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Country Reports

Kenya Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Kenya (population 46 million) is an East African country situated in a challenging security environment due to insecurity in its neighboring countries South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Tanzania. Kenya faces significant risks - including crime and terrorism - that all travelers to the country should take into consideration.

AREAS TO AVOID

Travel to several regions is formally advised against by Western governments. Individuals should avoid traveling to within 100 km (65 mi) of the border with Somalia - an area that includes the towns of Mandera, Buite, El Wak, Dif, Liboi, Dadaab, Garissa, and the mainland half of Lamu county - due to the presence of the Somali Islamist terrorist organization Al-Shabaab and the group's ability to perpetrate large-scale terrorist attacks and abductions in the region. All but essential travel is also advised against in the Lamu archipelago and the coastal strip that spans from north Malindi to south Lamu county as they are located close to known Al-Shabaab areas of operation. Travel along the borders with South Sudan and Ethiopia is also advised against due to the cross-border raids that often take place in the area.

Except for the southern half of the country, where travelers should remain vigilant, all but essential travel should also be avoided to areas located in the northeast, the east, and in the Rift Valley region north of the Kitale-Archer's Post-Garissa line. The Shaba, Buffalo Springs, and Samburu national reserves are classified as safe for travel, but heightened vigilance is advised. Likewise, some governments advise against all but essential travel to the predominantly-Somali northeastern Eastleigh and Pangani neighborhoods in the capital city of Nairobi. A series of terrorist bombings occurred in these areas in 2014, which also experience high crime rates.

TERRORISM

There is a high risk of terrorism from the Somali jihadist group Al-Shabaab, which has conducted several large-scale attacks over the past few years, notably the attack on Nairobi's Westgate Mall in September 2013 that left more than 70 people dead and the Garissa University attack in April 2015 (148 deaths), demonstrating the group's capacity to strike the capital. Al-Shabaab claims these attacks were perpetrated in reaction to the Kenyan military intervention in Somalia since 2011.

Due to increasing attacks in Mandera county, on the border with Somalia (northeast), the government instituted a curfew until the end of June 2017. A 90-day curfew was also put in place on July 9, 2017, in Lamu, Garissa, and Tana River counties due to the resurgence of attacks in those areas.

In addition, the terror threat has increased due to the growing competition between Al-Shabaab and other factions that defected from the organization to join the Islamic State terrorist group (IS). IS claimed responsibility for a thwarted attack in Mombasa in September 2016.

Despite the regular dismantlement of terrorist cells across the country (including in the capital) and an improvement of Kenyan counter-terrorism capacity, the terrorist threat is particularly high in the east of the country and in Nairobi. Potential Al-Shabaab targets include locations frequented by the Kenyan upper class and foreigners (hotels, bars, restaurants, coastal vacation centers, etc.) as well as government and military buildings. Travelers are advised to be extremely cautious when near or in such venues and, when possible, to only visit locations with necessary security measures in place (controlled points of access, armed guards, etc.). Terrorist attacks may take various forms: abductions, grenade attacks, explosive devices, and chemical or biological attacks (in May 2016, some individuals were arrested for being suspected of preparing an anthrax attack).

There is a constantly growing risk of kidnapping by Al-Shabaab, especially near the northern border, in the eastern part of Kenya, in Garissa county, and in coastal areas north of Pate island. Westerners and humanitarian workers are the principal targets of abductions. It is strictly recommended not to travel near the Kenyan-Somali border, or in the Dabaad refugee camps due to the high risks. Several kidnapping victims have been killed.

SECURITY

Besides the risk of terrorism, inter-communal clashes take place in the country and may present major risks for travelers. Several regions experience ethnic violence, but the threat is particularly high in the Rift Valley region, where tensions between farmers and herdsmen over land and water access are recurrent. In December 2015, ethnic clashes occurred in Narok county, causing the displacement of hundreds of families due to arson. Since the end of January 2017, attacks by farmers against tourist locations have been regularly reported in the center of the country, particularly in Laikipia and Baringo counties. The rising tensions in the region are due to drought conditions that have impacted farmers' livelihoods (see NATURAL RISKS section).

CRIME

Violent crime is a significant concern in Kenya, especially in urban areas (e.g. Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu) and at beach resorts. Pickpocketing, assaults (including sexual assault), carjackings, and residential burglaries happen on a regular basis and tend to increase after nightfall. Assaults at ATMs are increasing; it is recommended to withdraw cash only during the day and inside banks. An increase in the number of robberies has also been reported at gas stations, supermarkets, and hardware stores. Attackers are often armed and do not hesitate to resort to violence should their victim resist; do not escalate the situation and comply with all reasonable demands (i.e. surrender wallets, purses, and other valuables).

