Security in Kenya

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Jun 14th, 2000, 01:14 PM
  #1
frank Augustine
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Security in Kenya

My wife Pat and I are planning a trip to Kenya and Tanzania in August and Sept.It will be a 2 part trip. The first will be a an escorted Elderhostel tour called "Rural Kenya". It will incude Naivasha,Nakuru,Aberdares and a 3 day stay in Masai Mara which promises to be quite good plus about 3 days in Nairobi. Following that we are planning an independent tour of Kenya and Tanzania, a self fly tour, renting a light aircraft out of Wilson airport.Right now we are planning on retracing some of the ground tour and adding in other stops including Sarova Shaba, Amboseli, maybe Tsavo
and Manyara,Ngorongoro and Serengeti for sure. Now the questions. About 2 weeks ago there was a rather negative article in the NY
Times Magazine saying Kenya tourism is going downhill and the reason is a bad political climate plus street crime particulrly in Nairobi.I am quite dubious about the fairness of this article but does anyone have any knowledge of this? I also have a report of possible nasty conditions(crime,terrorism) in Tsavo from another source.Anybody heard of this?The latter part of our trip will be unescorted and we will be on our own in Nairobi so it would be nice to know what to lookout for.
 
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Jun 15th, 2000, 04:01 AM
  #2
Bert
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I received the following information (response to the NYT article) from a safari operator based in Nairobi (I will also be visiting Kenya on an educational visit in early August):

RESPONSE TO NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE ARTICLE OF 4/6/00 BY KENYA TOURIST BOARD

We recognize that there are certain factual instances that have to be
acknowledged, although most of these are historical and Kenya has moved a long way forward.

However, inaccuracies in the article that need to be corrected are as
follows: They are in chronological order as they appear in the article.

1. Peter Behr's quoted experience at the hands of carjackers was six
years ago, even further ago than the four years stated in the article. He writes: " I completely refute that I said "the safari trade was unlikely to survive..that insecurity had taken too firm a hold in Kenya for tourism to recover.." I am a Kenyan and proud of my country and tourism is not only my profession but also my passion."

2. Lack of tourists at the time of Harden's visit on the 16th and 17th January 2000. This was not a phenomenon unique to Kenya. The first few weeks of January were slow for many destinations all over the world due mainly to factors associated with the Millennium.

3. Carjacking. Mr. Chris MacDonald, Managing Director of Cartrack said, "It is almost unheard of for a tourist vehicle to be hijacked, but in any case, most safari companies have taken the precaution of having our cartracking device fitted to their tourist vehicles."

4. The roads are not in ruins. It is true that El Nino caused extensive damage to some routes. A good many of those have now been repaired or re-built, including certain tourist routes such as the Langata road by Wilson Airport, and the Mombasa Road.

5. While we all acknowledge that the telephone system could be improved, it is a gross exaggeration to say, " telephones barely worked." There is excessive demand, especially for email and Internet. Many international organizations that depend on a good
communications system have a substantial base here in Nairobi. Mobile phones are available, both Vodafone and Vivendi have recently entered into the market and the privatisation of Telkom is planned for the end of this year.

6. The school system is not "on the verge of collapse". In fact, year on year, the number of students graduating at any level of our education has been growing, not declining.

7. Harden uses Lufthansa and Air France ending passenger services from Nairobi as an example of Western governments and investors turning their backs on the country. This is not the case. The
withdrawal was purely on profit decisions. Both these airlines were
previously government run and were now being privatized. So Kenya only became a victim of rationalisation.

There has actually been a growing interest shown recently on this route by very reputable world-class airlines.

And by comparison, Kenya Airways has recently turned in a superb performance. Overall turnover up by 39 per cent. Operating profits up
by 77 per cent. Profit before tax at 100%. Profit after tax up 194%.
Earnings per share up by 194%. Overall dividend per share of Sh 1.25.
Return on capital of 44 per cent. An increase in passengers carried of 26 per cent.

