A Catch-22 in Kenya: Western Terrorism Alerts May Fuel Terrorism

Local officials see Western travel warnings as a reason for the collapse of tourism and hope that they will not become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Comments: 86

  1. As important as tourism is to the achievement of fulfillment in the life of the well-to-do, white man from Europe and North America, tourism is hardly an answer to Africa's problems. Africa is has so many other more important problems: Lack of education and infrastructure, overpopulation, distance from the tourists' countries, and boundaries drawn by European powers that are unworkable and which discourage a sense of national identity and unit. Tourism, like the Olympic Games, seldom add much to the lives of people who most need economic development in spite of all the hype the topic gets in the media.

  2. Unfortunately, Africa's worst problems are the pervasive tribalism and its attendant corruption. People are hired, fired or promoted according to their tribal affiliations not according to their abilities or needs. Land grabs are instituted by the government as "social policy" based on tribal favoritism and are upheld by a corrupt judiciary. Then when one tribe is ousted from power and another tribe ascends, the whole process is repeated with even more violence because now the former victims are out for revenge in addition to power and wealth. Sharing, tolerance, forgiveness and cooperation are just not valued in most African cultures. As long as different tribes must share geographic territory and natural resources these conflicts will continue.

  3. "Tourism, like the Olympic Games, seldom add much to the lives of people who most need economic development in spite of all the hype the topic gets in the media." Perhaps this is why tourism is encouraged by the Maoist government of Nepal.

  4. Pat O'Hern, your perspective is very western. There are many people who observe the treatment of nonwhites in America or Jews and Romani in Europe and find those places to not be tolerant either.

    How can you speak on sharing, tolerance, forgiveness and cooperation of 50+ different countries? It's amazing what the western mind can do.

  5. The writer of this seems (weirdly) more concerned about the effects on tourism than the safety of people being warned by their/own own government

    "the warnings may simply be increasing the joblessness that kindles terrorism"?
    Simply? What does that mean? The warnings are "simply" warning people of dangerous conditions. The consequences of this are a possible consequence. Would the writer suggest "simply" NOT warning people of potentially hazardous conditions to protect the local economy?

    "After a round of violence last summer in a remote coastal area where dozens of Kenyan villagers were killed, many Western embassies issued frightening-sounding travel advisories"

    I'd say that violence leading to killings justifies the "frighting-sounding" warnings, no? Shouldn't tourists know of potential dangers like these?

    And as a US official says, the government's primary duty is to safeguard its own citizens and warn them of dangers. For once, the government is getting it right here, despite the second-guessing of "some American officials." The bad effect on the local economy is a bad thing, to be sure, but not warning people because of this (as the writer seems to suggest) seems almost criminally negligent!

  6. Try to enjoy the unintentional self-parody. It's all we have left once the actual journalism runs out.

  7. Comment of the year!

  8. It makes perfect sense that the travel warnings would lead to no tourism, which would increase poverty in the region, which would increase terrorism. Unfortunately, it also makes perfect sense that governments should warn their citizens about regions that are dangerous to travel to. Kenya is not a war zone, certainly. But there have been terrorist attacks, and right here in the article it says heroin use is on the rise and people are signing up with the shabab. The warnings maybe could be toned down a bit but they still need to be issued.

    It should also be considered that, if no warnings were provided and tourists started to flock to the area again, then when they were kidnapped by terrorists, and shot and blown up, the bad press would do the same thing the warnings do, even more permanently.

    The solution here is not to stop issuing warnings but for Kenya, with the help of powerful nations like ourselves, to find and destroy all terrorist groups, and prevent people from joining them, until there is no local terrorism. It's not an easy solution, but it is the only solution, I believe.

    Metaphorically, say NYC had packs of rabid dogs running around town unchecked. Other areas would warn tourists not to come here, because who wants rabies? NYC would be wrong to request that warnings not be issued, because then unsuspecting tourists would get bit. The way to make warnings unnecessary would be getting rid of the rabid dogs, nothing else would really work.

  9. Kenya does not have the political or police commitment to eliminate the terrorist threat. President Kenyatta pledged that he would appoint a commission to investigate the terrorist Westgate bombing three years ago. He has still not appointed the commission. Kenya is a soft target for Al Shabab because of its poor and corrupt security and police forces, and further attacks are highly likely.

  10. Dear Prof,
    Thanks, that analysis does sound very likely. But this is their problem, not my problem. When they get it together to stomp out terrorism, then I'll consider a vacation on a Kenyan beach, because it does sound beautiful. Until then, there are lots of safe beautiful beaches within driving distance.

