The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Kenya. U.S. citizens in Kenya, and those considering travel to Kenya, should evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing and recently heightened threats from terrorism and the high rate of violent crime in some areas. The levels of risk vary throughout the country. This replaces the Travel Warning of November 4, 2011, to update information about the current security situation, and the potential impact of the refugee influx.
The U.S. government continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S., Western, and Kenyan interests in Kenya, particularly after the death of Osama Bin Laden. Terrorist acts can include suicide operations, bombings, kidnappings, attacks on civil aviation, and attacks on maritime vessels in or near Kenyan ports. Although there have been recent gains in the pursuit of those responsible for previous terrorist activities, many of those involved remain at large and continue to operate in the region. Travelers should consult the Worldwide Caution for further information and details.
On September 11, 2011, a British national couple was kidnapped – and the husband murdered – at a coastal resort near the Kenya-Somali border. The motivation for these kidnappings is unclear, but the perpetrators took all of the hostages into areas of Somalia controlled by al-Shabaab, a designated terrorist organization, with links to al-Qaida. The British hostage was released unharmed on March 21, 2012. On October 1, 2011, a French national was kidnapped from a private residence on the popular tourist destination of Lamu Island on Kenya’s north coast. She died while in captivity in Somalia. On October 14, 2011, two Spanish nationals working for an NGO were kidnapped in Dadaab refugee camp, in northeastern Kenya. Kenya initiated military action against al-Shabaab by crossing into Somalia on October 16, 2011. Kenyan troops are now actively pursuing al-Shabaab in southeastern Somalia. Al-Shabaab has responded to the Kenyan incursion into Somalia by threatening retaliation against civilian targets in Kenya.
On October 24, 2011, a grenade exploded at a crowded Nairobi bus stop, leaving two dead and 16 injured. Another grenade exploded that night at a night club in downtown Nairobi, injuring 14 Kenyan patrons. On October 27, in northeastern Kenya, a vehicle carrying officials from the Ministry of Education was attacked, leaving four dead, and on October 28 a police vehicle was heavily damaged after driving over an explosive device. Responsibility for these incidents has not been determined, though an individual was sentenced on October 28 for his role in the grenade attack on the night club. On March 10, 2012, assailants threw four grenades at a busy bus station in Nairobi, killing nine and injuring more than 50 Kenyans.
As a result of these recent events and threats, U.S. government employees, contractors, grantees, and their dependents are prohibited from traveling to the Northeastern Province, including El Wak, Wajir, Garissa, Dadaab, Mandera, and Liboi. The travel restriction for Lamu has been lifted. However, the restriction remains in place for the coastal area north of Pate Island, including Kiwayu and north to Kiunga located on the Kenya/Somalia border.
Although these restrictions do not apply to travelers not associated with the U.S. government, U.S. citizens already in Kenya should take these restrictions into account when planning travel. The Embassy regularly reviews the security of these areas for possible modification.
Violent and sometimes fatal criminal attacks, including armed carjackings, home invasions/burglaries, and kidnappings can occur at any time and in any location, most particularly in Nairobi. U.S. citizens have fallen victim to such crimes within the past year. U.S. citizens in Kenya should be extremely vigilant with regard to their personal security, particularly in public places frequented by foreigners such as clubs, hotels, resorts, upscale shopping centers, restaurants, and places of worship. U.S. citizens should also remain alert in residential areas, at schools, and at outdoor recreational events.
U.S. citizens should use common-sense precautions, such as avoiding crowded bus stops or stations, visiting only legitimate businesses and tourist areas during daylight hours, using well-marked taxis, locking vehicles and lodging doors, carrying small amounts of cash and credit cards, wearing small amounts of jewelry, knowing emergency phone numbers, and being aware of your surroundings. These measures can help ensure your travel to Kenya is safe and enjoyable.
The drought affecting the Horn of Africa is causing thousands of people to pour across Kenya’s porous borders each week. With Kenya’s endemic poverty and the availability of weapons in the area, the result could be an increase in crime, both petty and violent. Kenyan authorities have limited capacity to deter or investigate such acts or prosecute perpetrators. Sporadic violence, protests, and clashes occur in and around Isiolo and Moyale, both in Eastern province. While this violence is not directed at foreigners, protests and tribal clashes are unpredictable, and U.S. citizens are advised to check conditions before traveling to these areas.
U.S. citizens should avoid demonstrations and political rallies of all kinds. Most political gatherings are peaceful, but they can turn violent without notice. In the run-up to the constitutional referendum in June 2010, six Kenyans were killed and 100 injured at a prayer meeting/political rally in Uhuru Park in downtown Nairobi. The next Kenyan presidential election is set to take place in early 2013.
U.S. citizens who travel to or reside in Kenya are urged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to receive the most up-to-date security information. By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. U.S. citizens without Internet access may enroll directly with the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.
The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi is located on United Nations Avenue, Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya; telephone (+254) (20) 363-6000; fax (+254) (20) 363-6410. In the event of an after-hours emergency, the Embassy duty officer may be contacted at (+254) (20) 363-6000. Travelers may also consult the U.S. Embassy Nairobi website for more information.
U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State’s Country Specific Information for Kenya, the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts, which are all available on the U.S. Department of State’s, Bureau of Consular Affairs website. Travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444 from other countries. Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website which contains current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook, and download our Smart Traveler iPhone App to have travel information at your fingertips.