8. The article states that the film of Kuki Gallman's book could not be shot in Kenya for security reasons. The fact is that outdoor scenes WERE filmed on her ranch in Laikipia. She has sent a 2-page letter to the Editor about the article. In it she says, " This
decision was due to reasons of available infrastructure, and
financial and tax considerations, as I was told. It is therefore not correct to say as stated in the article that the film was for reasons of insecurity in Kenya, shot partially in South Africa. Anyone who knows about South Africa will agree that security is not the major asset of this otherwise lovely country, certainly not of Natal where the crew was based."

9. With regard to the comments about donor aid: Recent aid negotiations have resulted in a positive decision and aid resumption is expected by July 2000 from the World Bank and IMF Boards. This also entails that other key donors such as the UK, Germany, and the
EC will follow suit and proceed with programme finance release. The key decisive elements of these renewed relations are the launching of a new three-year budget framework (MTEF) and a poverty reduction strategy. In addition, we are sending copies of two press releases to the Editor. One is from Harold Wackman, Country Director of the World Bank - Kenya; and the other from the IMF Mission to Kenya.

10. It is not "six spine-crunching hours on bad roads" to the Masai
Mara. There is a tarmac road from Nairobi for part of the way, followed by a good dirt road to the Sekanani Gate, a journey that takes four hours on average. 65% of the tourists visiting the Mara actually go by road.

We find the style of photography by Robert Huber unacceptable, and
are supported in this statement by an American wildlife photographer who has written directly to Blaine Harden and the Editor complaining of the lack of honesty in the article and the stage-management of the photographs. He says, " As a reporter for the New York Times, you have an obligation to report the facts honestly, accurately and
without bias.

Latest figures show hotel bed occupancy as follows: City hotels current 60% rising to between 85 and 90 % for July and August. Safari Lodges 50% current rising to 90% for July/August. Beach hotels as 40% current rising to 70% for July and August.

Lodges in the Mara and Samburu are already reporting near maximum
bookings for July and August.

Nairobi has recently hosted some very prestigious international
conferences demonstrating confidence in our ability to handle security, communications and first class accommodation and hospitality. Examples include CITES (1600 delegates from 130
countries), HABITAT and the 5th Conference of Parties of the Convention of Biodiversity.

While acknowledging that there have been instances in the past of
tourists being robbed it is essential to point out that not only does
Kenya still compare extremely favourably to other destinations -
including those in the "first world." it also pulls out all the stops
when an incident does occur.

The setting up of the Security and Communications Centre by the Kenya
Tourism Federation is a case in point. In incidents that it has been
involved with, most of the tourists have continued their safaris.

Furthermore, the setting up of a Police Unit fully dedicated to tourists (the Tourist Police Unit) is worthy of note.

The recent Economic Survey shows that tourism earnings in 1999 were 22.1% up over 1998 and the upward trend is continuing. Arrivals were up by 8.4%. The year 2000 forecast is looking even better. One leading operator is currently bringing in 5 charters a week, with major charters in Europe (Condor, Neckerman, Somak) having committed at least 100 extra seats per week starting July.
 
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Jun 15th, 2000, 06:01 AM
  #3
Frank
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Thanks, Bert the reply is heartening even though it is a from an "official"
source.I would like to hear from private parties who have been there recently.
 
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Jun 15th, 2000, 07:52 AM
  #4
bly
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Frank: We were in Kenya and Tanzania in March/April of 1999. This was just months after the bombing of both the Kenyan and Tanzanian embassies and the tourist murders in the Congo. Needless to say, we were very concerned. In Nairobi and Mombasa, we were bombarded by people offering to be our driver, guide, offering "great deals", etc. but didn't ever feel that we were in danger. There was an uncomfortable feeling of being stared at where ever we went but out of curiosity not malice. Once we were on safari, we felt completely at ease, athough we were with a guide at all times. Email me with other questions. I don't know if the political climate has changed drastically within the year. b
 
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Jun 15th, 2000, 10:36 PM
  #5
Myriam
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Frank,
When we were in Kenya in 1996 there were also tourist travelling on their own. When we left from Tsavo to Amboseli our minibusses as well as the tourists travelling on their own - were all escorted by armed policemen (2 in the first jeep and 2 in the last one). No-one could leave the park without escort.
As far as Nairobi is concerned, we have been there for only one day and that was more than enough for me. I felt very unsafe, it was dirty and extremely crowded (and so is Mombasa).

