Kenya Kidnapping: Can Kenyan Government Protect Tourists?

on October 03 2011 12:08 PM
Marie Dedieu
Marie Dedieu

Marie
Marie Dedieu (Reuters/handout)

Kenyan security is being called into question after a second foreigner was kidnapped in less than a month's time.

Marie Dedieu, a wheelchair-bound 66-year-old, was kidnapped early Saturday from her beachfront home on the island of Manda.

Dedieu was taken by six gunmen to a boat waiting in front of the home. The group appeared to be tipped off to the French citizen's home, as Dedieu and her Kenyan partner, John Lepapa, had just returned from vacation in France. Lepapa and household staff were present during the kidnapping; however it is clear the group was targeting the foreigner.   

The unknown group had a short firefight with the Kenyan navy before escaping into Southern Somalia, which is controlled by rebels.

Local hotel owners did their best to help in the rescue mission. One hotel owner even launched his own plane to spot the kidnappers speeding towards Somalia. Another local owner was asked if the navy could use his speedboat, calling into question the readiness of the Kenyan fleet.

Abdullah Sultan, head of a local tour guide association, worries about the massive loss in revenues for the area due to the lack of response by the Kenyan authorities.

The (Kenyan) government has to put more money behind this, they need to react quicker. We need help with this, it's a desperate situation, Sultan told Reuters.

The recent kidnapping comes shortly after the Sept. 11 attack on a British couple at a luxurious seaside resort in the area. Judith Tebbutt is currently being held by Somali pirates, whom she was sold to by terrorists. Her husband was shot dead at the resort.

Diplomats and analysts have warned of possible attacks on soft targets, such as foreign tourists in Kenya, as merchant ships have stepped up their security systems with private guards.

Local Kenyan protesters took to the streets in the wake of the two attacks to voice their concern for the lack of security that the Kenyan government is providing.

It is unbelievable that we have the Kenyan navy base here and yet we don't even have a boat. We want the Kenyan government and international governments to protect us more, Muhidin Athman, a local hotel-owner, told Reuters at the protest.

Protesters fear the repercussions on the tourist industry in the Lamu archipelago. Tourists were seen immediately leaving from the Manda island as word spread of the recent attack. Many are cancelling upcoming trips to the islands, fearing for their safety.

Both Britain and France have issued travel warnings for the area. The Foreign & Commonwealth office now advices that non-essential travelers do not enter areas within 150km (previously 60km) of the Somalia border.

Both attacks were on beach-front properties, with two Westerners kidnapped and one murdered. Beach-front accommodation in that area and boats off the coast are vulnerable, states the Foreign Office on their official Web site.

The Kenyan islands are a popular destination for tourists looking for combination safari and beach getaways. They are also popular with celebrities including Sienna Miller, Mick Jagger, and Monaco's Princess Caroline.

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