PORINI / GAMEWATCHERS’ JAKE GRIEVES COOK SPEAKS OUT ON SECURITY CONCERNS
(Posted 17th May 2014)
In a rare departure from norm, where stakeholders for fear of repercussions prefer NOT to have their names mentioned when commenting on current affairs in Kenya – and elsewhere in East Africa too – has Jake Grieves Cook, one of Kenya’s most respected senior industry leaders broken his silence and gave his read on the current situation.
Jake did also mention that his company took a serious financial hit, as did others too, as they had to absorb the VAT being loaded on to tourism services with no notice last year as contract claused did not permit them to pass on the added charges to prebooked and prepaid clients. Inspite of such government created obstacles did he however find prebookings strong and solid for his camps, a sign in his opinion that Kenya indeed still got what it takes and that clients continue to book quality safari services regardless of the British stink bomb of an anti-travel advisory.
Find below the entire uncensored text of his mail which was just received some fifteen minutes ago:
As a result of the latest British government travel advice which warns against non-essential travel to Mombasa and its environs, two of the largest British tour operators using charter flights to Mombasa have been obliged to stop operating holidays to the affected beach resorts listed in the new advisory and consequently have had to cancel all their charter flights between now and October as the bulk of their passenger bookings were to those resorts. Their last flight was yesterday and all their customers on holiday in Kenya and booked on their charter flights were obliged to come back on that flight and to curtail their holidays regardless of whether or not they were staying in the areas affected by the non-essential travel advice. However all other international airlines continue operating their scheduled flights as normal to Nairobi and Mombasa.
The present British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice against non-essential travel can now be summarised as follows:
Avoid all non-essential travel to the following:
• areas within 60km of the Kenya-Somali border
• Kiwayu and coastal areas north of Pate Island
• Garissa District
• the Eastleigh area of Nairobi
• low income areas of Nairobi, including all township or slum areas
• Mombasa island and within 5km of the coast from Mtwapa creek in the north down to and including Tiwi in the south (this area does not include Diani or Moi international airport)
The change to the British Travel Advisory on Kenya comes about following several recent incidents of small home-made explosive devices being set off in Mombasa and Nairobi by the Al Shabaab terrorist organisation resulting in a number of deaths and injuries to our fellow Kenyans with the latest today in a crowded market place at Gikomba near the Eastleigh area of Nairobi.
A number of attacks have taken place over the last two years at remote towns in the north-eastern province and also in some of the populous low-income housing areas of Mombasa and Nairobi in places such as bars or eating-houses, on public buses heading out of Nairobi from one of the big bus terminals and crowded markets. They have all involved small home-made devices aimed at ordinary Kenyans, apart from eight months ago when there was an attack by a number of terrorists at an up-market shopping mall in Nairobi which received wide international media coverage.
During the last three years Kenyan troops have been actively pursuing al-Shabaab in southeastern Somalia and have driven them out of their strongholds all along the Somali border with Kenya, including the port of Kismayu. As a result, Al Shabaab has been weakened in Somalia and the security situation in the area has stabilised and improved with incidents of Somali piracy in the last twelve months having virtually ended. In response to the Kenyan intervention, al-Shabaab and its sympathizers have conducted retaliatory attacks against civilian and government targets in Kenya and have issued threats with the aim of trying to put pressure on Kenya to abandon its campaign against Al Shabaab in Somalia and to hand the area back to the terrorists. President Uhuru Kenyatta has confirmed that the Kenya government will not weaken in its resolve to stand up against terrorists and has expressed his disappointment that the British government is allowing terrorist threats to disrupt travel by British citizens to some parts of the Kenyan coast.
It is interesting to note that the latest British MI5 and MI6 assessment of the terrorist threat within mainland Britain itself is now rated as “substantial” (meaning an attack is a strong possibility) and these comments appear on their websites: "The most significant terrorist threat to the UK … comes from Al Qaeda … and their affiliates and supporters. The threat is becoming more diverse as groups affiliated to and inspired by AQ develop more autonomy in directing operations. As such we are likely to see a more unpredictable picture in the future, potentially with more frequent, albeit less sophisticated attacks.” This underlines that terrorism is a global threat and not unique to Kenya, with similar risks evident in Britain, so it is to be hoped that the British government will give its backing and support to Kenya in standing up to the global terrorist threat.
The tourism stakeholders in Kenya have expressed their deepest sympathies to their fellow Kenyans who have been caught up in the recent incidents and have reiterated that the safety and security of our international visitors will continue to be the highest priority with very careful attention being given to see that they are well looked after while in Kenya and that they are taken only to places considered safe and where security is not considered to be at risk.
The safari areas and other tourist resorts are unaffected by these incidents and life is actually continuing very much as normal in Kenya apart from enhanced security being in place in all the areas frequented by tourists. The latest returning tourists all confirm that they have been having a very enjoyable time and that they experienced nothing but a friendly welcome from Kenyans and the general approach seems to be that terrorist threats should not be allowed to disrupt the lives of people in the free world.
Gamewatchers Safaris & Porini Camps
As said before, Kenya is being railroaded by Britain and other Western powers and not one individual of the dozens spoken to in recent days disagreed with an article earlier in the week where I connected the dots and found a red line going back to the same group of countries trying to influence the outcome of the Kenyan election last year, ate humblepie for a while and then started their snide remark campaign when Kenya aligned herself more closely with China and other BRICS countries.
There is a feeling in Nairobi that Kenya is being ‘punished’ for making her own foreign policy decisions and seeking partners and building alliances where both parties can profit from and is now paying the price of having British tourists ripped from their sunbeds, carted off to the Mombasa airport and flown home, under the pretext of obscure ‘security concerns’. Not once in the at times checkered history of Kenya has such happened, not in 1982 after the coup attempt, not after the 1992 Saba Saba and Likoni riots, not after the bombing and attempted shoot down of an Israeli aircraft some 10 years ago. Why now is the question everyone wants an answer to but I dare say that none will be forthcoming, now that they have done the damage and sit back and smugly grin, disbursing more lectures from high up as if they still ruled the world like in the days of the Berlin Conference.
Enough is enough Kenyans now say, yes we want your tourists but not at any cost – while working on contingency plans to tap into other fast growing markets to make good for their losses now over the coming years.
The Kenyan government is best advised to now finally listen to their stakeholders and tourism gurus and do as they are advised to do, to kick start a recovery without first driving the industry further into decline by continuing their failed policies of the first year in government.