French citizens free to visit Kenya, says embassy

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tourists-picThe French government says it has not instructed its nationals to avoid visiting Kenya.

The French Embassy in Nairobi on Wednesday said the travel advisory issued on May 12, 2014 was meant to advise its citizens to avoid certain areas of Nairobi, Mombasa and Lamu, but was never a blanket ban on Kenya.

“Contrary to the recent information that has been doing rounds in the media, France did not advise its citizens to avoid traveling to Kenya or the Kenyan Coast.

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“The situation in Kenya does not discourage tourists to come to the country. They should only avoid the stated zones.

ENHANCED SECURITY

Nevertheless, with the enhancement of security measures, one can always stay in the resorts south of Mombasa (Kwale County, where Tiwi and Diani are located),”said a statement issued by the Embassy on Wednesday.

This clarification follows an outcry from players in the tourism industry after the UK, Australia and the US updated their travel advisories on the security situation in Kenya.

At least 20 hotels at the Coast have been shut down following the advisories.

Owners claim many of those who had booked later cancelled the reservations after their countries reviewed the security situation.

France is a major source of tourists to Kenya after the UK, US, Italy, Germany and India.

A number of French companies have also invested in Kenya’s tourism sector at the Coast.

FREE TO MOVE AROUND

But France says its nationals are free to move around the country but should avoid some areas “on the periphery of Nairobi” such as Pangani, Eastleigh, Pumwani and Mathare which have witnessed a number of terrorist attacks lately.

Their nationals should also avoid Mombasa “unless for compelling reason.” This, the Embassy argues is a result of resurgence of insecurity where a number of terrorist attacks have been launched.

Lamu is where a French national Marie Dedieu, 66, was abducted by unknown gunmen in 2011 and taken in Somalia where she died several days later.

This followed another incident in which a British national David Tebbutt was killed and his wife held hostage for nearly seven months.

But the island has not experienced an attack for some time now.

REDUCED ADVISORY

The French government says it has reduced the advisory to the island to the level of warning.

On Friday last week, Mr Emmanuel Renoult, the Deputy Head of French Mission in Nairobi said France would continue to collaborate with Kenya to combat terrorism.

“Without being able to give you details, I can confirm that our security services share intelligence and work together closely,” he said.

“I would like to add that France together with its EU partners is substantially contributing to the support of AMISOM.

We pay for the salaries of the contingent deployed, including the KDF. For France alone, this financial effort represented $100 million in 2013,” he told the Nation.

CRITICISED WARNINGS

Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta also criticised the warnings saying they would embolden terrorists to continue attacking the country when, in fact, terrorism was a global threat.

“Kenya and France are both threatened and we share a common and strong interest in fighting the Al-Shabaab.

We share the same determination. Our joint commitment to fight terrorism was reaffirmed by President Kenyatta and President Hollande when they met on April 3, 2014 in Brussels (during an EU-AU meeting).

President Kenyatta is right to point out that the terrorist threat is worldwide. This makes the fight against terrorism a worldwide endeavor and France is on the frontline in that fight in different parts of the world including Africa and especially the Sahel region,” the French diplomat added.

-nation.co.ke

Local tourists at a deserted public beach in Mombasa as foreign tourists kept off following travel advisories. Now France says its nationals are free to move around Kenya but avoid some of the areas currently facing security threats. PHOTO/KEVIN ODIT

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