Kenya Travel Alert July 2010 – Is it Deserved?

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The US State Department has done it again: issuing a travel alert for Kenya. They cite two main security concerns: the terrorist threat posed by Al-Shabaab, and the possibility of a repeat of violence after the August 4th constitutional referendum. You can see the travel alert here.

The concern over al-Shabaab is largely because of the Uganda bombings which I previously wrote about. The terrorist group acknowledged responsibility for the bombings. Since then, Kenya has been on a high security alert, considering that the country’s border with Somalia is very porous. Kenya has reinforced its security troops along the border. In the past one week or so, we have heard reports of some skirmishes between al-Shabaab militants and the Kenya police. But these are not very uncommon.

About the constitutional referendum, we Kenyans will be voting on August 4th on whether or not to adopt a new constitution. The last time we had polls here, violence erupted following the disputed results. And, like it was expected the US state department issued another travel alert.

While I understand the fears of new violence after the referendum, I think the 2008 violence taught us a big lesson. There’s no way we are going back down that road again. Certainly, some people may try to disrupt a political rally here and there, but the government is doing a commendable job.

So what is my take on the newest travel alert? The US state department reserves the right to warn its citizens of potential trouble. I also want to believe that the alert is informed by competent intelligence reports.

As a Kenyan on the ground however, I remain confident in the assurances by our government that it has put adequate measures for the security of everyone in the country. For quite some time now, the government has been aware of the al-Shabaab threat and, I believe, has handled it adequately. And, going by government reports in local media, the government has also deployed many police officers in potential trouble spots to prevent a repeat of violence after the referendum.

Needless to say however, it is good to take precaution. If you plan to travel to Kenya around this time, you’d be prudent to monitor news and information from the country. Let your travel agent know your concerns, and they will advise you.

Update: August 09, 2010

It is now five days since we Kenyans held the national referendum on the constitution.  Contrary to what some people feared, it was very peaceful and successful during and after the referendum. Despite the rigorous campaigns before the elections, the losers gracefully accepted defeat. As Kenyans, we are all united in celebrating the dawn of a new era. Never before has there been such optimism in the country. This reinforces my belief that Kenya learnt the 2008 lesson very well, and Kenyans will never again allow the country to sink that low.

If you are planning to come to Kenya, I can only say KARIBU SANA