US suspends peace corps programmes in Kenya

July 25, 2014 8:27 am
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The State Department further revealed that more than 50 volunteers have been pulled out of the country due to the security concerns/COURTESY PEACE CORPS WEB
The State Department further revealed that more than 50 volunteers have been pulled out of the country due to the security concerns/COURTESY PEACE CORPS WEB
NAIROBI, Kenya, July 25 – The United States has suspended its Peace Corps programme in Kenya due to increased insecurity.

The State Department further revealed that more than 50 volunteers have been pulled out of the country due to the security concerns.

In a statement, it pointed out that the programme will only resume once the security concerns are addressed.

“While volunteers are leaving, the Peace Corps plans to retain its office in Kenya and will continue to assess the safety and security climate,” Shira Kramer, the spokesperson for the Peace Corps however said while speaking to the Associated Press.

The move follows the down-sizing of staff at the US embassy in Nairobi due to the increased terror threats experienced in the country.

It has also come amid a tightening of security by the US Embassy in Kenya, which has seen dozens of grenade and gunfire attacks over the last two years.

Earlier this year the embassy increased the number of security personnel at the embassy and put armed Marines behind sandbag bunkers on the embassy roof.

Also moved out are regional staff at the USAID offices, with more security enhancement at the embassy in Gigiri.

The decision to suspend the Peace Corps programme has been in the works for a while but was not announced publicly.

US warnings about the high risk of terror attacks in Kenya always ruffle the feathers of Kenyan leaders, and the State Department and Peace Corps statements underscored the long US-Kenya relationship and the hundreds of millions of dollars the US pours into Kenya every year.

Recent Peace Corps volunteers in Kenya said they felt the US government program did a good job of keeping them updated about security, including the sending of security text messages, but they acknowledged that security was deteriorating and that ensuring a safe environment for the dozens of volunteers was all but impossible.

“Some volunteers weren’t very pleased with the level of security they provided, but I’m not sure what they were expecting. We don’t have security guards to protect us, and it’s Kenya, so sometimes bad things happen regardless of any preventative measures,” said Nik Schuetz, a 28-year-old volunteer in Kenya from 2009-11 now studying at the University of Kansas told the AP.

“They taught us to be smart about our surroundings and to trust the hairs on the back of our necks to sense whether it was a safe situation or not. And some things like bombings or grenade attacks, you just can’t prepare for other than leaving the country,” he said.

Anna Martin a Peace Corps volunteer in Busia, Kenya from 2010-12 who still lives in the country, said she always felt safe as a Peace Corps volunteer because the US mission was “always making the best decisions regarding our safety and well-being.”

“My opinion is that things just weren’t getting better,” said Martin, who remained in Kenya after her Peace Corps commitment was completed. “Peace Corps had already taken measures to protect volunteers but had to ultimately make a bigger decision. And it a wise one.”

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