Kenya Criticizes U.S. Travel Alert

An eyewitness video of the shooting. The owner was trapped in the mall for five hours before being rescued by police. 

Oliver Smith, The Daily Telegraph, September 30, 2013

Kenya has criticised the United States for issuing a warning over travel to the east African country following the Westgate mall attack.

Joseph Ole Lenku, Kenya's interior minister, described the travel alert - which calls for U.S. citizens to "evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing and recently heightened threats from terrorism" - as "unnecessary and unfriendly".

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"There have been numerous terror attacks around the globe and traditionally, friendly countries have not done anything to increase the pain of the victim country," Mr Ole Lenku said. "We believe issuing the travel advisory is counter-productive in the fight against global terrorism."

He requested that the U.S., "as a friend of Kenya", lift the warning, and insisted that the country was calm, despite the state of heightened security.

His objections appear to reflect concern over the impact that the attack - and the US advisory - could have on the country's vital tourist industry.

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Last week David Scowsill, president and chief executive of the World Travel and Tourism Council, speaking to Telegraph Travel from the Kenyan capital, also called for foreign governments and holidaymakers to stand by the country.

“Travel and tourism accounts for 12.5 per cent of Kenya’s GDP, and 600,000 of its citizens rely on it to earn a living,” he said. “Governments must avoid issuing unhelpful blanket warnings against travel to the country, and potential visitors should realise that this is a one-off incident that is only affecting a tiny part of one city.”

At least 67 people are known to have been killed in the attack, including more than 50 Kenyans, and citizens from Britain, France, China, Ghana, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Peru and the Netherlands.

At present the Foreign Office suggests that Britons should “exercise a heightened level of vigilance” in Nairobi, “limit movements around the city” and “avoid… public or crowded places”, but it does not advise against travel there, except in “low-income areas, including townships and slums”. A warning against travel to areas within 60km (40 miles) of the Kenya-Somalia border has been in force for some time.