Tension grips Kenya after terror attacks
Posted Friday, July 13 2012 at 19:16
At the airport, lines of cars wait at a checkpoint entrance as police carefully inspect those who are coming to pick up passengers.
At hotels, guards are patrolling the lobbies, entries and even separate floors.
The bomb on Moi Avenue several weeks ago did more than kill innocents. It has put the city on edge in ways that I haven’t seen in recent visits to Nairobi.
And it is a reminder of how easy it is to be successful as a terrorist.
After 9/11, Americans were afraid to get onto planes. And after several anthrax deaths shortly thereafter, every bit of white dust on an envelope was viewed by Americans with great suspicion.
On several occasions, television news featured trucks parked outside companies after paper dust was discovered and mistaken for anthrax. The resulting publicity hurt business substantially.
In these times, it’s important to remember the big picture. While this may be hard to perceive in Nairobi, humankind is living in one of the most peaceful times in history.
As a world, we are experiencing fewer wars and less human conflict, and there is a strong likelihood that this trend will continue.
Yes, there is a revolution occurring in Syria. America is still at war in Afghanistan. Rebels have taken more ground in Congo. And there is continued unrest in places like Nigeria, Mexico, Pakistan and Yemen.
But our nature is to see only what’s at hand.
I was reminded of that reality as I stood on Moi Avenue, looking at the burned out shell of a building bombed by a terrorist during a recent lunch hour in Nairobi.
The bomb, disguised as a package, was left inside, and the culprit is suspected to have escaped to Tanzania before being captured. Today, the building’s innards lay as a monument to the tension that is throughout Nairobi.
Americans have been warned to be constantly aware while on the streets of Nairobi. There is a continuing threat, say American diplomats, of carjackings, robbery and worse. And, Americans are told to stay out of certain parts of the country.
When I arrived, I found that there were tens of thousand of Americans and Europeans who were in Kenya to do business, shop and to see the museums and tourist sites of the Mara and Mombasa.
This week, I spoke to Americans who hiked from the central business district of Nairobi up to the National Museum and back.
I spoke to a Dutch citizen who was born in Kenya and feels more at home here than in Amsterdam. I watched Latin American and Japanese tourists, dressed in camouflage hats and coordinated khaki clothing, jump into a Land Rover for a day of safari.
My prediction is that all of this will continue. The only thing that will overcome this flow of business is the upcoming national elections in March 2013. The world will be watching to see if there is a repeat of the violence of 2007.
That possibility is the largest threat to Nairobi and East Africa.