  11. “ 'There are neighborhoods in Washington, Anacostia, for example, that are way more dangerous than Nyali or Diani,' he said, citing two relatively quiet Kenyan beach towns. "

    Perhaps, but tourists don't go to these dangerous neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. When we travel abroad, we rely on our government to advise us about safety. Having my family vacation end with a kidnapping and beheading would be terrible in any case, but especially tragic if the State Department had held back its best advice in order to protect a foreign economy.

  12. I visited Kenya last Summer to see my son who works in Nairobi. We safely walked and taxied to many places around the city including parks. malls, museums, restaurants and outdoor markets. The city was crowded and the traffic chaotic but I never felt threatened or intimidated. We did not walk the streets at night and did not go to the coast because we chose a safari to Amboseli and trip to Lake Naivasha which were both unforgettable. My son goes to the coast regularly but avoids the area bordering Somalia. The Kenyan coast is an uncrowded paradise with friendly people and affordable amenities. No need to hide under your bed from the boogeyman!

  13. I imagine one always feel safe until the moment one is not, so I'm not sure your anecdotal evidence is proof of anything.

  14. I'm suspicious of government advisories. I travel alone and unarmed to some of the most statistically dangerous places in the world--multiple times and for extended periods, in private homes and in small, family hotels, by public buses and by car. I guess I "violate" every "rule" in the advisory yet and not heedless to danger. I read the papers, get local advice, go where and how it is safe and don't wander around at night where there are gangs--it's no secret where it is safe and where it is sketchy.
    I feel bad for the people who deserve better but am fortunate to have whole countries to myself and perhaps a few Aussies!

  15. Travel advisories are a symptom. They are not themselves the problem. If tourists choose not to go to Kenya, I expect that it is because the news coming out of the country undermines confidence. To take another example, there is no current travel advisory on Egypt, but people still think twice about going. To Egypt's credit, the government invests massively in security -- and advertising -- to keep its tourist industry alive. Perhaps Kenya should take a look at Egypt's playbook ?

  16. Joblessness does not kindle terrorism. This is a false linkage. What kindles terrorism is poor governance and exploitation which builds a sense of hopelessness and resentment. That is then used by some to recruit. Poverty alone is not sufficient.

  17. Joblessness does kindle crime, though. However, for the purposes of this author's article "crime" alone is not scary enough, so he had to up the ante to "terrorism".

  18. How many beheading took place in the USA during the Great Depression, did crime surge?

  19. No beheadings that I am aware of. But the Depression coupled with the Volstead act gave us the rise of criminal gangs making a living selling alcohol and then using the money to enter union organizing, loan sharking, gambling and prostitution. My Grandfather drove trucks of whiskey coming in from Canada through Long Island Sound into New York City and whiskey from Bermuda through Miami. ( he didn't buy any land!)We also got the Independents running their own crime waves. Bonnie and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson, John Dillinger, Ma Barker and many others who specialized in bank robbery. I would say yes. Crime did surge during the Depression and it drew in people who would never have become involved in it had it not been for the grinding poverty.

  20. As someone who came this close to being in the middle of the 2008 Mumbai hotel massacre, I am extremely grateful that my government warns me about dangerous places to visit. This story insinuates that such government reports are exaggerated and the resulting loss of tourism and jobs somehow makes victims of the locals. Actually, the blame goes to the individual countries and their citizens, who seem to have little or no control over their territories and yet expect tourists -- particularly Americans -- to risk their lives for a little romp in the sun.

    Perhaps if Middle Eastern and African governments and populations would fight internal corruption and stand up to terrorism instead of expecting the U.S. to always bear the brunt of the battles, these regions of the world would be safer for tourists. But as it stands now, they're often risky places to live, even for their own citizens.

    As Bill Maher pointed out on his show last week, the Arab armies could muster well over a million men to eradicate the 10,000 to 20,000 members of the Islamic State, but they don't seem to have the will to do so. Yet some Arab states, especially Egypt, have no problem whining about a drop in tourism.

  21. Well said. You cannot expect tourism in a place where terrorists kidnap tourists or worse to support their violent behavior. While I feel sorry for the innocent civilians, it is their country's responsibility to address the problem. And, as noted above, there is much money within the Islamic community throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa and they need to use it to take a stand against this violence for the sake of their own followers. They need to show the world that Islam values life and takes action to create the peace needed to help life flourish.

  22. Nonsense! The assumption that Kenya has 'little or no control' over its territory is a misconception. Kenyans have been so thorough in their fight against terrorism that they are being accused of extrajudicial killings. Don't carelessly throw a generic statement around and expect it to apply to 'Middle Eastern and African governments'. From the little I know about terrorism, you don't have to leave home to experience it.

  23. Sorry to say but blaming the Kenyan government for not standing up to terrorism is ridiculous. Their military intervention in Somalia to fight Al-Shabaab as a US ally in the war on terror is exactly what made Kenya a target for terrorists.

