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Travel Warning

Travel Warning - Kenya

July 24, 2009

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Kenya.  American citizens in Kenya and those considering travel to Kenya should evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing threats from terrorism and the high rate of violent crime.  This replaces the Travel Warning of November 14th, 2008, to note increased security concerns in northeast Kenya near the Somali and Ethiopian borders.

The U.S. Government continues to receive indications of potential terrorist threats aimed at American, Western, and Kenyan interests in Kenya.  Terrorist acts could include suicide operations, bombings, kidnappings, attacks on civil aviation as evidenced by the 2002 attacks on an Israeli airliner, and attacks on maritime vessels in or near Kenyan ports.  Travelers should consult the Worldwide Caution for further information and details.  Many of those responsible for the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in 1998 and on a hotel in Mombasa in 2002 remain at large and continue to operate in the region. 

In July 2009, three NGO workers were kidnapped and taken into Somalia by suspected members of a terrorist group that operates out of Somalia.  In November 2008, armed groups based in Somalia crossed into Kenya near the town of El Wak and kidnapped two Westerners.  The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi has designated a small portion of Kenya bordering Somalia and Ethiopia as “restricted without prior authorization” for purposes of travel by U.S. Government employees, contractors, grantees and their dependents.  This designation is based on reports of Somali-based armed groups that have on occasion crossed into Kenya to stage attacks or to commit crimes.  This restriction does not apply to travelers not associated with the U.S. Government, but should be taken into account when planning travel.  The restriction is in effect for the following areas:

  • All of Mandera District.
  • The entire area north and east of the town of Wajir, including travel on Highway C80 and areas east of C80 and an 80-kilometer wide band contiguous with the Somalia border.  Travel to and within the towns of Wajir and Moyale remains unrestricted. 
  • Within Garissa District, an 80-kilometer wide band contiguous with the Somalia border.  Travel to and within the town of Dadaab remains unrestricted.
  • Within Ijara District, an 80-kilometer wide band contiguous with the Somalia border; Boni National Reserve.
  • Within Lamu District, a 60-kilometer wide band contiguous with the Somalia border. Travel to and within the limits of towns within/contiguous to the Kiunga Marine Reserve remains unrestricted.

Violent and sometimes fatal criminal attacks, including armed carjackings and home invasions/burglaries, can occur at any time and in any location, particularly in Nairobi.  As recently as June 2008, U.S. Embassy personnel were victims of carjackings.  In the short-term, the continued displacement of thousands of people by the recent civil unrest combined with endemic poverty and the availability of weapons could result in an increase in crime, both petty and violent.  Kenyan authorities have limited capacity to deter or investigate such acts or prosecute perpetrators.

American citizens in Kenya should be extremely vigilant with regard to their personal security, particularly in public places frequented by foreigners such as clubs, hotels, resorts, upscale shopping centers, restaurants, and places of worship.  Americans should also remain alert in residential areas, at schools, and at outdoor recreational events, and should avoid demonstrations and large crowds.

Americans who travel to or reside in Kenya are encouraged to register through the State Department’s travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.  Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.  The U.S. Embassy is located on United Nations Avenue, Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya; telephone (254) (20) 363-6000.  In the event of an after-hours emergency, the Embassy duty officer may be contacted at (254) (20) 363-6170.  The Embassy home page is http://kenya.usembassy.gov .

Updated information on travel and security in Kenya may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  In conjunction with this Travel Warning, American citizens traveling to Kenya should also consult the Country Specific Information for Kenya and the Worldwide Caution, which are available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet website at http://travel.state.gov.