Kenya assures tourists of increased security after mall attack

NAIROBI, (PNA/Xinhua) — The Kenyan government on Monday assured tourists of increased security following a terror attack at one of the popular shopping malls in Nairobi on at the weekend that has so far claimed 69 lives.

Cabinet Secretary of East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism Phyllis Jepkosgei Kandie assured Kenyans and foreigners that the government will continue to be on high alert to deal with and avert any security threats posed by terrorist elements in the country.

“We wish to assure tourists that Kenya is peaceful and our security agencies are doing everything possible to ensure that every one is safe,” Kandie told journalists in Nairobi.

She said the tourism sector was joining Kenyans to condole the bereaved families including families of foreigners who have lost their lives.

Kandie said the attack at Westgate mall that has left 63 other unaccounted for was a despicable act of cowardice intended to instill fear in Kenyans and the visitors.

“Visitors are thus welcome to visit all our tourist facilities across the country which is operating normally. We are hereby therefore affirming that normal activities are going on in all parts of the country despite this grave and enormous challenge,” Kandie said.

She said tour operators and travel agents have confirmed that tourism activities continue uninterrupted, stressing that the government has also scaled up security in other social places across the country.

She also said that these terrorists must not be allowed to have their way.

The cabinet secretary’s assurance comes after the East African nation is due to host Africa Hotel and Investment Forum and the Eco Tourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference in Nairobi from Tuesday.

“We are extending a hand of welcome to all those arriving from tomorrow to Kenya to attend two critical conferences namely; Africa Hotel and Investment Forum and the Eco tourism and sustainable tourism conference taking place in Nairobi ahead of other upcoming international events to be hosted in the country,” she said.

“We thank our international partners for their support and words of encouragement during this difficult time, we appeal to them not to issue travel advisories to their citizens and consider this an isolated incident which has been brought under control.”

Kandie called on foreign embassies not to issue travel advisories to their citizens, saying such decisions might scare away visitors and hurt the economy.

The foreign embassies were also asked to consider this as an isolated incident which is being brought under control.

The East African nation has been grappling with the negative travel advisories issued by the European and the U.S. after the kidnappings in the tourist havens of Lamu.

Kenya’s government says armed attacks and kidnappings threaten the country’s tourism industry — a key driver of the economy– that had bounced back after near collapse following post-election violence four years ago in which more than 1,200 people died.

Al-Shabaab militants have vowed to attack Nairobi after the east African nation which hosted protracted negotiations that culminated in the signing of the federal charter for Somalia in 2005, invaded Somalia to flush out the insurgents it blamed for kidnappings of tourists.