Thursday, October 20, 2011

Kenya Denies War With Neighboring Somalia

Kenya says not at war with but trying to stabilize Somalia

By Peter Mutai

NAIROBI, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan government said on Wednesday it is not at war with Somalia but helping its neighbor to stabilize the security situation in that Horn of Africa country.

Kenyan Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka said the ongoing operation by the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the Kenyan military is aimed at guaranteeing the security of the people of Somalia, Kenyans and foreign visitors.

He assured tourists visiting the country that they are safe, and that Kenya's security agencies are working round the clock to protect them.

"It is gratifying to note that our tourism sector is recognized as one of the key pillars that will spur our economy towards Kenya' s long term economic blue print, the Kenya Vision 2030," he said at the Magical Kenya Tourism and Travel Expo held in Nairobi.

The expo, which is the first to be held in the country, brings together over 150 travel trade partners from 23 countries.

Musyoka said the event was being held at a time when the country's tourism sector is experiencing remarkable upward growth earning the country a total of 737.4 million U.S. dollars.

The east African nation has enhanced security around the Kenyan capital, Nairobi and its environs following the threats issued by Somalia's terrorist group Al-Shabaab of revenge attacks as the Kenyan troops advance deep into the Somali territory to raid the insurgents.

Al-Shabaab issued a warning of retaliatory attacks against Kenya following the latter's decision to send troops into the neighboring Somalia to hunt down and eliminate the Islamist group that has been accused of masterminding kidnappings and cross- border attacks.

The authorities have consequently published emergency telephone contacts to the members of the public to report anything that may be of security concern.

Nairobi police chief Anthony Kibuchi told the media on Tuesday that security measures have been put in place to secure the city.

"It all starts with us and we must defeat these criminals threatening our peace. Let everyone be vigilant all the time," he added.

But Musyoka said Kenyans should invest in serious marketing and add value to the existing array of dormant tourist attractions so as to boost and expand the industry.

The vice president said the tourism sector's contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) currently stands at between 12 and 17 percent, adding that it is possible to push it to 50 percent if people are ready to invest in serious marketing. "This is the time to expand into business tourism, sports tourism and cultural tourism, conferencing and water sports," he noted.

Musyoka said the expo is vital as it will allow the local tourism trade and the public to have an opportunity to interact with the tourism trade partners on a one-to-one basis.

The vice president noted that the government is re-engineering the key tourist products and attractions in order to make the country a unique tourist destination which he said could be attributed to the huge investments in the infrastructure projects such as the expansion and modernization of airports and roads.

He singled out the Isiolo Tourist Resort City located along the proposed Lamu-Isiolo Northern Corridor and the Techno-polis City at Konza that will be connected to Nairobi and the airport through a fast mass transit train system as some of the programs designed to boost the tourism sector.

Musyoka said in the past few years President Mwai Kibaki had directed the relevant government agencies to pursue expansion strategies for tourism beyond the country's traditional markets of Europe and the United States. "Our net in tourism has been cast wider to include the Asian Sub- continent, South Africa, Eastern Europe, the Far East, Russia and the African Continent," he said.

The vice president said the new Tourism Act 2011 which was signed into law recently will provide sustainable growth of a well regulated tourism sector and assured investors of the safety of their investments.

On the same occasion, Minister for Tourism Najib Balala assured that roads in Amboseli and Masai Mara National Parks will soon be improved to ensure local and international tourists access the areas without any problems.

The minister noted that 2011 is the year of tourism, saying Kenya expects over 1.3 million tourist arrivals.

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