  24. I am happy to sacrifice my life and the lives of my children if it might improve the tourism industry in a distant land, especially if it means possibly lowering the likelihood of terrorism in said distant land.

  25. Uninformed Americans should take hits for the tourism economies of Kenya? Or Russia? Or Mexico? No thanks.

  26. I'm not sure what you mean. I went to Mérida, Yucatán last month and it could not be safer, cleaner and more welcoming of tourists, young (with children) and very old, Spanish speaker or no.
    I then crossed through Yucatán west across over the mountains through Campeche and Palenque to San Christóbol de las Casas on a 16 hour overnighter on the excellent Mexican ADO bus. Chiapas is more like Central América (my ultimate destination) and from there I went south to Guatemala. without incident.
    The State Department warnings do seem excessive, as my second home El Salvador is always under some kind of advisory, and yet it is perfectly safe with the ordinary precautions. Since I've never seen a foreign service worker ever, in all of my months spent there, , I can only assume that these advisories are statistics based and paint with a broad brush. It's like tort lawyers and government fear mongers have created a generation of timid Americans. It is a shame as the best places are not Costa Rica or the dreadful Cancún (Las Vegas on the beach) but the less traveled places.

  27. I used to travel all over Mexico, and had a couple of scares back in the day - not enough to keep me away. But that was before the sicarios and their government/criminal gang bosses went crazy. I live 30 miles from the border but I haven't been across in 6 or 7 years.

  28. Not sure where the author is getting their info. US embassy employees receive danger pay for Kenya, indeed, security is a huge issue in most of east Africa. Lest we forget the embassy bombings, recent mall attack, and frequent fatal break and enters and car jackings that occur throuought the country. The coastal regions of Kenya have always been dangerous, now more so due to the rising threat of terrorism. I lived in Nairobbery for several years, loved my stay, but without good governance, the country is going down the tubes. Tourists have a plethora of choice. Why not come to Egypt instead, at least the new government here takes security seriously, and the beaches are much nicer.

  29. One can't help but mentally catalog well known terrorist events perpetrated by otherwise employed terrorists.

  30. Many comments seem to miss the point of the article -- yes there were and are security problems in parts of the Kenya coast, but it is a huge area, home to millions of people. Many parts of it are quite safe. But the danger warnings are applied to the entire area. More nuance is needed. It is, as the article states, like saying no one should visit Washington -- or New York -- because certain neighborhoods there are dangerous. "Hopelessness and resentment" -- to use the words of one comment that says they breed terrorists -- do indeed follow when an industry that has supported generations of wage-earners collapses almost overnight and there is nothing else to take its place.

  31. ...at which point, terrorism becomes morally defensible. Or at least, our fault, somehow.

    Good to see the Times do its part to make sure that terrorism doesn't happen as a result of yet more Western selfishness.

  32. Why should we feel guilty for people in some parts of the world prone to violence, kidnapping and ransoming? It is their problem, they should deal with it. I have a list of places around the world that I will never visit no matter how beautiful they are. I will not spend a dime on places that don't respect people. There are plenty of spectacular spots right here in the US which can use tourist dollars to prop up their economies. I have a friend who went to Kenya two years ago she came back totally deflated. She will never set foot in Africa again. It is sad but understandable. There is a number of countries that are still uncivilized backward and particularly dangerous for women even when accompanied by men. Good luck to them, we will visit when to get their act together.

  33. I took a group of college students to Kenya in 1980, and they insisted that part of their experience include Mombasa and other sections of the Swahili coast.

    Four of the coeds were threatened by Muslim men because they refused to go with these guys on an "outing." They then came to me (since I was the advisor) and leveled yet another threat. We stayed one additional (sleepless) night, then departed. A British couple was stabbed and robbed just as we were getting ready to leave. The survived their wounds.

    At that time, no embassy warning existed about the Kenyan coast.

    Of course, that was 35-years ago. Yet in 1998, a friend of mine was killed in the Nairobi terrorist bombing.

    I had my fun in Kenya, having visited that country a half-dozen times. But I'll limit my African travels to other locations that, at least at this point in time, are seemingly safe.

  34. It wasn't clear if the title to this piece was supposed to be "As Tourism Sags on Kenyan Coast, Terrorists Could Lure the Unemployed" or "Kenya Terror Warnings Risk Vicious Cycle." After some difficulty reconciling the photo with the story, I finally inferred it has to be the one that references "cycle" because the guy on the beach appears to be juggling the wheels.

  35. It is appropriate for the US State Dept to issue more dire travel warnings than other European governments -- We don't negotiate with terrorists and we NEVER pay ransom!

