Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens
Travel Warning - Kenya
November 4, 2011
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. This replaces the Travel Warning of December 28, 2010, to update information about the current security situation, and the potential impact of the refugee influx.
The U.S. government continues to receive information regarding potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S., Western, and Kenyan interests in Kenya, particularly after the death of Osama Bin Laden. Terrorist acts could include suicide operations, bombings, kidnappings, attacks on civil aviation, and attacks on maritime vessels in or near Kenyan ports. Although there have been recent gains in the pursuit of those responsible for previous terrorist activities, many of those involved remain at large and continue to operate in the region. Travelers should consult the Worldwide Caution for further information and details.
On October 14, 2011, two Spanish nationals working for an NGO were kidnapped in Dadaab refugee camp, in northeastern Kenya. On October 1, 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. On September 11, 2011, a British national wife and husband were kidnapped - and the husband murdered - at a coastal resort near the Kenya–Somali border. The motivation for these kidnappings is unclear, but the perpetrators took all of the hostages into areas of Somalia controlled by Al Shabaab, a designated terrorist organization, with some links to Al Qaeda. On October 16, 2011, Kenya initiated military action against Al Shabaab, declaring self-defense. Kenyan troops crossed into Somalia and are actively pursuing Al Shabaab in southeastern Somalia. Al Shabaab has responded to the Kenyan incursion into Somalia by threatening retaliation against civilian targets in Kenya.
In the early morning of October 24, 2011, a hand grenade was tossed into a night club in downtown Nairobi, injuring 14 Kenyan patrons. Later the same day, another grenade exploded at a crowded bus stop, killing one and injuring 16 Kenyans. In North Eastern Kenya, on October 27, a vehicle carrying officials from the Ministry of Education was attacked, leaving four dead, and on October 28 a police vehicle was heavily damaged after driving over an explosive device. Responsibility for these incidents has not been determined, though an individual was sentenced on October 28 for his role in the grenade attack on the night club. U.S. citizens traveling to Kenya for business or pleasure should take these actions and incidents into account when planning their travel.
The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi has designated a 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. Although this restriction does not apply to travelers not associated with the U.S. government, it should be taken into account when planning travel. Travelers should be aware that U.S. Embassy security personnel recently expanded the restricted area to include portions of Lamu district. This designation is based on reports of Somali-based armed groups known to have crossed into Kenya to stage attacks or to commit crimes. The U.S. Embassy 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 (about 50 miles) -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 (about 50 miles) -wide band contiguous with the Somalia border. Travel to and within the town of Dadaab remains unrestricted.
- Within Ijara District, an 80-kilometer (about 50 miles) -wide band contiguous with the Somalia border; Boni National Reserve.
- Within Lamu District, a 60-kilometer (about 40 miles) -wide band starting northeast of Pate Island to the Somalia border. Towns and resorts within/contiguous to the Kiunga Marine Reserve are now included in the restricted area.
Violent and sometimes fatal criminal attacks, including armed carjackings, home invasions/burglaries, and kidnappings can occur at any time and in any location, most particularly in Nairobi. U.S. citizens have fallen victim to such crimes within the past year. U.S. 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. U.S. citizens should also remain alert in residential areas, at schools, and at outdoor recreational events.
U.S. citizens should use common-sense precautions, such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas during daylight hours, using well-marked taxis, locking vehicle and lodging doors, carrying small amounts of cash and credit cards, wearing small amounts of jewelry, knowing emergency phone numbers, and being aware of your surroundings. These measures can help ensure your travel to Kenya is safe and enjoyable.
The drought affecting the Horn of Africa is causing thousands of people to pour across Kenya’s porous borders each week. With Kenya's endemic poverty and the availability of weapons in the area, the result could be an increase in crime, both petty and violent. Kenyan authorities have limited capacity to deter or investigate such acts or prosecute perpetrators.
U.S. citizens should avoid demonstrations and political rallies of all kinds. Most political gatherings are peaceful, but they can turn violent with no notice. In the run-up to the constitutional referendum in June 2010, six Kenyans were killed and 100 injured at a prayer meeting/political rally in Uhuru Park in downtown Nairobi. The next Kenyan presidential election is set to take place in late 2012.
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 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 and the Worldwide Caution, which are located on the U.S. Department of State, 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 iPhone App to have travel information at your fingertips.