Lamu county now under dusk to dawn curfew


(Posted 20th July 2014)

It came as no surprise when an official of the Lamu Tourism Association earlier this month pegged the downturn of tourist business in recent weeks at the staggering rate of between 85 and 90 percent, as Lamu town was affected by constant reports of insecurity, the last attack in the county on a bus plying the route between Mombasa and Lamu last night killing 4 policemen and three passengers. About 100 people were murdered in a series of terror attacks amid rising concerns that the government and in particular the security bosses were unable to pacify the area despite full mouthed statements to the contrary. The latest measure now announced in Nairobi will probably deal a further blow to the tourism industry in and around the town of Lamu itself, a place which should be pointed out has not been subject to any attacks and is considered safe, when the police chief ordered a dusk to dawn curfew in the entire county, the town of Lamu included.

No feedback could be obtained due to the short time between receiving the curfew news and this being a weekend key sources at the coast not able to respond in a timely manner but it is thought that the curfew will affect the few tourists presently still in Lamu’s main resorts and hotels. Leaving the resort after 18.30 hrs for dinner, a sundowner sail on a dhow or any other evening activity will now be impossible, marooning guests in their own hotels while restaurants depending on guests to fill their premises in the evening will stare financial ruin in the face as for at least the next month no diners will be coming in unless they risk being prosecuted for violating curfew orders. The curfew started this evening, Saturday 19th of July and will initially continue until the 20th of August, but be extended should the prevailing security situation in the wider county so require.

Lamu Tourism Association Vice Chairman Ghalib Ahmed was on record in local media earlier in July that many hotels had closed down due to lack of business and that as a result many staff were laid off, leaving them and their families without an income.

The high profile Lamu Cultural Festival, this year due to take place between 20th and 23rd of November, an event strongly supported by the Kenya Tourism Board, is still on schedule to be held as planned. However there are growing doubts now that, should the security in the county not very substantially improve, visitor numbers to this key cultural festival showcasing Swahili art, song, dance, heritage and food may be significantly reduced over safety fears, especially as the UK’s anti travel advisory now includes Lamu as an area which should only be visited on essential business.

At the same time when issuing the curfew orders were busses on the route between Mombasa to Lamu also ordered to only travel at daylight and use police escorts as an added security measure. Most foreign visitors fly to Lamu from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport on the daily scheduled flights by Safarilink and others or else from Mombasa and Malindi on coach services and tourist charter flights, largely considered the safest mode of transport within Kenya when seeking out exotic places like Lamu, which since 2001 is a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site.

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