Kisumu Governor Prof Anyang Nyong'o has protested a US Embassy security alert imposing movement restrictions on American citizens in the county.
The Wednesday notice, which urged Americans to be vigilant, came only five days left before elections are held on Tuesday, August 9.
In a statement, the embassy said election-related demonstrations and rallies regularly take place in the run-up to elections and were likely to continue, blocking key intersections and causing traffic jams.
Following an uproar from residents and leaders from the lakeside county and on social media that ensued, the US Embassy moved to clarify the travel advisory it issued on its citizens in Kisumu. It termed the statement a routine security alert given in advance of Kenyan elections.
The alert came even as the county is enjoying a more peaceful political atmosphere than was the case in previous elections in 2007, 2013 and 2017.
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Much of this has been attributed to the March 9, 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition chief Raila Odinga.
It is against this backdrop that Governor Nyong’o, at a press conference on Wednesday morning, asked the US to remove Kisumu from any travel advisory, saying the county has not shown any sign of insecurity or threats.
“I am very ignorant about this travel advisory. As far as I know, we … held a successful summit in May, with visitors staying weeks after,” he said.
“The President was also here the other day to open the shipyard and train station. There is no political violence witnessed of late and that is why I am asking the US Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to [exclude Kisumu from the list of regions facing threats and tension].’
He said he was not privy to any information, even from the national intelligence agency, about any threats in the county.
He said he had talked with officials from the ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Interior “and they too do not know what is being raised by the US Embassy”.
If any threat existed, he said, the embassy should have shared the information with Kenyan officials so that they could “ensure our people are safe”.
He urged Kisumu residents to vote and maintain peace during the elections.
“I would like to appeal to the residents of Kisumu to vote peacefully and ask all candidates to observe that it is the ballot not the bullet that should decide the destiny of this nation,” Prof Nyong’o said.
“Anybody with an intention to disrupt the voting process or cause chaos, let them know that the citizens of this county will not allow them.”
The US Embassy urged Americans in Kenya to monitor local media for updates, avoid crowds and demonstrations, keep a low profile, be aware of their surroundings, be vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs, and not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive jewellery or watches.
They were also asked to review their personal security plans, have travel documents up to date and easily accessible, and carry proper identification, including a copy of the bio-page of their US passport with a copy of a current Kenyan visa.