Let Americans travel to Kenya, Uhuru tells Obama

President Uhuru Kenyatta has urged the Obama administration to lift travel advisories on Kenya, arguing the warnings have hurt Kenya’s tourism industry.

Kenya’s ambassador to the US, Robinson Njeru Githae, on Tuesday said the Jubilee government had demonstrated its commitment to fighting terrorism, and the US and its Western allies have no excuse to maintain their travel warnings.

Mr Githae, who recently presented his credentials to President Barack Obama, said security laws recently passed by Parliament were meant to specifically deal with both local and foreign terrorist threats.

“That is why I have made it my first priority to impress upon the US government to lift the travel advisories and if they can’t lift them wholesale, they should at least downgrade them,” he told theNation in Washington, DC.

“These advisories are hurting our tourism industry and we believe that in view of the government’s commitment to routing out terrorism, the advisories are not justified.”

WARNED AMERICANS

In June last year, the US State Department warned Americans about the risk of traveling to Kenya as a result of terrorist attacks by the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militants.

In the advisories, the State Department said the US government continued to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at US, Western and Kenyan interests in Kenya, especially in Nairobi and the coastal towns of Mombasa and Diani.

“Terrorist acts can include suicide operations, bombings, kidnappings, attacks on civil aviation, and attacks on maritime vessels in or near Kenyan ports,” the statement read in part.

“Although the pursuit of those responsible for previous terrorist activities continues, many of those involved remain at large and still operate in the region,” the statement added.

These warnings have discouraged American tourists from visiting Kenya, threatening to cripple the once vibrant Kenyan tourism industry.

Mr Githae said the Jubilee government was keen to boost ties between Nairobi and Washington.

BECAME STRAINED

Kenya-US relations became strained in the run-up to the March 4, 2013 General Election when Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson warned Kenyans against electing Mr Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr William Ruto because they were facing crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Mr Carson said “choices have consequences”, a statement that was interpreted to mean that electing Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto would prompt the US to stop its assistance to Kenya.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has since withdrawn the charges against Mr Kenyatta, but she is still battling it out with Mr Ruto and his co-accused Joshua arap Sang.

“It will be my priority to pursue a policy that aims to widen, strengthen and deepen our relations with the US through the doctrine of ‘quiet diplomacy’. We are not going to talk to each other through the media,” said Mr Gitahe.

“If there is an issue we feel strongly about, we will take it up with either the White House or the State Department and I expect the same from our counterparts in Nairobi.”

While calling on the Obama administration to help Kenya boost its intelligence-gathering capacity, Mr Githae said terrorism was a global threat that requires international effort to be defeated.

INCREASE TRADE

He said Kenya could learn a lot from America’s extensive customs and border patrol programme and intelligence gathering.

Mr Githae said he was also keen to increase trade and investment between Nairobi and Washington, adding he would soon schedule meetings to discuss investment opportunities in Kenya with oil barons from Texas.

For Kenya to maximize its trading and investment potential with the US, he said, direct flights between Kenya and the US must be launched.

“The Kenya government is doing everything possible to make sure that outstanding issues that have been impeding implementation of direct flights between the US and Kenya are quickly resolved so that we can export our world-class flowers to the US,” he said.

Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau recently said Jomo Kenyatta International Airport would start receiving direct flights from America once the ongoing audit by US authorities is completed by March.

-nation.co.ke

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