Israelis try to avoid chaos in Kenya

kenya troops 224 88 (photo credit: AP)
kenya troops 224 88
(photo credit: AP)
As rioting continued in Kenya on Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry issued an advisory telling Israelis to avoid visiting the East African country. "We hope the riots turn out to be a one-time incident and that quiet will return to Kenya, a state that is considered an island of stability among the African countries," Ambassador to Kenya Jacob Keidar told The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview. Kenya saw an explosion of attacks following Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki swearing-in for a second term on Sunday, after an election the opposition claims was fixed. More than 300 people have died in tribal violence. "The fighting over ruling Kenya started right after President Kibaki won the last elections with a small majority. [Raila] Odinga, who heads the opposition here and was a minister in Kibaki's government between 2002-2005, leads the riots, claiming that the elections were rigged," Keidar said. "In recent days, violent riots broke out in several spots in the country in which a few hundreds of the newly elected president's supporters were killed," Keidar added. The ambassador said Nairobi seemed relatively safe on Wednesday. "There are a lot of policemen and soldiers in the streets, and efforts to mediate between the sides are being carried out. We all pray for the efforts to be crowned with success, because Kenya is a real democratic state with a developing economy, flourishing tourism industry, free press and a multi-party political system that works," he said. The opposition announced Wednesday that it plans a massive protest march in the capital on Thursday. "Many of the Israelis who live and work here, a few hundred, as well as many of the families from the local Jewish community, left the country for the holidays and the summer vacation," Keidar said. "Those who stayed here keep in touch with us and inform us where they are. We also advise tourists not to arrive here now, and for those who are traveling here to leave the country if possible. However, tourists who choose to travel to Kenya anyway are welcome to contact us through the Foreign Ministry's situation room, and we will try to help and direct them as much as we can," he said. "My family came to Israel for a vacation just before the elections, but also because they didn't want to be in the country during this sensitive times," Elit Goldberger, an Israeli originally from Kenya, told the Post. "Now they debate whether they should be back in Kenya, because my brother still goes to school there, but they fear a deterioration." "Our friends and neighbors in Nairobi say that basic groceries are running out in the stores. We were born and grew up in Kenya, and tribal fights are not an unusual thing. In general, Kenya is a very quiet country, referred to as an happy nation by foreigners, but tribal conflicts... were always a part of the political scenery," Goldberger said.