The Star (Nairobi)

26 July 2014

Kenya: Australia Sends Home Volunteers After German Tourist's Death

Western volunteers are fleeing Kenya, and taking billions of shillings in aid, even as a number of European embassies cut staff due to spiralling crime and insecurity.

At least 39 Australians working on aid projects have been instructed to leave Nairobi as well as the Kenyan Coast. The Peace Corps is pulling more than 70 volunteers out of the country by August and suspending programs until until threat levels decrease, according to the Peace Corps and US State Department. The State Department will monitor the situation to determine when projects can be resumed.

The disheartening news coincides with the murder of a German tourist who was sprayed with bullets, along with her companion, in Mombasa. The case heightened fears that the country's sinking tourism sector is in for even more desperate times.

A number of Western countries have also issued travel advisories against visiting parts of Kenya, especially the Coast, dealing another blow to tourism.

"It is with great regret ... that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has made the difficult decision to withdraw the Australian Volunteers for International Development (Avid) program from Kenya," the respected Guardian newspaper said, quoting a letter addressed to the Australian volunteers.

"The decision was based on the need to ensure volunteer safety and security in country." Is said that some staff may be deployed to safer regions in Kenya while others will return to Australia or be redeployed to neighbouring countries.

The American Embassy is relocating some non-essential staff to neighbouring countries, such as Uganda and Rwanda. US Embassy Information Specialist Jim Onyango declined to respond to enquiries from the Star.

Since 1964, the Peace Corps has assisted the people and the Government of Kenya in development by providing more than 6,000 volunteers with a range of skills.

Its volunteers are currently supporting the Government of Kenya's efforts in education, public health, including HIV-Aids prevention, as well as community economic development.

Program volunteers from various countries have worked under the Red Cross to help in emergencies. Yesterday, a source at the German Embassy - one of the remaining Western nations that has not slapped Kenya with a travel advisory -- said Berlin would weigh the security situation and the safety of its staff before taking any action.

"That decision (to issue a travel advisory) cannot be made here at the embassy," the source, who declined to be quoted by name, explained. "Berlin would consider the security situation in the country and make a determination. If there is any such advisory, it would be posted on our website,"

German concerns intensified after the slaying of the German tourist on Thursday afternoon and the serious wounding of her Ugandan boyfriend in Mombasa.

Gunmen confronted the two and shot them at point-blank range, as they walked along a street in the old town area. The woman died instantly. the woman instantly.

Before the killing, German Ambassador to Kenya Andreas Peschke had indicated that his country has no plans of issuing travel advisories to Kenya.

That killing occurred barely three weeks after a Russian tourist was gunned down in the same area. Gunmen have also attacked Kenyans in the area. The US, the United Kingdom, Australia and France have issued travel warnings.

The Kenyan problem has been compounded by plans by the British High Commission in Nairobi to move its visa processing to Pretoria, South Africa.

The terror group al Shabaab has ramped up its attacks in Kenya lately. This month and in June it claimed responsibility for killing at least 94 people in Lamu County. The government of President Uhuru Kenyatta has blamed local political networks, not outside terrorists, for the attack.

In September last year, al Shabaab militants attacked the u-scale Westgate mall in Nairobi, killing 67 people. The attacks, and some of the recent killings are seen as retribution for the Kenyan military deployment in Somalia to suppress militants.

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