(eTN) – The announcement by the US Embassy in Nairobi, that they had “credible intelligence of an imminent attack on tartest in Mombasa” was taken a step further yesterday when all their personnel deployed in Mombasa packed up and returned to Nairobi. This visible departure and public gesture was strongly condemned by tourism stakeholders and Kenyans at large, accusing the US mission of fueling hysteria, despondency, and failing to stand by their friend, with some, in fact, accusing them of “running away.”
Other sources pointedly assured this correspondent overnight that there were still plenty of Americans at the coast, clearly insinuating there “membership” in security organizations of the US government. The French Embassy in Nairobi has equally urged their citizens in Kenya to be “extremely vigilant” and almost as in an afterthought, the British High Commission suddenly yesterday afternoon also came out with a statement, which sounded almost like “Hey listen guys, I also know something,” pun fully intended.
A tourism stakeholder in regular contact with this correspondent, insisting on anonymity probably to see his business stay in the good books with the Americans, said overnight: “Our low season is about to end, and by July we should be back in the high season. We were expecting a significant upturn in business from then onwards. But with this latest public display by the American Embassy, which really amounts to a travel ban to Mombasa in general, we are now worried what is going to happen. If nothing happens, will they compensate us for loss of business?
“If in a movie theatre someone shouts ‘FIRE’ and causes a stampede, they are charged in court. If the Americans shout ‘FIRE,’ they just get away with it? This is causing a hysteria, almost a panic. Are they consulting, liaising with our Kenyan security, or just showing off? Are they sharing information with our own government agencies? They have done such things so often that their own credibility is now under fire. We are not amused at all especially over their public display of packing and leaving as if we were a war zone.”
Another regular contributor appreciated a Tweet from this correspondent stating, “Send a ticket and I will come,” as an expression of support to the embattled tourism sector at the Kenya coast, which was gearing up to welcome the first ever inclusive tour charter from Slovakia in a few days time.
No official statements are available yet from key tourism associations like the Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association or the Nairobi-based Kenya Tourism Federation, while Kenyan security agencies are attempting to downplay the public display of desertion by the Americans from the coast.
Since entering Somalia last year, Kenya has been subject to threats by the Islamic terrorist group, Al Shabab, and has suffered periodic, though isolated, attempts to disrupt public life with grenades. Al Shabab of late has stepped up their rhetoric by threatening to bring down some high-rise buildings in Kenya’s capital Nairobi.
Previously, the American Embassy was bombed in 1998 by Al Qaida, followed by a 2002 attack on the Israeli-owned Paradise Beach Hotel and an attempt to shoot down an Israeli charter flight leaving Mombasa’s international airport, when the missile fired at it failed to lock on and went astray.
After tea, tourism is the second largest revenue earner for Kenya, and the country depends on tourism for investments, jobs, and foreign exchange earnings. Last year, Kenya’s tourism industry broke all previous records in terms of tourist arrivals and revenues reaching just under 100 billion Kenya shillings, but in 2012, the trend has softened, and the already-seen slight downturn is, after this latest travel ban, likely to further reverse the gains made last year.