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No tourists hurt in Kenya election chaos

Written by editor

NAIROBI, Kenya (eTN) – Calm has been replaced with chaos in Kenya after the relatively peaceful end December elections, which raised the emotions of this East African nation to new fever pitch levels.

NAIROBI, Kenya (eTN) – Calm has been replaced with chaos in Kenya after the relatively peaceful end December elections, which raised the emotions of this East African nation to new fever pitch levels. Few hours after Kenyan election results were announced to declare President Mwai Kibak the winner late on Sunday, clashes, violence, turmoil and riots reigned all parts of this economically stable African nation.

Voters appeared at polling stations in a record turn out already at night on December 27, making for long queues and long waiting times before they could cast their votes. In some cases this led to the extensions of the evening voting deadline to allow the waiting crowds to cast their ballot. Some 20 ministers and assistant ministers lost their parliamentary seats, including Nobel Laureate Prof. Wangari Mathai, feeling the apparent anger of the electorate over broken promises from the 2002 general election but also having believed the quick silver campaign the opposition used to make itself shine.

Until Monday evening, almost 140 people were feared dead, 124 among them confirmed to have died in ethnical clashes between followers of Mr. Kibaki and his closest rival, Mr. Raila Odinga.

In the capital city of Nairobi, tourists and other visitors were ordered to stay in their hotels while local residents were barred from getting into the city from other parts of Kenya and ordered to stay at their homes.

Scores of Kenyan armed police on vehicles, the paramilitary police and members of Kenya’s notorious General Service Unit (GSU) cordoned off the city and no one was allowed to enter the city centre from early morning hours.

Security officials said the police in support of the Kenyan army were deployed in the capital city to ban a planned alternative inauguration ceremony of Mr. Odinga at Uhuru Park grounds in central Nairobi. Mr. Odinga announced Sunday to form his own government in protest to Mr. Kibaki’s winning of the December 27 General Election.

Tourists driving from Tanzania’s northern city of Arusha to Nairobi have been diverted to other safe destinations in wildlife parks and less populated locations in Kenya.

Kenyan Immigration Minister Gideon Konchellah said Sunday that all territorial borders will remain open, but the Kenyan government sealed off later all borders with Uganda and left open the Tanzanian entry points.

Until Monday evening, most Kenyans of Asian origin had already left Nairobi and other big Kenyan cities of Kisumu and the beach city of Mombasa for Tanzania and other African states. Theft of goods from big shops in Kisumu, Mombasa and Nairobi kept off Kenyans of Asian origin.

No reports yet of tourist attack, as most tour operators and hotel owners have taken great care to protect the tourists.

Kenya’s hoteliers have geared up for one of Kenya’s strongest high-seasons in recorded history in mid 2007 with airlines clamoring to get a stake of Kenya’s lucrative air-share.

With record number of tourists visiting Kenya increasing, the East African country worked hard to woo a variety of airline suitors, to help sustain tourism demand.

Brussels Airlines is now providing services between Kenya and Belgium six while Air France and the KLM Group replaced Boeing 777 from their Nairobi – Amsterdam route with larger capacity Boeing 747-400 for this year’s summer schedule, the fight for air space into Nairobi has officially begun.

All this is in reaction to the high demand for an East African route out of Europe and due to Kenya Airways joining with the SkyTeam alliance by end of 2007 and the conclusion of Kenya Airways network with Continental, Delta and Northwest.

Swiss International Air Lines, which is also trying to get a slice of the pie in Kenya, ramped up its flights from five-days-a-week to daily flights from Zurich into Nairobi.

Virgin Atlantic’s had on June 2, 2007 opened its route from London Heathrow into Nairobi, Kenya, which looked to increase Kenya’s overseas business and leisure passenger rates by 25 percent once Virgin started service into the country. The airline issued a fare special out of the United States to Nairobi with one-way fares as low as $648 (plus tax and fuel surcharges) out of key US cities being serviced by Virgin Atlantic.

The Kenya Tourist Board has just announced that Americans are hitting the market big as of late. For the first time ever, Americans surpassed Germans in terms of visitor arrivals for an entire year in 2007, making Americans the second most valuable group to Kenyan tourism.

These arrival numbers are a potent argument for those questioning Kenya’s tourism future. The Kenyan Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife is hoping to quintuple tourism arrivals by 2012. After seeing Kenya’s overall tourism arrivals almost triple since 2000, Kenya seems up for the challenge; and is taking quick action to accommodate these new tourists.

On the political front, presidential candidate Odinga, whose late father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was an avowed communist just like him, served time in detention over allegation of wanting to sabotage the Kenyan state, promoting treason and sedition and being generally subversive, was initially unable to cast his vote as his name did not appear on the voter’s register in his chosen constituency in Nairobi. The younger Odinga was also repeatedly rumored to have been one of the dark forces behind the 1982 coup attempt in Kenya, which tried to overthrow the elected government of former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi. His voting problem was however later resolved and he could finally make a tick against his own name on both parliamentary and presidential election ballots.

As it turned out from the results, however, this was not enough, as he lost to the incumbent in a tightly fought race. Odinga’s projected early lead, at least as peddled by sections of the media and his own supporters, but notably not the electoral commission, was progressively eroded by President Kibaki’s growing numbers, at which stage the opposition brought out their goons to the streets to begin causing chaos, following the 1982 recipe. In Odinga’s home stronghold of Kisumu members of Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe were literally hunted like animals by rampaging Luos (Odinga’s home tribe), their shops targeted, looted and burned and individuals beaten up and worse.

Losing is not new to the Odingas. Raila Odinga’s late father had made a spectacle of himself when he lost the presidential contest in the 1992 election, and begged the electorate under tears to give him “even one day in State House,” which forever remained a distant dream for him as well as for the son now. Odinga had decisively split the former ruling coalition with his uninhibited ambition for power and the top post in the country. He was part of the initial Kibaki government which was swept into power in 2002, but was soon afterwards sacked for dissent and only then became an outspoken critic of the now re-elected president, before being sent by the majority of the people of Kenya into dustbin of history. Bringing his hoodlums out to the streets once again shows his true ilk and after the country has settled down again it may be the time to look into criminal charges for inciting crowds of clearly misled people into violence as well as for his alleged role in the 1982 coup attempt.