UK warns tourists not to travel 'West of Kenya'

Thursday October 26 2017

Tourists from Milan-Italy arrive at Moi international airport in Mombasa on September 27, 2017 during the world tourism day. PHOTO FILE | NATION

Tourists from Milan-Italy arrive at the Moi international airport in Mombasa on September 27, 2017 during the World Tourism Day. PHOTO FILE | NATION 

By PAUL REDFERN
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Britain has updated its travel advice on Kenya in the wake of uncertainty occasioned by the repeat presidential elections.

The UK government is now cautioning tourists not to travel to the west of Kenya, warning its citizens of rising cases of protests which “could turn violent.”

"Media report that the governors of Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay, Kakamega and Migori have said that elections won’t be allowed to take place in their counties on 26 October. This may trigger further protests. You should avoid travelling around these regions on and around days of planned protests including areas where demonstrations may take place," the notice reads in part.

Before the update, the advice had warned against all but essential travel to areas within 60km of the Kenya-Somali border, Garissa County, Lamu County (excluding Lamu Island and Manda Island) and areas of Tana River County north of the Tana river itself due to fears of attacks from terror group Al-Shabaab.

Coming just ahead of the key World Travel Market in London early next month, the political events in Kenya are expected to negatively impact tourism in the country.

Kenya’s safari destinations in the national parks, reserves and wildlife conservancies including the Masai Mara, Amboseli, Aberdare National Park, Laikipia, Samburu, Tsavo and Lake Nakuru are not included in the advisory.

Beach resorts of Diani, Mombasa, Malindi, Kilifi, Watamu, Lamu Island and Manda Island are also deemed safe for UK travellers as per the notice.

Britain’s minister of State in the Foreign Office, Rory Stewart, said the UK is concerned “by the increasingly unstable political situation in Kenya,” and is “encouraging a peaceful and non-violent election period.”

He also implored Kenyan Security services to "use the utmost restraint in handling demonstrations, and any response must be proportionate and measured" while urging independent investigations into allegations of abuse of force.

"Unhelpful"

Mr Stewart also said that the call by opposition Nasa to boycott the election was "unhelpful" and that the election "is an important moment for Kenyan and African democracy".

Meanwhile, Marietje Schaake, the head of the EU election observation mission, said that the failure of the Supreme Court to meet on Wednesday to discuss an application to suspend Thursday’s election was extremely concerning, adding that if the Supreme Court judges “cannot rule freely and safely, the rule of law in the country is at stake.”

A review of British press coverage of Kenya's election reveals varying viewpoints of the crucial poll.

This week, the Financial Times said that Kenya’s main western allies, the United States and the UK, have played an unhelpful role, seeming to favour a quick process over a demonstrably fair one.

"Half-president"

The Daily Telegraph said that a victory for Uhuru Kenyatta in the repeat presidential poll without his main opposition rival Raila Odinga taking part would leave him a “half-president” with little authority over large chunks of a badly fractured country.

Blame for the current crisis, according to The Telegraph, is down to “intransigence on both sides.”

The paper adds that “if the election goes ahead without Mr Odinga, his supporters would have every reason to feel disenfranchised. Rather than accepting that risk, Kenya’s western allies should have been defending the case for a fair procedure, and pledging help.”

The Independent newspaper said that Kenya is “a prime example of a country faced with having to make a choice between the lesser of two evils, and it is not entirely clear who would make the safer pair of hands.”

Mr Redfern is Nation's correspondent in Britain