Kenya decries new Western terror alerts on Nairobi

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

Kenya on Friday decried the heightened terror alerts issued by several Western governments, terming them a violation of the usual communication channels on security issues.

A day after France, the Netherlands and Germany cautioned their nationals to stay away from public places for safety, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said messaging was likely to cause alarm.

“Government of Kenya is perfectly capable of communicating to its own citizens directly, and is capable of extending the necessary protection to secure its population,” the Ministry said.

“We have tried and tested communication channels with which security agencies cooperate and coordinate with bilateral embassies and the United Nations in this country. And these channels of communication, which remain open and available, have proven effective and efficient in keeping the country safe and secure.”

The French Embassy in Kenya had indicated there was a serious threat of security in the country, especially this coming weekend and asked its nationals to stay away from malls, entertainment joints and other public places frequented by foreigners. It said the security threat could likely target Western nationals although it didn’t indicate whether a specific Western country could be targeted.

Extreme vigilance

“Therefore, people in Kenya are advised to exercise extreme vigilance and avoid frequenting these public places in the coming days, including this weekend,” the alert said.

The message was replicated by the Dutch and German embassies to their nationals. On Friday, the US Embassy updated its travel advisory, but only said “there is potential for increased crime and violent extremism in Kenya this time of the year.”

It asked US nationals to be vigilant in public places and avoid gatherings.

On Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said terror alerts should be taken with a “jaundiced eye” even as it asked Kenyans to remain vigilant because terrorists could strike any time.

Terror alerts by western countries have often caused protests from Nairobi. During President Uhuru Kenyatta’s first term, frequent advisories from the UK and the US saw him accuse the countries of trying to sabotage Kenya’s economy which relies heavily on tourism.

Security situation

The alerts had reduced as the security situation improved. But the latest messaging may have been distorted by the media, according to the Ministry’s statement on Friday, suggesting some embassies had only updated their advisories.

The UK, for instance, advised against non-essential travel to areas within 60km of the Kenya-Somali border, Eastern Garissa County (up to 20km North-West of the A3).

It said British nationals should also avoid  Mandera County (Excluding Mandera West Sub County), Lamu County (Excluding Lamu Island and Manda Island), areas of Tana River County North of the Tana river itself (up to 20km North West of the A3) and within 15km of the Coast from the Tana river down to the Galana (Athi-Galana-Sabaki) river.

Both the Police and the Interior Ministry said security had been heightened and asked Kenyans to be vigilant but cautioned against being alarmed.

The reports came just days after court officials were ambushed in Lamu by Al-Shabaab militants.