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Is it safe to travel to Kenya?

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Kenya is a beautiful country with a lot to offer tourists. It’s a chance for many people to experience a unique culture and take in some of the most stunning wildlife around. Unfortunately, many are wondering whether or not the days of travelling to Kenya are over.

Kenya tourism is in a very bleak place, particularly with the news of a recent terror attack in Nairobi on Tuesday 15th January. It’s made many would-be tourists ask whether it’s safe to travel there, or if this was an isolated incident.

At Least 21 People Killed In Kenyan Terror Attack

The attack took place at a hotel complex in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. It was reported that a group of heavily armed men stormed the complex and unleashed an attack that killed at least 21 people. The attack itself lasted several hours and finally ended in the early hours of Wednesday morning on the 16th January.

Kenyan tourism

Kenyan terror attack [photo credit:]

While the death toll is worryingly high for such a small-scale terrorist attack, over 700 people did manage to evacuate the scene safely. An additional 28 people were hospitalised following this major incident.

The attackers were labelled as terrorists by the Kenyan police force, and all of them were eliminated on the scene. They were armed with guns and explosives, with video footage from the event showing one suicide bomber detonating themselves inside the hotel complex.

Who Was Responsible?

In the aftermath of the terrorist siege, a Somali Islamist militant group called Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack. They claimed it was in response to US President, Donald Trump, announcing back in 2017 that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel. In response, they decided to target ‘Western and Zionist interests worldwide’ as a show of support for Muslim families in Palestine.

Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident. Precisely three years previously, the same group launched an attack on a Kenyan military based, murdering numerous soldiers. They were also responsible for the terrorist attack in 2013 where 67 people were killed in a siege that lasted days. The location of this particular attack was only two miles from where the current one took place. A further 150 students were also killed by a terrorist attack in April 2015 from members of Al-Shabaab.

The UK Government website makes a point in stressing that terrorist attacks frequently happen in Kenya. This terrorist group are the most prolific, and it’s thought a lot of their attacks are a response to Kenya’s military presence in Somalia.

How Is This Affecting Kenya Tourism?

With such a substantial presence in and around Kenya, Al-Shabaab poses a looming threat to Kenyan tourism. Many people were already put off by high-profile attacks in 2013 and 2015, with this new siege proving that things simply aren’t getting any better. It’s apparently not a one-off, and people just don’t feel safe when travelling to Kenya, particularly as the terrorist group are targetting places with high levels of tourism and Western influence.

The Kenyan police are urging everyone to be more vigilant and contact authorities the moment they see anything suspicious. Along with this, the government has imposed a curfew in some parts of the country. The affected areas include the following:

  • Mandera county
  • Lamu county
  • Tana River county
  • Garissa county

People are expected to stay indoors between 6:30pm and 6:30am. Yes, it’s an attempt to sure up security and makes people feel safe, but the mere presence of a curfew shows there are serious security concerns.

It’s worth noting, though, that some of the main tourist destinations – like Nairobi – aren’t in any of these counties, so are not affected by the curfew. Plus, Kenya is a large country with 47 counties, with some safe areas to visit.

Is It Safe To Travel To Kenya?

While Kenya tourism might not be hitting the peaks that it once experienced, there are still hundreds of thousands of tourists travelling there every year. The vast majority of visits are free from any trouble. But, in light of the recent terrorist attack, it makes sense to avoid travelling there right now.

Having said that, it may be safe to travel later in the year – provided there are no more significant incidents. Check the website for the most up to date information on travel risks.


Louise Boxall

Louise Boxall

Louise has 10 years experience in Travel Journalism, Blog Writing and Research in the Travel Insurance sector. Louise’s goal is to provide interesting, informative articles on subjects we know will interest our customers.

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