  36. So what should Western Governments do? Urge their citizens to go to dangerous zones to spread the love? ISIS would no doubt give them a warm welcome and Somali pirates would also be eager to see a cruise ship of ransom material. But I for one would not be best pleased if my Government told me all was safe when it is not. There are two ways of looking at this 'vicious cycle'. Western Governments make it worse by alerting their citizens to terrorist risks OR the terrorists bring economic ills on themselves by murdering the people who might otherwise spend much needed dollars.

  37. As an American with 30+ years in Africa, including many years as an expatriate in Kenya, here goes... First off, few Americans venture to the Coast as they favor the safari circuit. It's the Brits and the Germans who mostly go there. Thus a US State Department warning is probably not top of mind to them. Secondly, I went to Diani Beach on holiday last summer (to wash the dust after a safari) and found it perfectly safe and normal, except for the lack of tourists. Beachboys all over, but no easy marks on the sand. That was irritating (me and them).

    Agree, however, that the government of Kenya needs to do much better in addressing the many ills not only along the Coast as accurately described in the article, but also with the Muslim population at large, the totally corrupt and inefficient police, etc., etc. Only then will Kenya regain its footing as a prime tourist destination as well as drawing more (non-Chinese) foreign direct investment.

  38. Yes, it is the responsibility of the government of Kenya to make their country safe for tourists. I'm sure that some of you remember way back (20+ years ago) there was a rash of carjackings in Miami that specifically targeted tourists in rental cars. The news made the papers at least once a week for a while and tourism instantly dropped off.

    Within 2 months the federal, state and local governments had it stopped. They changed the license plates (car tags) so that they no longer said "rental". They beefed up surveillance around all car rental agencies, instituted sting operations and busted up the gangs and jailed the perpetrators. It cost the government quite a lot of money but tourism in Dade county returned to normal within 6 months.

    Yes, it can be done.

  39. Last summer was not the beginning of the decline in tourism, as the writer seems to suggest In 2011, near Mombasa, Somali pirates kidnapped a British woman and murdered her husband. Subsequently a French woman was kidnapped, also by Somali pirates, from the same area. Somalis wanted to destabilize tourism to punish the Kenyans for political intervention. If that doesn't constitute a Gov warning, what does?

  40. The premise borders on the irresponsible. What are you going to do? Recommend to someone that they go to Kenya and get into trouble? If someone is adventurous and wants to go... fine. However, for a normal business, the sane approach is to tell people, "you know, it might be better if you do X, Y or Z instead of Kenya"

  41. What premise? I did not read that they were suggesting you go. All I read is that poverty is an outcome of lack of tourism in the area, making it ripe for terrorists to recruit. But I also heard/read that to some extent it is the heroin addicts with a promise of money that are following up. Too many people read too much into things. This is a feature, an analysis with some speculation to be sure, but no where did it say "go, it's good."

  42. Methinks plain old criminal behavior is wrongly being labeled "terrorism". The distinction is important.

    Of course, I blame it in part on our own US government which would, according to the FBI, label a group of activists burning a crop of GMO corn as "terrorists," yet call Timothy McVeigh a mere 'mad bomber'.

  43. The volatilities of Africa are well documented and have never stopped westerners from visiting or residing there.This particular situation has been hyperbolised by the state department for ulterior motives. Yes,there are security reasons but they are too inflated to a point where readers might confuse Kenya with Baghdad.Why?The political chill between Washington and Kenyatta. This may sound trivial to some but the obvious disdain is quite palpable. Obama goes to Africa and doesn't momentarily stop in Kenya his biggest ally in the war on terrorism in Africa. That spoke volumes. It's about time the White house realize that one hand washes the other. If teenagers get in bedded and trained by terrorist groups there who is to know where they will export it to?Kenyans are are a peace loving people and if we welcome you to our house your security is taken seriously otherwise we wouldn't say Karibuni (welcome in).

  44. The author of this article neglects to mention what percentage of the tourists on the Kenyan coast were Americans before the warnings. I find it difficult to believe that American tourists dominated that area. Contrary to popular belief, Americans are relatively rare on a worldwide scale.

    There are only about 110m American passports, and it goes without saying that very few of those have Kenyan stamps. Many, if not most, of those passports have never crossed an Ocean.

    This article is extremely light on data, or even information, and very heavy on speculation.

  45. Especially when a passport AND a visa are required for entry into Kenya.

  46. Majority of recognized countries require visas for US passports.

  47. you get the visa at the airport entering Kenya. Relax, come and visit.

  48. Being wheelchair bound and already more susceptible to victimization, I am very happy that I have a government that is over or properly cautious, as opposed to a government that is undercautious. I don't want to be the quinea pig that ends up in an orange jumpsuit before I get decapitated, to test whether the level of caution was understated. Moreover, given current situations, I have no intention of vacationing anyplace that is primarily populated by Muslims. To me, and we all have to make these determinations for ourselves, the risk is just too high as so many young Muslims appear to be drawn to ISIS's philosophy, whether they actually join the group or not. Moreover, whether my travel decisions may affect an African country's economy is less important to my own inner feelings of at least a measure of security here at home. I can always watch a traveloque.

