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Travel Warning - Kenya (Jan 14, 2013)
 

Travel Warning - Kenya

U.S. Embassy, Nairobi, Kenya

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Kenya.  U.S. citizens in Kenya,  and those considering travel to Kenya, should evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing and recently heightened threats from terrorism and the high rate of violent crime in some areas. The levels of risk vary throughout the country.  The Embassy will continue to monitor the security situation and provide updates.  This replaces the Travel Warning of July 3, 2012, to update information about the current security situation.

The U.S. government continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S., Western, and Kenyan interests in Kenya.  Terrorist acts can include suicide operations, bombings, kidnappings, attacks on civil aviation, and attacks on maritime vessels in or near Kenyan ports.  Although the pursuit of those responsible for previous terrorist activities continues, many of those involved remain at large and still operate in the region.  Travelers should consult the Worldwide Caution for further information and details.

Kenya initiated military action against al-Shabaab by crossing into Somalia on October 16, 2011, and, on June 2, 2012, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) whereby it formally joined the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).  Kenyan troops within AMISOM are now actively pursuing al-Shabaab in southeastern Somalia.  In response to the Kenyan intervention, al-Shabaab and its sympathizers have conducted retaliatory attacks against civilian and government targets in Kenya.

In the past year, there have been over 30 attacks involving grenades or explosive devices in Kenya. At least 76 people died in these attacks, and around 220 people were injured.  There were no U.S. citizens among the casualties. Ten of these attacks occurred in North Eastern Province, mainly in Dadaab, Wajir, and Garissa.  Four attacks occurred in Mombasa. Six grenade and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks have occurred in Nairobi, illustrating an increase in the number of attacks and an advance in the sophistication of attacks.  Targets included police stations and police vehicles, nightclubs and bars, churches, a mosque, a religious gathering, a downtown building of small shops, and a bus station.  One of the deadliest attacks occurred in  Nairobi on November 18, 2012, when an IED detonated on a passenger bus in Eastleigh, killing ten.  The most fatal  attack in Kenya this past year occurred on July 1, 2012, with two simultaneous assaults on churches in Garissa.  In this attack, 17 people were killed and about 50 people were injured.  Additionally, Kenyan law enforcement has  disrupted several terrorist plots, which resulted in the discoveries of weapons caches and other dangerous materials, and the arrests of several individuals.

Multiple kidnappings of Westerners have occurred in Kenya.  In September 2011, a British woman was kidnapped and her husband murdered at a coastal resort near the Kenya-Somali border.  The British hostage was released in  March 2012 after payment of ransom.  In October 2011, a French national was kidnapped from a private residence on the popular tourist destination of Lamu Island on Kenya's north coast.  She died while in captivity in Somalia.  Also in October 2011, two Spanish nationals working for a NGO were kidnapped in a Dadaab refugee camp, in  northeastern Kenya.  They are still being held.  On June 29, 2012, four international aid workers (from Canada,  Pakistan, Norway, and the Philippines) were kidnapped in Dadaab.  All were rescued on July 1, 2012.

In response to the security threats within Kenya posed by violent extremists, including al-Shabaab, the Government of Kenya announced on December 13, 2012 that all urban refugees (primarily Somalis) should relocate to refugee camps.  The Kenyan government is currently conducting sweeps at checkpoints and in predominantly Somali-inhabited areas of Kenya searching for proof of status in Kenya and sending those who are refugees to camps.  U.S. citizens of Somali descent should be aware that they may encounter interruptions in their travel due to these directives.  It is very important to carry proof of identity and legal status in Kenya (i.e., valid visa).  If you are detained by police or immigration officials, you should request to speak to someone from the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.

As a result of these recent events and threats, U.S. government employees, contractors, grantees, and their dependents are prohibited from traveling to the North Eastern Province, including the cities of El Wak, Wajir,  Garissa, Dadaab, Mandera, and Liboi.  Although the U.S. government travel restriction for Lamu has been lifted,  U.S. citizens should consider ongoing security concerns following recent events involving U.S. citizens in Lamu,  including a sexual assault and threatened kidnapping.  U.S. government personnel are restricted from traveling  to the coastal area north of Pate Island, including Kiwayu and north to Kiunga on the Kenya/Somalia border.

Although these restrictions do not apply to travelers not associated with the U.S. government, U.S. citizens already in Kenya should take these restrictions into account when planning travel.  The Embassy regularly reviews the security of these areas for possible modification.

Clashes occasionally occur in and around Isiolo and Moyale, both in Eastern province, and in 2012 there were numerous instances of sporadic violence and protests elsewhere in the country.  Rioting occurred in Mombasa  shortly after a local Muslim cleric with alleged ties to al-Shabaab was killed in a drive-by shooting, resulting  in the deaths of three policemen and four church burnings. Demonstrations in Kisumu (Western Kenya)  following the murder of two prominent Kenyan citizens in October 2012 turned violent, leaving at least four protestors dead.  More than 160 people have been killed in recent clashes between two communities in Tana River County, in Kenya's Coast Province.  While this violence is not directed at foreigners, protests and ethnic  clashes are unpredictable.  U.S. citizens are advised to check conditions and monitor local media reports before traveling to these areas.

Violent and sometimes fatal criminal attacks, including armed carjackings, grenade attacks, home invasions and burglaries, and kidnappings can occur at any time and in any location, particularly in Nairobi.  U.S. citizens, including U.S. Embassy employees, have been victims of such crimes within the past year.

U.S. citizens in Kenya should be extremely vigilant with regard to their personal security, particularly in crowded public places such as clubs, hotels, resorts, shopping centers, restaurants, bus stations, and places
of worship.  U.S. citizens should also remain alert in residential areas, at schools, and at outdoor recreational events.  U.S. citizens should use commonsense precautions at all times, to include the following practices:  avoid crowded transportation venues; visit only legitimate businesses and tourist areas only during daylight hours; use well-marked taxis and be sure to lock vehicle doors and keep windows up; lock all lodging doors and windows; carry minimal amounts of cash and credit cards; do not wear jewelry which attracts undue attention; know emergency phone numbers; do not resist or antagonize armed criminals; and always be aware of your surroundings.  These measures can help ensure your travel to Kenya is safe and enjoyable.

U.S. citizens should avoid demonstrations, political rallies of all kinds, and voter polling places, particularly in the lead up to Kenya's political primaries on January 17 and 18, 2013, general elections on March 4, and during a possible presidential run-off election to occur no later than April 18..  Kenya's last national election, in December 2007, resulted in widespread unrest and violence.  Isolated instances of suspected political violence have already occurred in some regions of the country.  U.S. citizens considering travel to Kenya during the election period should consider the possibility of civil disturbances, and disruptions of transportation and/or communication systems.

U.S. citizens who travel to or reside in Kenya are urged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to receive the most up-to-date security information.  By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.  U.S. citizens without internet access may enroll directly with the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.

The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi is located on United Nations Avenue, Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya; telephone (+254) (20) 363-6000; fax (+254) (20) 363-6410.  In the event of an after-hours emergency, the Embassy duty officer may be contacted at (+254) (20) 363-6000.  Travelers may also consult the U.S. Embassy Nairobi website for more information.

U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State's Country Specific Information for Kenya, the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts, which are all available on the U.S. Department of State's, Bureau of Consular Affairs website.  Travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444 from other countries. Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts.  Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook, and download our Smart Traveler app, available through iTunes and the Android market, to have travel information at your fingertips.