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Security problems may doom Kenya's travel and tourism business

Second blast in Nairobi kills one, injures dozens

Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Kenya  Oct 25, 2011

Nairobi was stunned by a second attack yesterday evening. This time at least one life has been lost and at least 13 innocent bystanders were injured following the attack at a bus terminal. A major security crackdown was already underway, following the earlier incident , and was focusing on illegal Somali and other immigrants, prompting fears of a witch hunt amongst the ‘legal’ Somali community members.

The implications of a second such attack in less than 24 hours are sending chills down the spines of the Kenyan establishment and its tourism fraternity. Security meetings and stakeholder meetings are underway discussing further measures to ensure safety and security of Kenyans and visitors alike and to restore a sense of calm.

Understandably not a single source wanted to go on a record, but several at least gave their own views to this correspondent, including a former well placed politician who said: ‘Going into Somalia on our mission to create a buffer was forced on us by Al Shabab and other militants and these pirates. They operated with impunity thinking they were safe just a few steps across the border. Kenya has a right for self defense and the militants are not speaking for Somalia, they are the enemies of Somalia. The government in Mogadishu is in joint operations with us, so is the AU force. Our troops must finish their job and we cannot give way now because some of them are throwing grenades in Nairobi. If we stop before the job is finished in Kismayu we will pay a very high price afterwards. We are at war. Legal residents and citizens of Somali descent should not fear, they should be helping police and security to identify illegals, those with a bad agenda, the militants, the abettors of the pirates that should be reported immediately. The more the Somali community in Kenya cooperates the better and quicker our police can nab the culprits and bring them to justice. Those caught will face charges in court and will hang when found guilty. We are all very saddened by the loss of life and pray for those injured but we cannot stop now, this must be finished once and for all to secure Kenya’s future’. A senior tourism stakeholder in contrast was in near panic and a message from him read as follows: ‘Whoever is behind this and Al Shabab is the main suspect organization, knows what effect such random attacks have. Kenyans will be scared to go places, use busses, go shopping, send kids to school. These terrorists have no mercy on kids and innocent people. They are now targeting us in revenge but they started it with abductions. Our tourism industry is at cross roads now. If our security cannot stop this right now we will see travel advisories left right and centre warning visitors off. This could mean ruin for our sector and for our economy. To be honest, right now everyone is just looking over their shoulders and is suspicious of the person next to us. It is almost like it must have been in America after 9/11, we know there are enemies amongst us but don’t know who they are and what they look like. This is very very bad’.

Meanwhile the arrests of dozens of illegal immigrants, not just Somalis, but from other countries too, being reported from all major cities and towns, as a combined crackdown by all security organizations is underway. Alongside Kenya’s military intervention in a cross border operation did an internal security operation unfold, now even more intensified after the two grenade blasts. Restaurants, shopping malls and supermarkets, office buildings and government offices are now all responding to the new threats by installing additional screening points and beefing up security already in existence, where individuals and vehicles are being thoroughly checked - situation already common in Uganda which suffered a retaliatory terror strike by Al Shabab on the eve of the FIFA World Cup final last year. It is also understood from Ugandan sources that security cooperation within the East African Community has been stepped up along the events in Kenya and that the ‘dragnet’ on illegal immigrants and suspect individuals has been expanded into the wider region. International support by leading global anti-terrorism units has apparently also been offered and accepted, providing extra intelligence to East African governments who are not always able to ‘eavesdrop’ on communications, lack sophisticated surveillance equipment and the interpretive capacities needed to establish the where, when and how.

In a related development, many Kenya’s political, administrative and community leaders of Somali origin come out strongly in favor of Kenya’s military operation and asked their own ethnic community to cooperate with the authorities and by doing so show their loyalty to their own country. Right now though it is prayers and good wishes to peace-loving Kenyans of all ethnic backgrounds as the rest of us across East Africa stand with you and by you.

Second blast in Nairobi kills one, injures dozens
Wounded Kenyan man receives treatment at Kenyatta national hospital / Image AFP Photo/Simon Maina

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