Thursday, January 17, 2008

Kenya Tourism Federation Sees Calm Returning to Country

January 17, 2008

In its continuing daily news updates since the unrest in Kenya that followed the contested presidential elections, the Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) reported that the opening of the Kenya Parliament took place without any public disturbance. There was a strong police presence around parliament to ensure there was no disorder and the authorities decided not to close the Uhuru Highway so tourist traffic continued as normal past Parliament for airport transfers and for safaris departing or driving through Nairobi.

KTF said that the opposition party has a parliamentary majority, 105 seats to 102, which may mean the opposition can pursue its interests in Parliament rather than on the streets. KTF said it was encouraged by positive comments from the leadership on opposite sides of the political divide quoted by the BBC today: According to the opposition's ODM MP Najib Balala, "We want to prove to the world we are not going to act in an uncivilized way. We are going to parliament, we are going to show that we are controlling parliament." On the government side, Justice Minister Martha Karua told the BBC she believed cooler heads would prevail. "We are ready to navigate through a hung parliament through persuasion, through negotiations," she said. "We expect that eventually everybody will come to their senses, and realize that we've got to learn to live with each other."

The main opposition party, ODM, announced that they would hold rallies in different parts of the country today and on Thursday and Friday this week but issued assurances that that these are intended to be peaceful. KTF reported that several small groups attempted to assemble in different parts of both Nairobi and in Mombasa on Wednesday in response to the call for rallies, but were quickly dispersed after minor skirmishes with the police, with no reports of violence. It is reported that a more serious demonstration took place in the Kibera slum in Nairobi. but it did not spread beyond Kibera. In Kisumu. it is reported that there were violent confrontations between police and demonstrators which were dispersed by the police but at this stage KTF said it does not have further details. In Eldoret demonstrators are reported to have been dispersed by police. It should be noted that the Kisumu-Kericho-Eldoret area is considered off-limits for tourists and is being avoided by tour operators.

The security situation continues as before with no tourists affected at the beach resorts, in the international Nairobi hotels or in the wildlife parks and any violent confrontations between protesters and police confined to the slums and to places in Western Kenya far away from the areas currently visited by tourists.

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