Al-Shabaab’s frequent attacks destroy peak tourist season in Lamu, Kenya. A series of terrorist attacks disrupted the serene shores of Lamu County, causing hotel and tourism sector workers to lose their jobs. The surge in violence threatens to dampen Lamu’s thriving tourism industry, particularly during the usually bustling peak tourist season.
Lamu, KENYA. By Yahya:
From June to August this year, Lamu County has witnessed a distressing toll of at least ten fatalities and widespread destruction of properties, including houses, vehicles, and motorbikes. The most recent attack occurred yesterday morning when suspected al-Shabaab militants ambushed civilians travelling towards Mokowe in the Milihoi area, killing at least two people and reportedly kidnapping another three.
Two weeks ago, the militants killed the wife of a Hindi Member of the County Assembly (MCA), James Njaaga. About 60 al-Shabaab militants ambushed unsuspecting civilians around 7.40 am along the Lamu-Witu-Garsen highway. They first shot at a government prison car en route to Mombasa from Lamu. Luckily, it sped away. Subsequently, the militants fired at a vehicle carrying Mr Njaaga and his wife, who sustained a severe injury and died on the way to the hospital.
High season basically lost
The timing of these assaults has baffled stakeholders. Lamu, a coastal gem, typically experiences a surge in tourism during July and August. Its pristine shores and cultural richness attract domestic and international travellers seeking solace. However, this year presents a contrasting image.
Ali Shekuwe, a local hotel owner, told the Star about a noticeable decline in visitors compared to previous years. He attributes this decline to the sense of insecurity provoked by mainland attacks, even though Lamu Island and its neighbouring Shella Island remain relatively untouched. Shekuwe sadly contrasts this year’s meagre bookings to the thriving business he enjoyed last year.
“The attacks reported every time are conducted in the mainland areas… Unfortunately, once tourists out there hear that there is an attack in Lamu, they feel Lamu, Shella, and the rest of the archipelago have been attacked,” Shekuwe laments. This harmful association has a ripple effect on the livelihoods of those dependent on tourism.
The troublesome Boni Forest
Kenyan government’s multi-agency security operation within the expansive Boni Forest, stretching into Somalia, has aimed to eliminate the longstanding al-Shabaab presence. This operation, involving the Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF), National Police Service (NPS), Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS), Kenya Forest Service (KFS), and National government administration officers (NGAO), seeks to quell the enduring threat. Despite these efforts, the recent attacks show that the danger persists.