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US downgrades advisories against Kenya

NAIROBI, August 31 – The American government has again downgraded its travel advisory against Kenya owing to what it termed as a return of normalcy to the country.

US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger said the warning, which was issued at the height of post-election violence, had been revised downwards to reflect the restoration of peace and stability.

The US adjusted its advisory in March saying calm had returned to Kenya after the power-sharing deal was signed but still warned its citizens against travelling to certain parts of the country.

Ranneberger also defended the advisories his government has issued against Kenya in the past saying they were based on factual information.

He said the advisories were tools used all over the world to protect American citizens abroad.

“Travel warnings for Kenya do not advise Americans not to visit Kenya. We encourage them to travel here (Kenya) but provide factual information that they should take into account when they come,” he explained.

Officials from the public and private sector have complained that the travel bans negatively affect local tourism.

But the American envoy said his country had undertaken various measures to promote Kenya’s tourism sector.

Most recently, he said the US had disseminated letters to the American business community telling them that Kenya is open for tourism and investment.

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He said that through USAID, they were providing over $6million to support environment programs in Kenya and enable the country’s Wildlife Service protect parks, wildlife and the environment.

Kenya and the United States are also working on the Safe Skies for Africa Program to facilitate direct flights between them.

“This will be a step in the right direction. We won’t be satisfied until we have direct, non-stop flights between the two countries,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Ambassador who met members of the Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO), urged them to join the Kenya Chapter of the US Chamber of Commerce which has a Visa Referral Service to expedite the process of Visa applications.

KATO through its Chairman Duncan Muriuki had asked the envoy to look into ways to fast track the issuance of visas for their members.

Muriuki also called on Ranneberger to consider issuing 2- 5 years visas instead of the current one-year permit.

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