United States Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520
April 4, 2014
The U.S. Department of State has issued a travel warning for Kenya.
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 September 27, 2013, to update information about the current security situation.
The U.S. government continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S., Western, and Kenyan interests in Kenya, including in the Nairobi area and in the coastal cities of Mombasa and Diani. Terrorist acts can include suicide operations, bombings – to include car bombings – kidnappings, attacks on civil aviation, and attacks on maritime vessels in or near Kenyan ports. Although the pursuit of those responsible for previous terrorist activities continues, many of those involved remain at large and still operate in the region. Travelers should consult the Worldwide Caution for further information and details.
Kenya initiated military action against al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab by crossing into Somalia on October 16, 2011, and on June 2, 2012, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) whereby it formally joined the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Kenyan troops within AMISOM are now actively pursuing al-Shabaab in southeastern Somalia. In response to the Kenyan intervention, al-Shabaab and its sympathizers have conducted retaliatory attacks against civilian and government targets in Kenya.
On September 21, 2013, suspected members of the al-Shabaab terrorist organization, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, attacked the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, killing scores of innocent people, both Kenyan and foreign, and wounding many others. The siege at the mall continued for several days and five U.S. citizens were confirmed injured in the attack.
In the past year and a half, there have been numerous attacks involving shootings, grenades, or other explosive devices in Kenya in addition to the attacks described above. In total, over 100 people have been killed in these attacks, and hundreds have been injured. Approximately 53 of these attacks occurred in northeastern Kenya, mainly in Dadaab, Wajir, Garissa, and Mandera counties. Five attacks occurred in Mombasa. Most recently, on March 23, 2014, three unknown gunmen opened fire on a church service in Likoni, which is in the Mombasa area, killing six people and wounding 18 others. On January 2, 2014, 10 people were wounded in a grenade attack on a night club in Diani, a popular resort area on Kenya’s south coast near Mombasa. Fifteen grenade and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks have occurred in Nairobi, illustrating an increase in the number of attacks and an advance in the sophistication of attacks. In the most recent grenade attack, on March 31, six people were killed in Eastleigh. An attack also occurred on January 16, 2014, at a restaurant at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport; no injuries were reported. Other targets in the past have included police stations and police vehicles, nightclubs and bars, churches, a mosque, a religious gathering, a downtown building of small shops, and a bus station. On December 14, 2013, an IED exploded on a passenger bus near the Eastleigh neighborhood, killing six people and injuring 30.
Kenyan law enforcement has disrupted several terrorist plots throughout the country. On March 17, 2014, police discovered a large and sophisticated car bomb in the Mombasa area, as reported in the local media. It is unclear what the intended target was.
Ethnic clashes sometimes occur in areas of northern Kenya. In Marsabit, over 50 people have been killed and 50,000 displaced by ongoing ethnic clashes that began in July 2013. In October 2013, a local Muslim cleric with alleged ties to al-Shabaab was killed in a drive-by shooting in Mombasa, prompting a day of rioting in Mombasa, which resulted in the deaths of four persons and an arson attack that damaged a church. While this violence is not directed at foreigners, protests and ethnic clashes are unpredictable. U.S. citizens are advised to check conditions and monitor local media reports before traveling to these areas.
Multiple kidnappings of Westerners have occurred in Kenya. On June 29, 2012, four international aid workers (from Canada, Pakistan, Norway, and the Philippines) were kidnapped in the Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya. All were rescued on July 1, 2012. In October 2011, two Spanish nationals working for a non-governmental organization (NGO) were also kidnapped in Dadaab. They were released on July 18, 2013.
The Government of Kenya directive of December 2012 ordering all urban refugees to relocate to refugee camps was overturned by court order and is not being implemented; however, U.S. citizens of Somali descent should be aware that they may encounter interruptions in their travel due to increased police scrutiny based on this directive. It is very important to carry at all times proof of identity and legal status in Kenya (i.e., valid visa). If you are detained by police or immigration officials, you should request to speak to someone from the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.
As a result of these recent events and threats, U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from traveling to northeastern Kenya, including the cities of El Wak, Wajir, Garissa, Mandera, and Liboi. U.S. Embassy personnel are also restricted from traveling to the coastal area north of Pate Island, including Kiwavu and north to Kiunga on the Kenya-Somalia border.
Although these restrictions do not apply to travelers not associated with the U.S. government, U.S. citizens in Kenya should take these restrictions into account when planning travel. The Embassy regularly reviews the security of these areas for possible modification.
There are no restrictions on U.S. embassy employee travel to Kenya’s most popular tourist destinations such as Masai Mara, Amboseli, Lake Nakuru, Tsavo, Lamu Island, Hell’s Gate, Samburu, Mount Kenya, and Malindi. However, as with the prohibited travel destinations listed above, the Embassy regularly reviews the security of these unrestricted areas for possible modification. Travelers should keep informed of local developments by following local press, radio, and television reports prior to their visits. Visitors should also consult their hosts, including U.S. and Kenyan business contacts, hotels, tour guides, and travel organizers.
Violent and sometimes fatal criminal attacks, including armed carjackings, grenade attacks, home invasions and burglaries, and kidnappings can occur at any time and in any location, particularly in Nairobi. U.S. citizens, including U.S. Embassy employees, have been victims of such crimes within the past year.
U.S. citizens in Kenya should be extremely vigilant with regard to their personal security, particularly in crowded public places such as clubs, hotels, resorts, shopping centers, restaurants, bus stations, 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 commonsense precautions at all times, to include the following practices: avoid crowded transportation venues; visit only legitimate businesses and tourist areas only during daylight hours; use well-marked taxis and be sure to lock vehicle doors and keep windows up; lock all lodging doors and windows; carry minimal amounts of cash and credit cards; do not wear jewelry which attracts undue attention; know emergency phone numbers; do not resist or antagonize armed criminals; and always be aware of your surroundings. These measures can help ensure your travel to Kenya is safe and enjoyable.
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, as well as 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. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.