Following a wave of attacks and unrest, which have been linked to Islamist extremists, a number of countries have increased their warnings against travel to Kenya’s port city of Mombasa. Australia, Britain and France have advised their nationals to avoid the coastal city. These travel advisories however will also likely deal a new blow to Kenya’s already embattled tourism sector as avoiding Mombasa complicates travel to the nearby beach resorts.
Last week, Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) became the latest country to warn its citizens against “all but essential travel to Mombasa,” citing “recent terrorist attacks and the continuing terrorist threat in the area.” Australia has also updated its travel advice, urging its nationals to “reconsider their need to travel” to both Mombasa and to the capital city, Nairobi, which has also been targeted by a number of bombings in recent weeks. Meanwhile France has advised against all non-essential travel to Mombasa city, and has urged extra vigilance during stays in the nearby beach resort of Diani, which is situated to the south of the city.
In the wake of the British Foreign Office’s heightened travel alert, officials and tour operators confirmed Friday that hundreds of British tourists were being evacuated from beach resorts near Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa. Special charter flights have been organized just days after Australia, Britain, France and the United States issued new travel warnings for Kenya’s coast following a wave of attacks and unrest, which has been linked to al-Shabaab militants.
Meanwhile Thomson and First Choice, which are owned by London-listed TUI Travel, Europe’s largest tour operator, has also indicated that they have decided to cancel all flights to the coastal city until November 2014. A statement released by Thomson and First Choice stated “as a result of the change in FCO advice, the decision has been taken to cancel all our outbound flights to Mombasa, Kenya up to and including 31 October,” adding “as a precautionary measure, we have also taken the decision to repatriate all customers currently on holiday in Kenya back to the UK.”
In the wake of these new warnings, the Kenyan government has expressed “disappointment” and has accused countries that are telling tourists to stay away of “unfriendly acts.”
On Thursday, Kenya’s Foreign Ministry gave an angry response to the warnings. A statement released by the Kenyan government stated that “the advisories…are obviously unfriendly acts coming from our partners who have equally borne the brunt of global terrorism and no doubt understand the repercussions of terror,” adding “issuance of such travel advisories only plays to the whims of bad elements in society whose aim is to spread fear and panic.” Last month, Kenyan officials confirmed that the number of foreign visitors to the country, which is a top safari and beach destination, had declined by 11 percent in 2013. The current year is expected to also see a massive drop, particularly in the wake of the September 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, which was claimed by al-Shabaab.
Despite opposition from the Kenyan government, the threat of terrorist attacks in Kenya remains high, as evidenced by the latest attack, which was carried out on Friday.
Kenya’s National Disaster Operation Centre confirmed Friday that at least ten people have been killed and seventy others wounded in two explosions that occurred in a busy market area of Nairobi. According to officials at the center, the first blast occurred on a 14-seater matatu, or public minibus, while the second occurred inside Gikomba Market, which is situated to the east of Nairobi’s central business district. Sources have indicated that two people have been arrested near the scene of the explosions.
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued a travel advisory against
all but essential travel to Turkey. Demonstrations are taking place in cities across the country. Police are using tear gas and water cannons in response. Foreigners are advised to avoid all demonstrations.
Anti-government demonstrations have entered their third day as battles between police and protesters have spread to 48 cities in Turkey.
The protests initially began as a sit-in over a development project which threatened to redevelop Gezi Park, the last patch of green space in the commercial district of Istanbul. Demonstrators attempted to prevent workers from razing some of the 600 trees for the restoration of Ottoman-era military barracks which will be turned into a shopping centre.
Turkish police responded to the demonstrators by using electric shock batons and tear gas, sparking national protests against what opposition calls the government’s limiting of personal freedoms and an “increasingly conservative and authoritarian agenda”.
By Saturday, the protests had spread to over 90 separate anti-government demonstrations in 48 cities throughout Turkey. Thousands of Turkish residents in Istanbul marched on Taksim Square, chanting “shoulder to shoulder against fascism” and “government resign.” The protests mark the largest demonstrations against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which were elected in 2002, and re-elected in 2007. Erdoğan has indicated his desire to change the constitution to allow him to run for a third term.
As clashes escalated, demonstrators attacked police cars and destroyed property. Media in the region has been shut down or limited, further stirring anger among citizens. Turkish police report 26 police officers and 53 civilians had been hurt. Unconfirmed reports from Amnesty International claim that two people had been killed and over 1,000 injured. Police arrested and detained 939 people around the nation. Most have since been released; the remainder will be put on trial.
The harsh methods used by the Turkish police have sparked outrage worldwide. On Saturday, amid outcry from the UK, US, and Amnesty International, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on the police to withdraw from the demonstrations. Erdoğan admitted to the extremism in police response; however he maintains that the redevelopment of Gezi Park was an excuse for the unrest believing his main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), are responsible stirring tensions. Edrogan also offered to speak to the protesters, however there is no clear leader of the demonstrations. The Prime Minister pledged to continue with plans to redevelop Taksim Square.
On Sunday morning, despite isolated clashes, the atmosphere is relatively peaceful, however, the protests are expected to occur in the afternoons and evenings, and are suspected to be sustained.