Kenya Tourism guru speaks out about security concerns by visitors


(Posted 10th August 2017)

Elections Update
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 visited by tourists. 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 are well away from any areas 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. It is reported that in the slums of Mathare, two people were shot dead by the police after they were attacked by rioting demonstrators or looters but order has now been restored. 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.

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 has fallen behind in the results declared so far. 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 calm and peaceful and only a few areas are experiencing such demonstrations which it should be stressed are not aimed at foreign visitors or tourist facilities and are 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.

By Jake Grieves-Cook
Past Chairman, KTF