Posts Tagged ‘kiwayu’

The news that a gang of Somali gunmen in a fast speed boat had kidnapped a disabled Frenchwoman from her home in Lamu, off the Kenyan coast, has sent shock waves across the country. This is more so because it follows on a few weeks after the kidnap of a british woman from a posh, but isolated, beach hotel further up the coast. In that incident the victim’s husband was killed in the attack.

This has been a long time coming and the security apparatus should have been better prepared. the war in Somalia continues unabated and it has been left to primarily Uganda and to a lesser extent Burundi, to provide troops for AMISOM. They have succeeded in driving Al Shabab out of Mogadishu, for now, but also at great human cost.

The Kenyan government has had a rather Stand offish approach to the drama across the Somali border, even though reports and evidence show that young men are being recruited in Mombasa into terrorist ranks and shipped there for training.

The hands off approach has been tested over the previous months as hundreds of thousands of refugees have poured over the border, swamping already the largest refugee camp in the world, dadab. The porous borders had been unable to keep them out of the country, so the police has been deployed to try and at least keep thmem from getting to Nairobi, without much success as any resident will point out. The security implications are too ominous to ignore.

Piracy has raged on the high seas affecting seafarers from all over the world and Kenya too. This has caused the cost of shipping to sky rocket as the insurance premiums have headed north to keep up with number of ships being jacked and the increasing cost of maritime security.

With massive deployment of naval convoys around the Indian ocean it has been getting harder for the pirates to grab their quarry for ransom, a lucrative enterprise that they have grown accustomed to. Looking south Lamu must look like a candy store.

Now the north coast of Kenya is an interesting place, particularly Lamu. It’s an ancient stone town bathed in incredible history and has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site. There is only one car allowed on the island and it belongs to the district commissioner. transport is essential by donkey cart.

The charming historic town that rivals Zanzibar has drawn the rich, the powerful and the aristocracy from across Europe who have bought many of the old houses, restored them and converted them into mansions and luxury hotels. this development has been steady and unstoppable to the extent that the real-estate prices in Lamu are some of the highest in Africa. The regret is that the local people can no longer afford to buy land or a house in the area. Resentment simmers. For other kenyans Lamu is an unaffordable holiday destination because the cost of flights are inflated, the road up from malindi is in a bad state and the hotels are priced for the deep in pocket.

North of Lamu are several ‘Robinson crusoe’ like luxury hotels that seem to be the rage right now. Eco friendly and close to nature, clients pay top dollar to sleep under the stars or without doors and windows, close to the Indian ocean surf. Far from the maddening crowd they are easy pickings for Somali insurgents looking for a ransom payday.

The cost to the Kenyan economy is likely to be huge. Tourism is a major contributor to the economy and nothing turns down the tourism arrival switch like insecurity. It does’t matter that we are talking about the northern Kenyan coast, not malindi, not Mombasa, not the Maasai Mara. Western tourists have no patience to make those types of distinctions, Africa is Africa, period.

With the Kenyan shilling taking a beating from the world’s major currencies a drop in tourism earnings would be a catastrophe. So it is not surprising that the minister of tourism, najib balala, has been out beating his hollow drum. It will boil down to thepolice, the army and the navy to seal the border and stop these two incidents from becoming a regular fishing expedetion because that would shut down beach tourism for good.

The ominous spectre of Kenyan military involvement in Somalia grows more likely everyday.


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