France and the U.S. also issued similar warnings.

Australia, through its Department of Foreign affairs and Trade urged nationals to "exercise a high degree of caution" for Kenya overall and "reconsider your need to travel" for Nairobi and Mombasa region, including Diani Beach and Isiolo and the A2 highway to Moyale.

It was marked "Do not travel" for border regions with Somalia, South Sudan and Ethiopia. "We continue to advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Nairobi and the Mombasa, including Diani Beach, region due to the high threat of terrorist attack and the high level of crime."

Analysts say the warnings are a blow to Kenya's already troubled tourist industry which relies on foreign visitors, many of whom combine safaris with beach holidays in Mombasa.

Mombasa, the country's second largest city and a major tourist spot is one of various cities targeted by a series of grenade attacks and abduction of foreigners in recent months.

But Kenyan authorities said the East African nation was playing a pivotal role in ensuring that terrorism and other forms of criminal activities threatening the country's security were minimized if not eliminated.

Kenya's coastal towns are the backbone of the country's thriving tourism industry, which has been hit by the fear of terror attacks and the kidnapping of foreigners by Somali pirates from resorts near the border with Somalia.

Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka also described the warnings as "unfortunate and irrational" and pointed out the four countries have also been under terrorist threat.

According to Njoka, every part of the world is nowadays prone to high threat from terrorism which is a global problem, adding that the advisory was ill-informed and not based on any specific threats as claimed by Britain.

"Here in Kenya we have 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," he said.

The warnings came after three people died when an improvised explosive device went off at a bus terminus while another device exploded outside a hotel used by foreigners in Mombasa. No one was injured in the second attack.

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

Kenya's tourism has suffered a decline in the number of tourists arriving since September 2011, when the Somali militant group, the Al-Shabaab, carried out the kidnappings of tourists in the Lamu archipelago and the kidnapping of Spanish volunteers.

The port city, the capital Nairobi and other parts of Kenya have suffered a series of grenade attacks since Kenya sent troops into Somalia last year to try to pursue Al-Shabaab insurgents it blames for a surge in violence and kidnappings threatening tourism.

But Kibicho assured Kenyans and visitors of their utmost security and safety while in the East African nation.

"The government would like to assure all Kenyans and friends of Kenya that our security forces remain vigilant and will continue to thwart any attempts to disrupt peace," Kibicho said.

He reiterated the cordial relation Kenya enjoys with the Western nations, saying Nairobi has long-standing friendship and cooperation with them in various areas including the fight against terrorism.

"The advisories therefore are obviously unfriendly acts coming from our partners who have equally borne the brunt of global terrorism and no double understand the repercussions of terror menace," Kibicho said.

- Xinhua

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