Some neighborhoods are not safe and must be avoided. In Nairobi this includes Eastleigh and Pangani neighborhoods, the Kibera slum, the outskirts of the city center (including Uhuru Park, which is dangerous at night), and both Airport South Road and Jogoo Road - connecting the city center to the airport. In Mombasa, avoid the old town and the Likoni ferry. In general, individuals are advised to be cautious in most urban centers considering that burglaries in secured residential complexes are often reported. In Nairobi, high-end neighborhoods such as Westland, Loresho, Lavington, Karen, and Hardy are also at risk.

Traveling by foot should be avoided, especially after nightfall; when possible, travel in chauffeured cars or in taxis. If traveling by car, doors should be locked and windows rolled up, with personal and valuable items kept out of sight.

Individuals traveling in rural areas face a high risk of banditry, which is prevalent in the counties of Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit, Tana River (North East), and Turkana (North-West). Areas in the vicinity of national parks - Samburu, Leshaba, and Masai Mara reserves - remain dangerous despite the efforts of security forces.

Crime rates tend to increase toward the end of the year and around Easter throughout the country.

Foreign travelers are particularly at risk of cyber-crime (i.e. criminals gaining unauthorized access to computers and phones) and financial crime (credit or debit card fraud). Individuals are advised to be vigilant and take precautionary cyber-security measures (do not connect to public Wi-Fi networks, protect your computer screen with a privacy filter, etc.). Travelers should also avoid using bank cards by paying with cash when possible and should not allow their bank card to be taken out of sight when in use.

The risk of piracy remains a concern in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean despite the deployment of the Atalante Operation, which created a significant maritime security presence in the region. All boating activity should be avoided.

SOCIOPOLITICAL UNREST

Travelers to Kenya should closely monitor political and social developments. Violence over elections and ethnic tensions broke out in 2007-2008, leading to the deaths of more than 1300 people. Political demonstrations, and clashes between protesters and security forces, are especially common in the capital city of Nairobi.

Beginning in April 2016, heightened political tensions between the ruling party and the opposition coalition over the 2017 presidential election contributed to an increasingly worrisome security situation. In the August 8 general elections, the incumbent President Kenyatta defeated Raila Odinga's Super National Alliance (NASA) with 54 percent of votes. Nevertheless, following an appeal by the opposition, the Supreme Court annulled the election on September 1, citing election irregularities. Re-run elections took place on October 26, in which Kenyatta won with 98 percent of votes. This landslide was attributed largely to the fact that the opposition called for a boycott of the election as well as polling station closures in four counties due to growing insecurity.

The political climate is particularly tense as civil society continues to denounce corruption. 

Significant income disparity (40 percent of the population lives under the poverty line), has led to frequent socioeconomic unrest. Since early 2017, these tensions have led to recurrent strikes held by hospital and public university staff. Religious events organized by the Muslim minority - predominantly located along the country's coast - have also led to unrest. Travelers are advised to avoid all demonstrations as violent clashes with security forces may occur.

HEALTH

The sanitary and health situation in Kenya is unreliable despite the existence of some good private hospitals and some public hospitals that can provide first aid (notwithstanding frequent medicine shortages and long wait times). Prior to departure, foreign nationals should purchase health insurance covering overseas care and medical repatriation, the latter being mandatory in case of a significant or urgent health issue.

Mosquito-borne diseases are the primary health risk in the country. A yellow fever certificate of immunization is required to enter the country for travelers coming from a country with risk of yellow fever. Although vaccination against yellow fever is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), it is generally not recommended for travelers limiting their travel to the following destinations: the North Eastern Province, the states of Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu, Malindi, and Tanariver in the Coast province, and in the cities of Nairobi and Mombasa. Malaria is endemic throughout the country. It is recommended to take individual protection measures against mosquito bites (use insect repellent, wear covering clothing, etc.) and seek suitable treatment. The risk of transmission is low in Nairobi as well as in the Central, Nyanza, Occidentale, Orientale, and Rift Valley provinces, where altitude is higher than 2500 m (8200 ft.). More than 2 million cases were reported between 2014 and 2015.

Equally, Rift Valley fever, dengue fever, and chikungunya outbreaks are often reported. A dengue fever epidemic is ongoing, as of the end of July 2017, in Wajir and Mombasa counties.

