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Saturday, 28 February 2015

US DEFENDS KENYA TRAVEL ADVISORIES BUT REGRETS IMPACT

The State Department’s top Africa official last week defended the US warning on travel to Kenya, adding, “Any impact this has had, we truly regret.”

The comments by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield came two days after the New York Times quoted an unnamed US official in Nairobi as saying of the travel warning: “Our policy doesn’t make much sense.”

The most recent warning was posted eight months ago, partly in response to a spate of terror attacks on the Coast that killed scores of civilians. The region’s tourism industry was subsequently hit by crippling losses, with some 20,000 workers laid off.

READ: Kenya tourism ends year on a low note, slump to continue in 2015
The anonymous Nairobi-based US official suggested in the Times story that, “The weakening of the coastal economy is aggravating the very problem we were trying to combat.” Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman wrote, “By contributing to the collapse of the coastal tourism industry, the travel warnings may simply be increasing the joblessness, idleness, poverty, drug use and overall desperation — all well-known kindling for terrorist activity — in an already depressed slice of Kenya.”

Assistant Secretary of State Thomas-Greenfield rejected that view in her remarks, telling reporters, “I categorically state that our travel advisories are not contributing to people’s participation in terrorism.”

She said the US government is acting on its legal obligations in warning its citizens of dangers they may face in visiting certain countries. Kenya is not being singled out, Ms Thomas-Greenfield, added, noting that the US has issued warnings and advisories regarding travel to many countries around the world.

“The solution is security,” she declared.

The June 19, 2014, State Department travel warning for Kenya notes that the US embassy in Nairobi has “instituted restrictions on US government personnel travel to all Coastal counties.” The Times’ February 23 story, notes that other Western nations “have formulated more nuanced travel warnings.”

In contrast to the US, postings by the UK, France, Italy and Sweden are “highlighting certain hot spots without drawing a giant red X across Kenya’s entire Coast, which is about 480km long and home to millions of people,” Times journalist Gettleman wrote.

The East African

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