Update: Is Kenya Safe?

Update: Is Kenya Safe?

Found only in Kenya: the reticulated giraffe.
Found only in Kenya: the reticulated giraffe.
I’m not a contrarian, and for the past three years I’ve restrained to near zero EWT’s brokerage of Kenyan tourism. But despite the bad news yesterday, I see Kenyan tourist security improving.

Monday night one of the most deadly terrorist blasts (after the Westgate Mall incident) rocked the Eastleigh neighborhood of Nairobi. It was incorrectly reported by many agencies, however, that this area was “downtown Nairobi.”

Seven people were killed and another 25 injured (ten seriously) when terrorists threw hand grenades into two popular evening restaurants. This Eastleigh area of Nairobi is often known as “Little Mogadishu.”

A week ago Sunday gunmen entered a church in Likoni, Mombasa, and sprayed gunfire on the parishioners killing four.

And I wrote a month ago about the tourist attacks that failed in Zanzibar.

These are all closely related incidents, horrible if you are an East African, and completely predictable.

I’ve written extensively how the Obama/Hollande war on terrorism in Africa is founded on having made Kenya a military force to be reckoned with. This new military power has dislodged al-Shabaab and other al-Qaeda influences from Kenya’s neighbor, Somalia.

For the first time since Clinton’s foreign policy failures embodied in “Blackhawk Down” Somalia looks hopeful. America and France and all the western world is much, much safer.

Drones above the Somali, Kenya and Tanzanian coasts have wiped out more than two dozen terrorist leaders. U.S. special forces have chased those that remain into the interior of Africa where France is sealing their fate in the C.A.R. and Malawi.

But Kenya’s taking the hit for all of this.

Unable to create any significant retaliation to Obama’s wars in Africa, the much weakened terrorist cells in the horn of Africa are creating terror in the last places they’re able to:

The Somali communities in East Africa.

These communities, whether in and near Mombasa, Zanzibar or “Little Mogadishu” in Nairobi are overwhelmingly supportive of the war against terror and the Kenyan military occupation.

But simply because of the ethnic makeup of these communities, the remaining terrorists have entrees they don’t have elsewhere in Kenya or Tanzania.

And their anger is only slightly less against their fellow Somalis who they consider traitors than to Obama and the greater war on terror.

Kenya’s worst terrorist incident since the 1998 bombing of the American embassy was the Westgate Mall attack last September. But as I wrote at the time, these were latent global terrorists likely including Somalis not from Somalia, but Minneapolis.

That kind of terrorism is the real threat to tourism. The other horrible more recent acts are just too highly targeted ethnically to threaten tourists.

The Westgate Mall attack resulted in incredibly draconian Kenyan government responses, undoubtedly supported by America and others, that has hugely restricted a number of freedoms in Kenya.

I don’t think that’s good. But in the irony of the times, where America is so much safer than Kenya, tourists are now safer than ordinary Kenyan citizens.

And in my anxious estimation, tourists are increasingly safe.

Previous years’ tourist kidnapping and armed robberies of tourists in places like Lamu, Samburu and Shaba have ended. And the Kenyan government response to Westgate has been an iron fist.

Those are the facts that make the rarity and beauty of the reticulated giraffe and the legendary attraction of Kenya’s Maasai Mara safer for tourists than they have been for nearly five years. I’m not suggesting that tourism safety is the only obstacle to enjoying a vacation in Kenya.

While I’m willing to plan safaris again in Kenya, the main cities of Nairobi and Mombasa and Stone Town (Zanzibar) are out for the time being. Anyone for whom we make arrangements in Kenya also knows that we’ll pivot in an instant if the situation changes.

There are plenty of wonderful places for safaris in Tanzania. And if optimal game viewing is not the only goal, multiple great safaris are available in Zambia, Botswana and South Africa as well.

But for someone asking me now, is Kenya safe enough for a safari, my answer is the above qualified yes.

Jim filed this post from Karatu, Tanzania.