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'Kenyan envoy assures safety for vistors'
Korea Times
Sunday, October 13, 2013

Just over three weeks since a terrorist shooting spree at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Ambassador of Kenya to Korea Ngovi Kitau said the authorities there have restored peace and order.

Kitau also emphasized that isolating the country after the slaughter will only further empower the group that carried out the attack, Al-Shababb.

“It is a terrorist attack deserving of the international community’s attention. What they want is to create fear. If we ask people to stop traveling to Kenya, that means the terrorists win. We have to remain resilient,” Ambassador Kitau told The Korea Times recently.

Ngovi Kitau
Kenyan ambassador

On Sept. 21, unidentified gunmen attacked innocent people in the shopping mall, taking hostages and killing at least 72 of them and wounding over 200. A siege lasted three days.

Al-Shababb, a militant Islamic cell of al-Qaeda based in Somalia claimed responsibility for the attack.

His message was eagerly received by a wide range of people in Korea from which the number of visitors to the east African nation continues to grow.

Commercial activities have seen an increase in recent years; so have the number of travelers and students who chose Kenya for holidays and as a place to study. A recently established Korean Air flight to Nairobi is an important contributing factor.

Among the first thing the ambassador did after the incident in Nairobi was talk to Korean diplomats responsible for issuing travel advisories, and briefed them about the situation.

On Sept. 22, the foreign ministry announced a special travel alert for Korean citizens who were planning on visiting or were actually on the ground in Kenya. It was lifted on Oct. 2. Currently, Kenya’s level-3 status is associated with the fact that it shares a border with Somalia.

The situation does not seem to have impacted the flow of people going to Kenya. According to the embassy, the number of calls inquiring about safety in Kenya has jumped, but this hasn’t led to a drop in the number of visas issued.

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The embassy is anticipating the number of visitors to reach 9,000 by the end of this year, which will be more than double the number in 2010.

The ambassador promoted a Magical Kenya Tourism Expo which took place last week as a  proof of the sound security conditions in the country. An annual event organized by the Kenyan government invited hundreds of tour operators from dozens of countries, including Hana Tour and Mode Tour from Seoul. Korean Air representatives were in the group as well.

The militant group claimed the attack was retribution for the deployment of the Kenyan troops in Somalia, where a long absence of government has led to an increase in the number of terrorist groups. The country’s coastal city of Kismayo is believed to be a major source of funding for the groups’ activities.

In 2011, Kenya sent troops to the Somali city, curbing the number of militants operating there. Kenyan troops are still operating in the country as part of the African Union Force there.

The consequences of last month’s attack are still developing. Last week, the United States attacked the Somali coast in an attempt to capture the most important man in Al Shababb, but failed to do so.

Asked about local reactions, Kitau said although the situation is sad, the incident has led to a sense of solidarity that the country hasn’t seen or experienced for a century.

“People donate blood, call to give money. People collected more than $1 million. It is the first time in a century that Kenyans have been so united,” said Kitau.


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