 
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Jun 18th, 2000, 11:31 AM
  #6
Adair
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Frank, I too will be in Kenya and Tanzania this August. I am travelling with 4 other women and then the trip breaks down to just two of us. I was in Nairobi many years ago (10) and it was an unsafe city then. However, it can not be thought of as any more unsafe than many of our large American cities. Carjackings take place almost daily in New Orleans, Miami and LA. You just need to use extra common sense and not be careless. Don't carry a purse/bag that can easily be snatched. Use a money belt. Don't stand on a corner looking at a map as if you are lost. In Nairobi, TAKE A CAB, walk as little as possible. Nairobi is not the cleanest place but it is pristine next to Mexico City. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. I have felt more fear walking the streets of D.C. and Philidelphia than in Nairobi. As for tours and safaris, have a guide at all times. That is just the smart thing to do. Hope this helped and have a wonderful trip. Kenyans are some of the finest people you will ever meet.
 
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Jun 29th, 2000, 03:38 PM
  #7
jo
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I just returned from a safari in Kenya
last wk. While I did not spend much time
in Nairobi and did not care to I really
didn't feel like it was more unsafe than
any u.s. city. I think it is actually
safer because we were told that while
there is crime it is not violent crime.
The same goes throughout Kenya.
In the game reserves I felt quite safe. From time to time we saw armed
guards patrolling. I felt safer there
than I do in Boston where I live.
For me it was the trip of a lifetime
and the Kenyans were the nicest people
I have ever met and I have traveled a
fair amount. They were friendly, polite
and interested in us and I really miss
the people and the place. I want to return
as soon as possible.
 
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Jul 4th, 2000, 08:00 PM
  #8
cary
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Nairobi is not a safe city. It is far less safe than NY is. Car jackings are rampant and internationals live in houses with armed guards. When I was last there, I felt much safer with tour companies outside the city in the game parks. I appreciate that the Kenyans are trying to keep tourism alive, but anyone going there should be fully aware of how dangerous the city is.
 
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Jul 9th, 2000, 06:41 PM
  #9
Al
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I am so glad to read the posting above that lauds the safety of that part of Africa. It will be of such comfort to a woman who was in the tour group immediately preceding ours. She was shot to death by gun-toting bandits in the Serengeti.
 
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Jul 10th, 2000, 06:58 AM
  #10
Willow
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I am truly sorry for the woman who was shot and of course for her family but we can not think that the whole country of Kenya is a bad place to visit. I live in New Orleans and unfortunately, tourist do get killed here by robbers and theives. What everyone should do is be aware of your surroundings at all times, get the best guides available and listen to them. The last time I was in Africa (1986) we could not go to the Oldavi Gorge because of bandits. It sadly happens. I know of a group who were kidnapped and many killed in Uganda while looking at gorillas. Let's face it. We can take our chances and see the world or we can live safely in a bubble. No place is completely safe anymore. When I go back this summer, I will stay in Nairobi for as short of time as possible (waiting for connecting flights). There is nothing in the city that I want to see badly enough to put myself in un-necessary danger.

Again, I am truly sorry for the death of the woman on Safari.
 
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Jul 10th, 2000, 09:11 AM
  #11
Bert
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I have to agree with the previous poster. The unfortunate death of one person, tragic as it was, is no reason to condemn an entire country, or to make sarcastic remarks and take a cheap shot at people who are trying to make a valid contribution here.

Several people were shot in Pittsburgh the other day by a madman with a gun. What does that prove, that you have to avoid Pittsburgh at all costs? Or the entire United States? Of course not.
 
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