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Kenya Ministry of Tourism seeks to dampen concerns

Kenya Ministry of Tourism seeks to dampen concerns

Officials at the Kenya Ministry of Tourism are attempting to quell a growing crisis in the sector after two kidnappings in coastal areas near Somalia prompted the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to advise against travel to the region.

In the latest attack, Marie DeDieu, a French citizen, was abducted from a private residence in Manda Island on Saturday.

Two gunmen stormed the residence and took the hostage to a waiting speedboat before fleeing into international waters. 

It is believed that the perpetrators are gunmen operating from Somalia.

In the first attack in September, gunmen shot Briton David Tebbutt and kidnapped his wife Judith from Kiwayu.

The Somali government said Mrs Tebbutt had been taken across the border into Somalia by Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab.

The attacks have prompted the FCO to advise against “all but essential travel” to within 150 kilometres of the Kenya-Somalia border, including along the coast strip north of Pate Island towards Somali waters.

The FCO had previously warned visitors not to stray within 60 kilometres of the border.

“We also advise against all but essential travel to low income areas of Nairobi, including all township or slum areas,” added an FCO statement.

Despite the attacks, Kenya is doing everything to ensure the safety of visitors, officials insisted.

“It has been widely acknowledged the containment of the long term problems of Somalia within that country’s borders has become a major international problem,” said Kenya minister for tourism, Najib Balala.

“Kenya, working closely with its allies and the United Nations, is doing everything within its power to ensure that the effects of the blight and unrest, which have affected Somalia for so long, does not further encroach across Kenyan borders either by land or sea.

“Tourism, being an important sector within Kenya’s economy and a major employer, the government will spare no efforts to ensure that our visitors enjoy their holidays and stay in Kenya without any apprehension,” he added.

Problems only affected a small part of the country, Balala added.

“We wish to point out to all our international visitors and our friends in the travel trade that the recent despicable acts of Somali pirates have only affected a small part of our territory,” he explained.

“A glance at the map will show that these events have occurred hundreds of kilometres away from the coastal and inland destinations which are so popular with the majority of our visitors.

“With the small exception of the northern coast none of our visitor destinations are in any way affected by the changes in some country’s travel advisories which were announced overnight.”