Wednesday, January 9, 2008

When to Cancel Trips to Kenya?

By: Jennifer Kumar

Last week many British and European tour operators announced cancelling tours to Kenya and encouraged those in Kenya to come back as soon as possible.

As yet, I have not heard such an announcement from U.S. tour operators.

Though I have been privy to few discussions regarding the possibility of cancelling study abroad tours to Kenya for this spring 2008 semester, I have yet to hear of formal cancellations.

The situation in Kenya is bad. Bad is putting it lightly. In addition to regional [African countries] refugees in Kenya, Kenyans themselves are now refugees in their own country. Those who are not refugees may not be returning to their normal routines soon as expected. Many schools, colleges and universities have postponed the first day back to class after Christmas holidays. Dates to restart some institutions have been posted, but they may not be set in stone, as one article eloquently stated, "The university management said the security situation would not make it safe for students to travel from their homes to their campuses." (source) In one blog I follow, a housekeeper of an expat refused donations of items out of fear of being looted. People in slums have few possessions, and coming into a slum with bulging bags makes someone a moving target for looters.

When I studied in India, I was in slums two to four days a week. This was in a country that was stable and safe. Like any big city anywhere in the world in slums and 'bad neighborhoods,' one's personal safety is always at risk. Taking advice of my advisers and professors, I was never in harm's way. Now, some are questioning whether to send their children to Kenya for study abroad to work in the slums with the poverty and HIV/AIDS stricken. If the election and it's aftermath had not occurred, then going to Kenya would be quite safe for these activities (as I know they have been going on for years now without reports of harm to aid workers). But, now I am not so sure this can be said.

Of course, guaranteeing a tourist or a student would not be harmed is impossible. However, after carefully assessing current information and predictions from pundits in the area, it is safe to say that going to Kenya now and at least for the next few months would not be a good idea.

Related articles:
Travel Q&A: Take extra precautions in Kenya, UW expert says
Study-Abroad Officials Keep Close Watch on Kenyan Violence
Kenya: Varsities Postpone Opening Dates
Amid Violence, Kenyan Universities Postpone Opening
British Tour Operators Cancel Kenya Holidays
Our ex-askari paid us a visit from Kibera today
Travel Warnings- U.S. Embassy Nairobi

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