Your Safety and Security in Kenya:
Global Terrorist Threats:
- Like other countries in the free world there have been some random incidents of terrorism in Kenya in recent years. There was a terrorist incident four years ago in September 2013 when four terrorists attacked the up-market Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi and this received wide international media coverage. This shopping mall is popular with affluent Kenyans and expatriate residents. No foreign tourist visitors were affected. Apart from that incident, other acts of terrorism have been in very remote border areas far away from places visited by tourists such as in Garissa district, Mandera on the border with Ethiopia or the remote coastal village of Mpeketoni over 100 miles to the north of Malindi. These remote areas are very far from any of the wildlife parks, beach resorts or tourist accommodation and we never go anywhere within 100 miles of them. There were also a few small-scale random incidents in past years in some of the shanty areas of Mombasa or in some of the heavily populated slum areas in Nairobi but again these were not in places where tourists go and no foreign visitors were involved.The Travel Advisories imposed on Kenya after the shopping mall incident four years ago have recently been lifted but we always stick to whatever Travel Advice is issued by the UK, USA and other countries from where our visitors come.
At present the current Travel Advice is to avoid all non-essential travel to the following:
- Areas within 60km of the Kenya-Somali border and Garissa District in Northern Kenya.
- In Nairobi, there are no restrictions but it is recommended to avoid low income township areas in the city including all slum areas.
- At the coast: Lamu County and within 15km of the coast from the Tana River down to Malindi.
It should be noted that there are NO restrictions on travel to Kenya’s most popular tourist destinations in the national parks, reserves and wildlife conservancies. The wording of the British FCO travel advice states clearly that there is NO restriction on travel to the main wildlife areas including the Aberdare National Park, Amboseli, Laikipia, Lake Nakuru, Masai Mara, Meru, Mount Kenya, Samburu, Shimba Hills, Tsavo, and all restrictions have now been lifted on the beach resorts of Mombasa, Kilifi, Watamu and Diani.
Terrorism is a global threat and there have been many recent incidents in the last few years in countries such as the United States, Great Britain, France, Belgium and Australia so Kenya is not unusual in having experienced some isolated incidents in the past but generally these have been far away from places frequented by tourists. The Kenya government has been working closely with other international governments to ensure that every possible action is taken to ensure the safety of both international tourist visitors and residents of Kenya. The British and United States governments provide assistance with security equipment and specialist advice to Kenya, especially in keeping the airports safe and monitoring the borders. The British government has a long-standing military agreement with Kenya and carries out continual training and monitoring exercises. It has been noted that there has been a considerable improvement in the overall security situation within Kenya. Many well-known visitors have enjoyed trips to Kenya in recent months, including President Obama, Prince William, HH the Pope, Mark Zuckerberg and Victoria Beckham!
As we live in Kenya and go about our normal daily lives in Nairobi we are well placed to ensure the safety of all our customers. We have been operating here for over twenty-five years and have looked after thousands of visitors every year whose safety is our absolute priority. We have taken steps to see that our customers are not at risk and these actions include the following:
- We keep abreast of the security situation on a 24 hour basis and monitor the advice of the foreign embassies based in Kenya to ensure we comply with their Travel Advisories including the latest advice from the British FCO. The current advice is to avoid travel within 60 kms of Somalia and we do not go within 200 kms of the border with Somalia.
- We meet our guests on arrival at the international airport and transfer them to Nairobi hotels which are in safe locations.
- We recommend that guests do not wander off on their own in Nairobi or go into the back streets on foot but allow us to transport them so that they do not inadvertently head into an area which we would not consider to be entirely safe. Just as in parts of Europe or North America, there may be areas of a city that are not considered ideal for visitors, and we know which places to avoid in Nairobi.
- We can meet our arriving guests at the airport when they fly in and we are ready to take care of our guests from the time of arrival until their final departure.
- Through our industry associations and the Kenya Tourism Federation which represents the private sector, we have participated in meetings with senior government officials from the Office of the President and the Security Services as well as the embassies of countries like the USA, UK, Switzerland, Canada, Australia etc to discuss ways of minimising risks for visitors and methods of counteracting the threat of terrorism.
Kenyans are well known for being very friendly and welcoming and our visitors often remark to us that they felt extremely safe and well looked after while they were here. Visitors will find it easy to communicate with Kenyans as English is the official language of Kenya (with Swahili as the national language) and lessons in the schools are in English.
