The US will not lift the travel advisory against Kenya issued to its citizens last July, the US ambassador to Kenya said Tuesday.
The move will come as blow to the tourism industry, which is still recovering from the twin effects of the post-election violence and global economic meltdown.
Addressing a meeting of US and Kenyan businessmen at the Hilton Hotel, Nairobi Ambassador Michael Ranneberger said the ban will not be lifted anytime soon given the security threat posed to Kenya by the porous borders with neighbouring Somalia.
“They (travel advisories) will be around for a long time to come… I am afraid that’s not going to change,” he said.
He said that as long as the “crisis in Somalia goes on” then the US had a responsibility to protect its citizens.
However, the envoy defended the step saying it will not affect the tourism industry, as studies had shown that the advisory had “minimal impact” on Americans wishing to visit Kenya.
The announcement came within the week after America’s Intelligence Chief Leon Panetta left Nairobi and on the day that the assistant secretary of defence in charge of International Security, Mr Alexander Vershbow held talks withPrime Minister Raila Odinga.
Mr Ranneberger said Somalia was a “difficult situation.”
African leaders see a stable Somali government as the only answer to the terror and piracy posed to the neighbouring countries.
Kenya recently launched a crackdown on illegal immigrants leading to the arrest of hundreds of Somalis who are in the country after fleeing anarchy in their home country.
“American citizens in Kenya and those considering travel to Kenya should evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing threats from terrorism and the high rate of violent crime,” reads the advisory posted on a US government website.
A businessman had complained to the ambassador that the warnings had ruined Kenya’s tourism sector, which was picking up after the shaky first two years of the coalition government.