With Grand safaris, a view of Mt. Kilimanjaro and white sand beaches along the Indian Ocean, Kenya relies heavily on the currency of foreigners that travel to see the wildlife and natural beauty of the land. A string of terror attacks in recent months has culminated with the mass evacuation of tourists following two explosions that killed ten and injured seventy-six. These attacks threaten the tourism business which the country so readily relies on, so by extension the economy is threatened too.
Last September the world watched in horror as Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya was infiltrated by masked gunmen brandishing grenades and AK-47 assault rifles. The hostage and terror standoff lasted more than forty-eight hours and claimed the lives of at least sixty-seven people and injured one hundred and seventy-five others. Known Muslim extremist terrorist group Al-Shabaab was responsible for the attack, and has been a cell of the Al-Qaeda terror network since 2012.
Earlier this month on the third of May, twin terror attacks killed four people in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa. The very next day two separate bombs exploded on commuter buses in Nairobi, the nation’s capital, killing three more and injuring at least eighty-six others; twenty were in critical condition.
Friday two more explosions, one on a commuter mini-bus and the other inside a market, were the latest acts of terror in the east African country. The United States and Great Britain had issued terror alerts warning of possible attacks in Kenya on Thursday. British tour companies evacuated about 500 people and warned against any non-essential travel to the country. The U.S. government issued a similar alert which highlighted the more than one hundred people killed in Kenya from terrorist attacks since the end of 2012.
Describing the alerts as “unfriendly,” Kenyan officials reacted angrily and insisted tourists were safe in the country. Tourism is the second largest source of foreign exchange behind agriculture. Tourism is being threatened by these terror attacks as the risk to foreign travelers has much deeper implications. The impoverished nation relies heavily on its tourism business, an industry that directly affects millions of Kenyans. Lack of tourists from the terror attacks directly threatens the economy.
Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyata has declared the country will “do what it can” to combat the attacks. Soft words against extremists who have thrown grenades into nightclubs, markets and shops, and kidnapped tourists. Last year tourism dropped by eighteen percent compared to 2012, and represents a growing trend of vacationers avoiding terrorist targeted countries.
The larger issue of Muslim extremism continues to spread across the globe. Countries such as Nigeria and Somalia are rife with terrorists, and Kenya, which has the largest economy in east Africa, is under attack. The government’s apparent lack of progress in dealing with the growing problem will have major financial ramifications as the attacks continue.
Countries persist on warning their citizens to avoid Kenya because of the ever-present threat of terrorism. The heavily tourism dependent Kenyan economy is directly threatened by the terror attacks, and the already struggling people who depend on foreign visitors are facing both physical and financial attacks on their way of life.
By John Benjamin