  49. I worked in Kenya in 2013 and 2014. Crossing streets in Los Angeles present more danger.

    ( Except for the matatos, the inner-city buses. The music is too too loud. Skull banging loud. Take earplugs. )

    I stayed with Kenyans, walked with Kenyans. Christians, Muslims. In the townships, the rural towns, the Maasai clans, Mombasa. I avoided foreigners. Why travel to the other side of the world to run with Americans and Europeans?

    I will return soon. To warm, noisy, colorful, living Mombasa.

  50. Every weekend I enjoy reading the NYTimes travel section. It isn't your job to pimp for these dangerous locations, nor to encourage travel to the many unstable countries in the world. No one wants to be decapitated on their VACATION!

  51. "By contributing to the collapse of the coastal tourism industry, Western travel warnings may simply be increasing the joblessness that kindles terrorism."

    So now the silly line put out by the administration that terrorists need jobs has become accepted as fact by the media. Personally I think that is a clueless observation. People don't become terrorists because they are unemployed. They do so because, demented as it seems to most of us, they see themselves as joining an exciting cause larger than themselves which also provides existential meaning through the religious angle (perversion of Islam or not). Unless the administration and the media recognize that, any attempts to "win the hearts and minds" of prospective Jihadi's is going to completely fail.

  52. Before making these statements why don't you come here to Kenya and check it our yourself. Talk to people directly and learn.

  53. That just isn't true of the Kenya coast. Of course there are increasing numbers of young Muslims who genuinely uphold the cause but you fail to understand that terror groups like Shebab pay jobless young men of every tribe and religion to cause mayhem. These are kids who have literally nothing. I do understand from a Western perspective that may seem incomprehensible, that you'd risk being beaten or killed by the merciless Kenya police for a few dollars, but in Kenyan terms it's altogether less strange. People are used to being offered money for their vote. Private armies, often controlled by leading politicians, have long paid jobless youths as little as $15 to break up opponents' rallies or commit acts of awful violence in the slums. There's no shortage of volunteers despite the risks. Being paid by Shebab is an extension of that. The NYT's Gettleman is right that the more unemployed youths there are, the more Shebab will be able to recruit. But even if the travel advisories were lifted, and even if the hotels re-opened and tens of thousands of hotel workers got their jobs back, the tourist industry could never absorb every young man tempted by Shebab's money. It's too late. There's a considerable irony however in the KDF (the Kenyan army) wading into Somalia as US proxies, leading Shebab to try to terrorize Kenya into withdrawing them, only for the US to declare Kenya too dangerous to visit.

  54. This is an unfortunate consequence of the chaos and terrorist activity in too many areas around the world. Place blame all you like on weak governments but the result is what is described in the article, that this loss of tourist dollars will further weaken fragile countries that are even less able to counter the bad effects of terrorism.

    It is the responsibility of the international community to help these countries as they fall into the trap of these bad circumstances. It takes more than just air strikes and drone attacks to truly fight the scourge of worldwide terrorist activities. These countries need our help, not just our sympathies.

  55. Many young well-educated Kenyans and other Africans are becoming cynical about U.S. offers of "development" assistance, like our gvernmment's bankrolling and providing "National ID cards" as a condition for Kenyans to get a job in Kenya!!! A way to track and Identify Kenyans by any foreign government is not in Kenya's interest. We would protest a government national ID card requirement in this country supplied by a foreign government. The Indian ocean shoreline from South Africa to the Red Sea could be a Gold Coast for poor African countries to develop tourism, but for centuries the East African peoples have been subject to the national interests of competing empires over their own. Before the europeans, it was the Arab empire appetites for slaves and gold. European treaties in the 19th century replaced the Arab empire interests with European ones. Africans lost each time. That still appears to be the case.

  56. The warnings should actually be more vivid than they are, equal to cigarette pack warnings. "Warning: when you go to North Korea (or fill in the blank) you will likely be held for ransom of some sort by the totalitarian, Communist government, and be in prison for an indeterminate amount of time. We will look at your staged denunciations of the US on YouTube and counsel your relatives to divide up your goods as memorabilia; we will only act if Clinton or Gore or some other influential former politician of the same party as the President really really wants us to do so. Otherwise, you are on your own, and best of fortune."

  57. Bottom line. Another NO GO country for American tourists to visit after 9/11. Except Canada, the Caribbean and few Western European countries, the golden post WWII era of Americans travelling all over the world is over.

  58. A bit extreme. For example went to Morocco two years ago with tour group and felt completely safe. Well planned itinerary with very knowledgeable, connected, local tour group guide. Friend went this year and had same experience. Would go again.

