The government is downplaying the impact of the recent kidnapping of Cuban doctors on tourism terming it as an “isolated criminal incident.”
Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma told a news conference on Thursday she hoped there would be no “spurious linkage” between what happened in Mandera and tourist destinations especially at the Coast.
“We continue to provide information (to foreign countries) that helps explain the state of our security. I don’t think we are going to see an avalanche of travel advisories. And I don’t think there are many tourists who visit Mandera, so I think we have to be nuanced in this discussions.”
She spoke a week after two Cuban doctors Dr Assel Herera Correa (physician) and Dr Landy Rodriguez (surgeon) were kidnapped in Mandera by suspects Al-Shabaab militants. The attack left one police officer.
Though the government has pledged to return them to safety, Dr Juma said the criminal incident should not be used to adjudge Kenya’s safety as a tourist destination.
“There was an incident in Mandera, and Mandera is how many kilometres from Mombasa? I think we should inform people correctly because there are people out there who think Mandera is contiguous to Mombasa. We have a duty to explain that there is a world difference between Mandera and Mombasa.”
Kenya earned about Sh157 billion from tourism last year. But the sector has suffered since 2013 when Al-Shabaab militants attacked the Westgate Mall, killing 67 people.
In the past, Western countries who provide a large pool of tourists to Kenya have issued travel advisories to Kenya in the wake of terror incidents.
The US and the UK, who provide the largest pool of foreign tourists have advised their nationals from visiting the north-eastern region where Mandera is and certain parts of north coast.
Recently, the US listed Kenya as a possible place to be kidnapped and advised its nationals to be cautious while travelling to Kenya due to threaten of crime, terrorism and kidnapping.
The advisory followed months after an Italian charity worker Silvia Romano was kidnapped in Kilifi in November.
“We are very distressed as a government because medical personnel are never targeted for abduction. This just points to the level of arrogance and disrespect to the life of the people that these doctors serve. Our hospitals in frontier counties serve populations from across the border as Mandera hospitals have done.
“We have asked Somalia, because it is believed initially that the doctors could be in Somalia, to render cooperation. Everything is being done, and it is our strongest desire that these doctors are brought home. There is no justification for holding medical personnel in any circumstances.”