President Uhuru Kenyatta has criticised the UK for issuing travel advisories to its citizens, saying they were based on “untrue” information about Kenya’s security.
In what could signal a growing rift between Kenya and her former colonial oppressor, the President accused the British of making selective travel warnings.
“I have not heard the British issue travel advisories against Paris (where terrorists attacked the headquarters of a satirical magazine in January). I have not heard the British issue travel advisories against other European capitals,” he said at the Windsor Hotel in Nairobi on Wednesday.
He was addressing a group of Kenyans living in the diaspora.
The meeting, under the theme “Development and Innovation; Opportunities for Diaspora” was meant to educate Kenyans abroad on the opportunities available at home.
“We want to send a clear message that they will not intimidate us with these threats,” said President Kenyatta.
He was incensed by the fresh UK government warning to its nationals not to visit the Coast unless they were on “essential travel”.
Two weeks ago, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond accused Kenya of sitting on intelligence information, making it difficult to review the warnings.
President Kenyatta refuted the claims Wednesday.
“That is not true and the challenge is on them now. There is nothing they can claim not to be aware of,” he said. “If these traditional markets (for our tourism) don’t want to come, tell them we are also tired of kneeling before them all the time.
“We want to encourage, especially our brothers and sisters from the African continent, to travel in Africa. Help us promote this country. Help us tell them Kenya is safe,” he said.
The new warning was issued last Friday, a week after Mr Hammond’s trip to Kenya where he failed to convince Nairobi to renew a bilateral military training agreement.
“The UK has updated its travel advice for Kenya, adding advice against all but essential travel to the coast from Tiwi (just south of Mombasa) all the way up to the border with Somalia,” said the advisory.
“Our travel advice for other parts of the country has not changed, and the vast majority of the country remains outside our advisory against all but essential travel,” it says.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said the updated advisory was not motivated by political or economic reasons, but was a routine review based on “our objective assessment of the security position, an assessment shared with the Kenyan authorities.”
Britain has more tourists coming to Kenya than any other Western country.