  59. This is a ridiculous statement.

  60. Kenya remains quite stable as a country in spite of regional unrest in specific areas.

    Don't confuse the entire country with Mombasa.

    Nairobi has thousands of expats who are a rich part of the fabric of Kenya and have been for decades.

  61. I think its smart for the Americans to stay away. If they go there and get killed or kidnapped, there will be a lot of pressure for us to:

    A) Pay ransom
    B) Invade
    C) Stay there for the next 20 years after we invade.
    D) Increase our military budget because of "C"

    Its a slippery slope.

  62. I was touring Israel, with plans to go to Luxor in Egypt in two days, when the Luxor terrorist attack of Nov. 1997 took place. Tourism to Egypt dried up instantly. I agonized about whether to go as planned, but decided the terrorists were unlikely to strike twice in the same place, and besides there would be police and soldiers all over the place, so I went ahead and did it. The advantages were: I got great deals on everything from hotels to taxi rides, and I didn't have to stand on line for anything. The disadvantages were: sometimes tourist attractions were closed down for lack of custom, to travel by road was somewhat restricted because of the checkpoints, but above all the harassment by desperate people wanting baksheesh or to sell me things was absolutely relentless (this happens even in normal times in the tourist areas of Egypt, but not so intensely), and I found it stressful. It was hard to have a normal conversation with anyone, because all wanted to part me with some of my money. But I never did feel under physical threat.

  63. Any government who doesn't warn its citizens about thé dangers of traveling to countries like Kenya is irresponsible, and not protective of is citizens. Those who don't see that, for wahatever reasons, must have manure for a brain. African countries have thé highest crime rate in thé world. Disproportionately high. The argument about terrorism it's silly.

  64. African countries have thé highest crime rate in thé world. Disproportionately high.
    Compared to whom?

    [African countries have thé highest crime rate in thé world. Disproportionately high.]
    Compared to whom? To what authority do you ascribe your claims? What are the premises to this conclusion? Any scientific studies?
    Make your case, else we take you to be the person you really should be: hollow, mean-sprited and provincial.


    Notice the message, however subtly veiled, that poverty should be an excuse for criminality.

  65. Sorry tg but that's just plain wrong. What is the crime rate in Zambia? How about Burundi, Malawi, Ethiopia...? Central America's crime rates are way higher, so are those of many US cites, New Orleans, DC, Detroit, Albuquerque, St. Louis, Memphis etc. Get your facts right.

  66. This is very sad, but the solution is not to send tourists to Kenya when there's any risk of any kind of a an attack. The really innovative solution--and God knows who has it--is to find some way other than tourism, terrorism, or the drug trade for Kenyans to make a living.

  67. The ills of youth unemployment (crime, drug abuse...) along Kenya's coast started long before the recent spate of terrorism. It can be traced to the usurping of the customary land and resource rights of indigenous coastal communities by the political elite, the paltry secondary education rate due to high costs, and the provisioning of the few jobs that are there to migrants from other parts of the country rather than locals due to their "lack" of education and the misnomer that coastal peoples are "lazy", amongst other factors. While the downturn in tourism along Kenya's coast - whether or not due to travel advisories by the U.S. (and other Western nations which this article conveniently fails to mention) - perhaps exacerbates the economic subjugation of the coastal population, it is certainly not the cause as this article too easily concludes without support.

  68. Kenya has much to offer but with a neighbor like Somalia, caution is necessary. The Kenyan government has done little to make the country safe, for both humans and animals. The government efforts on preserving wild game stock is not great. The tourism situation is not the major problem in Kenya. The government is the major problem. Tourists must be aware of terrorists activity and in a country like Kenya, where corruption is the order of the day in government branches, including the police, common sense suggests a hard look before becoming a tourist in that country. The days of "Out of Africa" are long over. Many African countries face problems now-lack of exportable resources, little industrial capability, corruption at the highest levels, meagre internal resources like food and water and a young population with no hope for a better future.

  69. Travel advisories could be improved by specifying Americans most at risk. Some travel in large groups, some travel in specialized tours, some go on their own while staying on well-worn paths, and some gravitate to out-of-the way places. Generalized warnings suggest that all are equally at risk. That is seldom the case.

    The State Department should address their varied audience. Those who have commented make it clear that there is not a single truth. The State Department should consult those with first hand knowledge - who apparently are not hard to find. And their warnings should be more focused.

  70. As I understand it, terrorist groups want foreigners out of their countries because poverty fuels their ranks and because foreigners are seen as sinfull western disrespectfull individuals. When they bomb or kidnap or rape or corrupt or uneducate or behead or else, they send a clear message. If their own people do not confront them, why should we dare? I am tired of feeling guilty about western values (and please note, I consider myself an ultraliberal and a humanist...).

