UN in Kenya tells staff not to travel to Mombasa or coastal region


Within months of the US Embassy declaring a hasty if not cowardly and ultimately withdrawn travel embargo on Kenya’s Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa, has now the UN done the same to the outrage of Kenya’s political leadership and –not surprisingly here – the coastal tourism fraternity.

The UN’s offices in Nairobi have reportedly told their staff NOT to travel to the coast, not on business and supposedly not for vacation time too, leaving coast tourism sources exasperated to say the least. In fact a source in Nairobi claims that travel to the entire coast region, including the resorts in Diani and along the stretch of beaches from Kilifi via Watamu to Malindi is included in the anti travel advice issued by the UN to their staff which prompted a regular coast source to rant: ‘Whatever has Kenya done to them but given them hospitality and friendship. Is this payback because Koffi has not been able to have tea at State House? I bet there is a connection somewhere because what other reason could they have. Security at the coast is tight and ahead of a long weekend in Kenya this is bad for business for us and for the airlines too because UN staff and their families often come to the coast for long weekends. I think it is disrespectful of their host country Kenya and either a panic reaction or else something of a hidden agenda and personally I do not put it beyond Koffi to vent his anger like that. Do they warn people not to go to the parks because they could be eaten by a lion or not drive a car in Kenya because there might be an accident? This is simply wrong’.

While such an explanation, linking Koffi Annan’s recent presence in Nairobi and his inability to secure a meeting with President Kibaki is of course is most unlikely to hold water, it nevertheless reflects the growing frustration by coast tourism stakeholders with foreign embassies and missions making public declarations where their staff should not go, in the process creating negative publicity which is regularly being picked up by global media then blowing it even further out of proportion.

Coast tourism has according to figures released by the Kenya Tourist Board, covering the January to August period, declined by over 20 percent, with the months of July and August in fact way higher than the average figure, and while Kenya has in the past managed to deal with anti travel advisories from abroad, having such sprung on them from within is still novel but thought to cause even more damage as it directly prevents a main target group for domestic travel from actually visiting the coastal resorts.

Watch this space to see how this will play out in coming days and if this ill-considered if not outright offensive anti travel advisory will be withdrawn soon.

6 Responses

  1. I know it’s what’s taken over the Coast is the problem. The coast has always been an awesome place ( I am probably biased because I was born and raised over there) nonetheless even though Kenya overall has been working tremendously hard to get rid of “THE” group that has done more harm than good other countries have every right to warn their citizens to keep away or be wary for safety especially since they could be the target of attacks. I know one thing for sure a lot of Americans, Canadians, Asians etc.. Would love to visit Mombasa, but comfortably once it’s safe. The last thing you want is attacks on the tourist. Prevention is better than cure. So let’s us all collectively help in whatever way we can to keep Mombasa safe like it was years ago, and the tourists will come in abandunce. Operation Clean up Mombasa!

    1. I lived at the coast twice for several years each and have made many and retain many friends in Mombasa and Malindi. Yes, government has been dragging its feet over major infrastructure developments, the South Coast bypass, a second bridge, city clean up too, but it is a fun place for tourists and the bad picture being painted right now is unfair, plain and simple.
      Thank you for reading my blog.

  2. You need not read much on this. It’s not only the UN but other Kenyan corporates which are advising their staff on unnecessary travel to the coast. Every institution and country has a right to protect its people. Caches of ammunition seized, vigilante raids, police killings etc make for uncomfortable viewing. However the security threat is temporary and we should be patient and assist the govt in their venture to rid the area of the menace.

    1. The impact of the UN decision, instantly leaked into the public domain as was the case a while ago with a similar embargo by the American Embassy, is damaging by itself and the leak was very likely deliberate, considering the circumstances of last week’s visit by Koffi Annan. Bad taste, poor style, aimed to punish in a thinly concealed act of vengeance.
      Thanks for reading my blog.

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