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Britain’s Foreign Office (FCO) said it had no choice but to extend its warning to UK citizens not to travel to any part of the Kenyan coast despite the discomfort it caused Kenyan authorities.
The statement is seen as an apparent response to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s rebuke of the latest travel advisory with Kenya adding that the alert was based on untrue information.
Mr Kenyatta’s comments came before gunmen from Al-Shabaab group killed 148 people when they stormed the Garissa University College campus on Thursday
“We have a responsibility to inform British citizens of potential threats aimed at both Kenya and the international community. Our travel advice solely reflects our objective assessment of the security position and is kept under constant review,” the statement said.
Britain toughened its warning to citizens travelling to Kenya on March 27 and the FCO statement is UK’s first response to Kenya’s discomfort with the alert, which is a blow to the country’s battered tourist industry.
The previous advice issued in May told Britons to avoid a smaller portion of the coast, areas near the Somali border and parts of Nairobi, citing threats including Somali Islamist group Al-Shabaab.
The latest FCO travel warning advises Britons against non-essential travel to the Kenyan coast apart from the region around Diani Beach even as the authorities insisted that a large part of Kenya remains outside the marked region.
“The vast majority of Kenya falls outside of our advice against all but essential travel,” the statement said.
“This includes Kenya’s safari destinations in the national parks, reserves and wildlife conservancies; including the Aberdare National Park, Amboseli, Laikipia, Lake Nakuru, Masai Mara, Meru, Mount Kenya, Samburu, Shimba Hills, Tsavo.”
Kenyan hoteliers however fear that the latest attack will further dampen interest from UK tourists.
Already 23 hotels have closed in the first three months of the year, and hoteliers also reported new cancellations but said the true extent of the damage would become clearer when European tour operators return to work after the Easter holiday.
“The Garissa attack simply sealed our fate,” Mohammed Hersi, a Kenyan hotelier and chair of the Kenya Coast Tourism Association, told Reuters in Mombasa.
Nearly 186,000 British nationals visited Kenya in 2012, according to the last official recorded figures, but numbers are reported to have fallen dramatically since then.
The number of foreign tourists visiting Kenya is expected to have fallen by around 40 per cent in the year ending 2014 and will drop by a similar percentage in the first half of 2015.
This outlook is behind Kenya’s anger at UK alerts. On Wednesday, just a day before the Thursday Garissa attack, Mr Kenyatta dismissed London’s advisories as meant to prevent UK’s taxi drivers from travelling to Kenya even as he highlighted US President Barack Obama’s planned July visit as a mark of confidence in the country’s security.
– Business Daily