  71. You might not be well informed about the situation here in Kenya. What Al-Shabaab, a Somalia based terrorist group, wants, is Kenyan military out of Somalia (who entered as a US proxy). Their acts of terrorism in Kenya have nothing to do with values or religion as you imply. Also, claiming that "their own people" don't confront them is somewhat mistaken given that Kenya's military involvement in Somalia, fighting the Al-Shabaab militias as a US ally in the war on terror, is exactly what brought the terrorists to Kenya. So what a majority of people here in Kenya want is getting the military out of Somalia so they can continue living in peace.

  72. Did Americans historically visit the coastal area in prior years, before the warnings, in sufficiently high numbers to help sustain tourism?

    The few times I have visited countries in sub Sarahan Africa, it seemed American tourists were in the minority. Anecdotal, admittedly.

    Perhaps the root problem is population growth. There is no way to provide jobs for the planet's many billions of young men without destroying it.

  73. The nature of terror is such that a terrorist group does not need to attack; it suffices that they issue a threat. That has the advantage of 'postponing ' the action and raising the fear (up to a point). The other advantage of such a terrorist tactic is that the presumed target spends its resources regardless of the attack.

  74. A few points to make:

    After coming to the Kenya coast for many years and speaking to many people here, I have found that hardly anyone listens to travel advisories. The negative vibes are coming mainly from the media and its reporting on the violence that has happened here. (I don't mean this to be an anti-media rant by the way. The media will go on doing what it does. We all know that bad news sells more papers and there is little prospect that will change.)

    Nothing that the West does, or doesn't do, will matter in the long run anyway. Kenya is one of the fastest-failing states in the world. And it is one of the world governed in Africa.

    The coastal Muslim unrest is only one of many crises that are tearing the country apart. Even if Shabaab attacks again, it could pale in comparison to other looming disasters. Three worth noting here are the potential collapse of the ruling coalition, which is a fragile band-aid that has kept the peace between two big but hostile tribes; the ever-growing land wars where the poor invade huge vacant properties to set up "Hoovervilles" and are under constant threat of eviction; and probably driving it all, the simple Malthusian question of hunger and want in a country that long ago lost its ability to feed itself.

    Here one hears nothing but desperation and ethnic/religious hatred. In this atmosphere even small acts reverberate widely. I don't know what will finally light the fuse, but I know it is coming. We all do.

  75. I lived in Kenya for a couple of years in the 1980s and went back regularly until about 10 years ago. I lived north of Nairobi, but I loved the coast, especially Lamu. At the time, I was single and traveled alone, and I found great peace in a place like Lamu, thanks to Islam. No drunks to harass me. Simply wearing enough clothes to avoid sunburn sufficed to be respectful. I particularly enjoyed Ramadan, with the festival atmosphere in the evenings, even though, out of respect, I refrained from eating in view of others during the day. I had zero problems and made many friends. It used to be said there were no thieves on Lamu because everybody knew everyone else. I felt very safe. I'm sure it's the same today, except for the occasional dhow that sails in from Somalia, looking for a mzungu to kidnap. And there lies the problem.

  76. Security & terrorism is a smokescreen. Very few Americans visit the Kenyan coast. What readers on shores, thousands of miles away dont realize, is that the US govt is deliberately "disciplining" the Kenya govt.

    There is a bitter row between Washington, London & Nairobi. The US & UK had a fight dog in last elections in Kenya and they lost. Prior to the elections, their reps were issuing threats against electing the current govt. Johnnie Carson (US) warned about "choices have consequences". Turner warned "the UK govt would only maintain essential contact with the new administration". The current president & his deputy were ICC inductees for crimes against humanity. The US & UK vociferously supported prosecution of both cases. Now in govt, the two decided to play games & punish the US & UK by derailing their interests locally - how best than replace them with the Chinese? Other flash points exist like the Kenya govt stalling on renewing a military training lease for the Brits (lease been running for over 40 years). The Brits feel slighted.

    Granted, Nairobi ought to do more and provide security etc but the bitter row with US & UK is messing up things and Nairobi we cant win. I'm certain Obama is torn on how best to punish the current admin. He doesn't want to totally mess his fatherland but he too feels slighted. So beyond safety and terrorism, the real issue is "interests" and until the big boys are pacified, i am afraid the situation will only go further south.

  77. Well said Mike, you took the words right out of my mouth. I was born in Kenya but left many years ago. What you stated about the politics preceding the last General Elections is right on point. Most foreign tourists have an opinion as to why tourism at the Coast has taken a hit, but few have a clue about the politics of the country. The current regime in Nairobi has been a thorn on the West's side since their ascension about a year and a half ago. The 'Looking East' mantra of the previous regime and the continuation by the current one has ruffled a lot of feathers within Kenya's traditional trading partners- the West. So I'm sure this ongoing covert sanctions will continue for the foreseeable future.

