The grenade attack that took place on Sunday 24th June at Mishomoroni in Mombasa claiming three lives and injuring several people, occurred at around 10pm at Jericho Beer Garden, a pub that was full of patrons who had gathered to watch the European championships football match between England and Italy.
This incident happened barely a day after the US Embassy issued a warning to its citizens on 23rd June of an imminent terror attack in Mombasa and even suspended their government travels to the coastal city (see). This was the third warning this year issued by the US regarding potential terror attacks in Kenya and came in the wake of the seizure of potential bomb-making material and the arrest of two Iranian nationals who were suspected to be plotting acts of terror in the country. But the Sunday attack was said to be “too small” to be connected to the US warning and it did not target Americans.
“RECKLESS” TRAVEL BAN?
Earlier on Sunday the acting Head of Public Service Francis Kimemia reacted angrily at the decision by the US to issue the travel alert to its citizens terming it as “reckless”. Speaking to journalists in Mombasa, he said, “The travel ban is reckless, and uncalled for. It’s very alarming for US to issue such alarming statement without consulting the government of Kenya. We find this as an economic sabotage.”
Speaking at the same press conference, Tourism Minister Dan Mwazo confirmed that since the ban was issued, over 100 cancellations to the Kenyan coast had been reported, terming it a big blow to the tourism industry.
According to NTV (26th June) however, it appeared that the travel advisory was largely ignored with hotels continuing to enjoy full capacities. Speaking to the press, Sammy Kweya of Hotel Keepers Association stated that there were no official records of any cancellations.
MOMBASA “COMPLETELY SAFE”
Hours before the grenade attack, reacting to the US travel advisory, Criminal Investigations Department chief Ndegwa Muhoro told the Sunday Nation the coastal town was “completely safe”
Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe told AFP: “There is no cause for alarm, security agents are ahead of events. We are even working with the FBI and other international agencies in this war.”
Prime Minister Raila Odinga, however, seemed to have a different view on the matter stating that the travel ban was in order and thanked the US government for sharing such information. He said that whereas the US intelligent network goes beyond Kenya’s borders and is active globally, ours are mainly active within the country’s borders and do not have the capacity to operate beyond them.
The grenade attack in Mombasa could have been that the result of criminals who took advantage of the situation to attack the revellers; it could have been an Al-Shabaab attack; it could have had any number of causes: either way Kenyans do not feel secure enough especially with the series of small scale attacks that have taken place in the country since the Kenya Defence Force (KDF) crossed over to Somalia.
US “MEGAPHONE ALARMISM”
The Forum acknowledges the efforts of the government to protect the people of Kenya. It is easy to keep calling for more to be done but the truth is that we all have to remain vigilant. The Forum accepts also that the US Embassy, based presumably on reliable intelligence information, must protect its own citizens in Kenya. However, the Kenya Forum is also concerned that the US authorities, who have been accused of engaging in “megaphone diplomacy” are now erring on the side of “megaphone alarmism” that has the potential to seriously damage Kenya’s reputation and its tourist industry.