Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Threat of Terrorism in Kenya, and the Kenyan presence of US Troops

This week, York based student Lottie May gives her insight into the threat of terrorism in Kenya, and reflects on why there is still sometimes a presence of US troops.

The Threat of Terrorism in Kenya

The threat of terrorism hangs heavy over Kenya- worrying the local Kenyan communities, as their economy is dependent upon the wealth that tourism brings. The slightest piece of bad news deters travellers from the UK. When speaking to the hotel manager he confirmed that his bookings are down by 60%, impacts of this resort to him having to let staff go. With employment rates at a low, for some their only chance of employment is with the hotel. I built up a friendship with one of the waiters through my frequent visits to Watamu. However, this year I returned to find that he, along with many others, had lost his job. When getting into contact with him again, I found that he has travelled to Sudan in search for work. Once earning a decent salary, he will send the money home to his family. This is a common occurrence in countries like Kenya or the African Continent, showing the sacrifices families must make to get by.

A prominent threat that has been recognized worldwide is the threat from Somali terrorists and Pirates, again contributing greatly to Kenya’s economy. This affected my family and I directly, with the possibility that we weren’t able to travel to Watamu with it being so close to the boarder of the restricted area in which the government had issued. This was the same year when fireworks were banned for New Year celebrations; seen to act as a hazard with the terrorist attacks in Nairobi at the time. Although the threats of Somalia terrorists and Pirates have undoubtedly decreased, you can see the country now taking serious precautions to prevent any potential threat within vulnerable areas.

On my visit to town, I walked past a local church. What was brought to my attention was the people entering the church were being scanned for weapons. It is clear from this that, although very minimal, the locals are doing their best to protect themselves and their communities. However it is difficult not to notice that the resources that they have for security aren’t a fraction of the security surrounding and protecting my hotel. It seems that the life of a Western is more valuable than that of a local Kenyan? Incidentally, something that is an on going concern and threat of the Kenyan peoples daily life, these frequent terrorist attacks in Mombasa are so rarely heard of back home- is that because no Western people have been killed?

The presence of US Troops in Kenya

One of the most constant aspects of my holiday to Watamu is the people, with the same individuals return each year. However to my surprise I’m sharing the resort with 15 US troops. Stationed here until May; I had some initial concerns about their reason for being here, particularly with Kenya’s increasing rate of terrorist attacks. 

Photography - Lottie May (all rights reserved)

After speaking to them it was pleasing to note their role here is one of education and welfare support. The US has invested heavily to develop the local Kenyan people’s understanding of enhanced farming techniques (fish farms), improving their environmental and social awareness. These all aim to help build strong, stable relations within the country to gain peaceful communities. In the long term this works to grow a sense of self-sufficiency amongst the Kenyan people, striving for a more independent country. This proactive strategy not only improves the way of life for the people, but also makes them less susceptible to the influence of radical fundamentalists who prey of dissatisfaction and encourage violent behavior. When speaking with the Lieutenant it is clear that are doing as much as they can to put things right and essentially avoiding any unnecessary conflict taking innocent lives.

Photography - Lottie May (all rights reserved)

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