  78. The fundamental causes of Kenya’s coast region tourist industry problems have very little to do with advisories by the America or any Western for that matter government against travel to the region. As someone familiar with both the region and the country, the picture presented by the writer is inaccurate in too many instances to cite. Suffice to say he studiously avoided mentioning what ails Kenya and therefore engenders danger for all her residents, permanent or temporary. It is hardly a surprise. He routinely does it and I for one give little credence to his reports.

  79. Perhaps if they used some of the young unemployed to augment their security forces, they could "kill" two birds with one stone. Isn't it about time someone in the Arab world (other than the Kurds) takes some responsibility for the radical element and fights back.
    I see mention of the millions we've provided for helping them. Let them help themselves some.

  80. Should the absence of Western tourists be blamed for the downturn of Kenya's coastal industry?
    The corrupted and feckless government in Nairobi shares the blame too! The country's ethnic diversity is a constant source of conflict. The relationship between Kenyans and Somalis is not an easy one, even though many Somalis are Kenyan citizens.
    Kenya's vast northeast, which borders Somalia, has a huge Somali population. Since al-Shabab rose to prominence, life had become especially difficult for Somalis in Kenya. The leadership in Nairobi says it feels threatened, not only by Islamist groups in Somalia, but also by home-grown extremism within the Kenyan Somali community. But it kicks the can down the road and does little to seek long-term security for Kenya and the region.

  81. I am from Kenya and Gettleman's "analysis" if one can even call it that on the country's history and politics is always laughable to be. Does he actually live there?

    Most of the reader comments about kenya's security problems are correct. It is not western tourists to blame -- it is and has always been Kenya's very corrupt governments. Foreign aid money, taxpayer money...billions that the government gets to improve its security situation are squandered, stolen and the cash hidden in Swiss bank accounts. As as result of this massive corruption, no real security reforms have managed to take place.

    If you look at what happened at westgate and the governments response to that terror attack, it should give you caution about visiting the country. After 4 days where they were unable to bring the thing to an end, the Kenyan army then gave up and blew up a section of the mall, killing all the innocent people who were there!! Those families have received no response about what happened from the government. A report that president Uhuru Kenyatta promised was shelved; Reporters that dared question what happened or that attempted to find answers were threatened and the country simply moved on.

    Then in Lamu last year another attack by alshabab where 60 people were slaughtered in attack on a town they held for 24hrs. again no response. In northern kenya 100 teachers were shot dead. Again, no response.

    Blame must squarely be put at the feet of the government

  82. I think ambassador Robert F. Godec is in denial. The impact of terror - related travel advisories against Kenya is quite clear and for the longest time, Kenya has held the position that the advisories amount to economic sabotage and there is sufficient evidence to back that claim. Moreover, every time the State Department issues such advisories, the terrorists win.

  83. This article misses the larger point. Acts of terror (which terrorists may carry out for a few thousand dollars) have the ability to cost millions in damage and to affect the lives of those far beyond the scope of the original attack. That is a problem not only for specific nations like Kenya, but for everyone.

    Small scale terror attacks have shuttered embassies, driven out NGOs, crippled healthcare, and closed businesses.

    On September 11, 2001, my younger sister worked as an accountant for an Arizona company that supplied parts to airline companies. 9/11 had such a devastating impact on the airline industry that, in the months that followed, she lost her job. She lived in Phoenix, more than 2000 miles away from the 9/11 attacks, but that act of terror had a major economic impact on her life.

    We have built a modern, globally-connected society in which an action in one part reverberates through the whole web. The other day, I was at an auto repair shop, and the fellow working on my car mentioned that he had been planning a trip to Paris and to Amsterdam in the summer, but had decided to cancel due to the “problems there”, meaning the Charlie Hebdo attacks and violent protests.

    Terrorism hurts the livelihood of innocents, whether they are neighbors of the terrorists or live far away. Shrugging off the woes faced by hotels on the other side of the world is not helpful. The disproportionate effect of terrorism must be faced.

  84. Kenya has always been on my bucket list & nothing in this article...or recent news reports...has led me to change my mind. There are parts of Los Angeles I would have much greater hesitation about being in. And one other thing...if I had purchased a vacation package to Kenya, I WOULD GO for one simple reason...I refuse...& have always refused to let the punks of this world dictate what I do or don't do.

  85. I had $600 stolen out of a locked safe at one of Mombasa's European-focused resorts (I was there for work, chose that location for supposed security). The police didn't take it seriously, the managers performed a sham "investigation", virtually laughed in my face; the owners never responded to my emails. Several weeks later, another guest complained of an identical experience on an online travel forum. Perhaps local dynamics -- corruption, lack of respect to visitors, overall inhospitality -- shouldn't be entirely overlooked either.