For the reassurance of clients who may be anxious about staying in Nairobi we use hotels in safe locations, well away from the areas which have been recommended to be avoided. In Nairobi we also recommend our own Nairobi Tented Camp which is located inside the Nairobi National Park and protected by the Kenya Wildlife Service. On safari, the Porini Camps and all the other safari camps and lodges which we use in Kenya are in areas considered safe for tourist visitors and have never been the targets of any terrorist acts.
All tourism facilities and services in Kenya in the areas where we operate are functioning as usual without any disruption to our clients’ itineraries and with all the international airlines operating into Kenya it is business as usual throughout the country with literally hundreds of thousands of international visitors coming here every year without experiencing any adverse incident. We continue to receive excellent feedback from all our customers about their experience in Kenya and have no hesitation in encouraging visitors to continue visiting this beautiful country with its wonderful landscapes, magnificent wildlife, tropical beaches and friendly hospitable people.
Kenya 2017 Elections Update – Thursday 10th August 2017
The Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF), which represents the tourism private sector in Kenya, has its own Security & Communications Centre based in Nairobi and manned 24 hours a day. From here the security situation in all those regions of Kenya visited by tourists is closely monitored on a daily basis so that we can endeavour to ensure our visitors are safe by liaising with the police or emergency services to give any assistance in the event of accidents, illness or other emergency at any time.
During national elections, KTF has observers based all over the country to monitor the situation and to report immediately if there are any areas which tour companies should avoid. Tour vehicle drivers also call in to the KTF to report any incidents or to advise on the situation so that this information can be quickly shared. This arrangement by the tourism private sector helps to ensure that tourists in Kenya are given extra care and attention and that their safety and security is always treated as a high priority. As a result, over the past decade any incidents of violence involving tourists have been extremely rare in Kenya and the country has a record that compares very favourably with leading tourist destinations all over the world.
This year, during the elections, KTF has arranged to have over 100 observers, informers and drivers dotted all over the country providing regular updates on the situation by way of SMS texts or phone calls to the KTF Safety Centre so that if there are any reports of insecurity these can be immediately highlighted to the tour companies and any areas deemed unsafe can be avoided. The reports streaming in so far show that almost all of the country is quiet and peaceful and none of the tourist areas have been adversely affected. However there were a few incidents of rowdy demonstrations in some of the densely populated opposition strongholds in the city of Kisumu and its environs where tyres were set on fire and roads were blocked. The police put out the fires and the demonstrators dispersed. This is not an area normally visited by tourists from overseas. There were also reports of brief but violent skirmishes with the police in parts of Kisii and the southeastern Tana River area where it was reported that three people were killed in clashes with the security forces. These places are well away from anywhere visited by tourists.
Within the capital city of Nairobi, in a few of the low-income housing estates or slum areas where some opposition supporters live, there were also demonstrations and some violent confrontations with the police. The demonstrations appear to have been largely as a result of some opposition supporters reacting to claims of electoral fraud made by their leader who is in second place, behind the current President, in the results declared so far after tallying the votes. A demonstrator in Kawangware is reported to have died after being hit by a rubber bullet, while in the slums of Mathare, two people were shot dead by the police in the course of rioting by demonstrators or possibly looting and robbery but that order has now been restored. In the Kibera slum, some roads have been closed by youths who are burning tyres and who have indicated that they are waiting to be told what to do by the opposition leader who it seems could have an important role in calming down the situation in areas which are tense. Again, these densely populated slums are not places visited by tourists and the rest of Nairobi is unaffected, calm and peaceful with people going about their business as normal and traffic between the city hotels and the airport moving without disruption.
There are 400 international observers in Kenya to monitor the elections, headed by some eminent figures who include South African former President Thabo Mbeki on behalf of the African Union, Ghana’s former President John Mahama on behalf of the Commonwealth and former US Secretary of State John Kerry and they have issued a statement calling on the opposition leader to use the legally provided channels of dispute resolution in case of any dissatisfaction with the process and to urge his supporters to remain calm and not to resort to violent demonstrations.
Kenya as a whole is generally calm and peaceful and only a few areas have experienced such demonstrations which it should be stressed were not aimed at foreign visitors or tourist facilities and took place in locations which are not frequented by tourists. Offices and businesses are open and people are going to work as normal today. It is evident that the people of Kenya have a fervent desire for peace and would prefer that any disputed election results should be resolved through the legal process and not through violent street demonstrations. All the international airlines are operating to Kenya as normal, the British, US and EU governments have not issued any advice to visitors to stay away and the hotels, safari lodges and wildlife parks are all busy with large numbers of tourists present in Kenya at the moment who are enjoying their beach and safari holidays as normal.
Gamewatchers Safaris, Nairobi