Tap water is not drinkable in Kenya. Diarrheal diseases are common in the country; as of the end of July 2017, a cholera outbreak in Nairobi is spreading and risks becoming an epidemic. It is recommended to only drink filtered bottled water, make sure food is properly cooked, and to wash hands several times a day.

Human cases of the cutaneous form of anthrax are regularly reported in Kenya. At the end of 2016, several cases were reported in Samburu (center) and Muranga (east of Nairobi) counties. To reduce the risk of contamination, avoid consuming bush meat.

To avoid the risk of parasitic infection, it is advised to avoid drinking, bathing, or washing clothes in stagnant waters. It is advised to not walk barefoot.

Moreover, it is necessary to take precautions against HIV/AIDS, which is highly prevalent throughout the country. According to a 2016 UN report, there are an estimated 1.5 million people living with HIV in Kenya.

Vaccines against measles and meningitis are recommended as numerous cases of those diseases have been reported. The risk of meningitis is particularly high as the country is located in Africa's "meningitis belt." Cases are often reported during the dry seasons (December to March and July to October).

TRANSPORTATION

Whenever possible, it is safest to travel by air when undertaking long-distance trips within the country. When traveling to coastal resorts, it is recommended to use a company serving Malindi Airport (north of Mombasa) or Ukunda Airport (south of Mombasa). In Nairobi, these companies operate from Wilson Airport.

Although most roads are useable, the country suffers from poor road infrastructure. Additionally, the aggressive driving habits of locals make traveling by road hazardous. This is exacerbated by poor vehicle maintenance and a lack of health care facilities. Finally, due to the lack of public lighting, all night travel should be avoided.

In cities, road travel should be by chauffeured car or by a licensed taxi booked by the hotel. Always travel with doors locked and windows rolled up.

For inter-city travel, it is recommended to ensure the vehicle is well-maintained and stocked with adequate supplies of water, food, and fuel. It is also advised to ensure that the vehicle contains spare parts (wheels, cables, etc.) and has effective means of telecommunication. In general, and when possible, it is strongly advised to only travel during the daytime.

Minibus (matatus) travel should be avoided due to their poor maintenance, the erratic driving habits of most chauffeurs, and their frequent targeting by highway bandits.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Power outages are common; most houses are equipped with a generator.

Construction accidents are frequent. Buildings often collapse due to low-quality concrete, an inadequate foundation, and poor-quality building materials.

NATURAL RISKS

Flooding and drought are the most common environmental risks. Kenya has two rainy seasons, the first taking place from April to June and the second from October to November. During these periods, large-scale flooding is likely, even in Nairobi, leading to severe disruptions of ground transportation and potential landslides in mountainous regions. 

Kenya is currently suffering from two below-average rainy seasons, resulting in food shortages and the death of livestock in the region. The ongoing drought is considered one of the worst in the last five years. According to local officials, residents of more than 42 counties are prone to risk of famine. At least 1.3 million Kenyans are at a critical level of food insecurity. Marsabit county (north of the country) is one of the most affected counties; according to the local governor, more than 60 percent of cattle have been lost, residents are facing serious food and water shortages, and the majority of schools are currently closed.

Kenya is located in an active seismic zone; tremors are often felt in the country.

LEGAL

Local legislation requires foreigners to carry official identification. It is advised to keep travel documents on you at all times and keep copies in a safe place.

Photography is restricted: it is forbidden to take photographs of government buildings, embassies, consulates, and UN offices. Taking photographs is forbidden altogether in the city center of Nairobi; it is recommended to avoid taking photos in urban areas in general.

Smoking is forbidden in all public areas.

Homosexuality is illegal and punishable by law with up to 14 years of imprisonment.

Kenyan law provides for heavy sanctions against individuals convicted of rape, indecent assault, and acts of debauchery and depravity.

Climate

Kenya experiences four seasons each year: two dry seasons (December to March; July to October) and two rainy seasons (April to June; November).

Along the coast, the climate is tropical, hot, and humid. The area is windy throughout the year and winds can become violent between April and September. The highlands region is hot and sunny with low levels of humidity. Conditions around Lake Victoria are, on the other hand, very wet. In the desert areas of the northeast, temperatures are very high with rain falling in April and May. Sunset is between 6:00 and 7:00 pm.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +254 Police: 999 Fire Dept.: 999 Ambulance: 999

Electricity

Voltage: 240 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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