US issues travel alert ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit to Kenya

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Kenya’s gear up for Obama’s visit

Weeks before President Obama is set to make a historic visit to Kenya, the State Department is warning Americans about the risks of crime and terror attacks in the country.

The alert that was issued on Monday warned American citizens that they could be targeted due to huge public events like the sixth annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Nairobi.

“As with all large public events, there is the opportunity for criminal elements to target participants and other visitors,” the State Department said in its Monday warning. “Large-scale public events such as this summit can also be a target for terrorists.”

 The alert warned US citizens to maintain a high level of security awareness, and enrol in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive pertinent safety and security information.
Obama is scheduled to visit the summit later this month, in his first visit to his father’s homeland as president.

“I’ll have the opportunity to meet some of the brilliant young entrepreneurs from across Africa and around the world,” he said earlier this year.

Hopefully, he added, “we’ll be able to announce new investments and commitments that will pay off for years to come.”

Among other steps, the State Department on Monday encouraged travelers to register with the U.S. Embassy in Kenya and stay on the lookout for possible criminals and terrorists.

Despite its growing economy and status as a regional hub, Kenya has been hampered by spillover violence from neighboring Somalia, where al Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab controls large swaths of the country.

In April, al-Shabbab gunmen killed 148 people – many of them students – at the Garissa University College, 230 miles east of Nairobi. A 2013 attack at Nairobi’s Westgate Shopping Mall left at least 67 people dead and injured five Americans along with hundreds of other people.

The State Department’s alert expires on July 30, after the summit ends.

Meanwhile Nairobi is getting a costly makeover ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s trip to Kenya later this month.

The city’s county government planned to spend about $500,000, or 50.7 million Kenyan shilling, to beautify the bustling capital city in preparation for the visit.

More than 500 National Youth Service members were hired to tidy up Nairobi, unclogging drains, clearing bushes, planting flowers and cutting grass on major roads and around government buildings.

Families living on the streets used by Obama’s entourage will also be relocated, as a network of closed-circuit security cameras get installed, according to Kenyan newspaper the Star.

Obama’s security team has already begun arriving for the president’s visit. At least eight U.S. marine helicopters have touched down in Kenya, with more armored cars landing at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.

Three military choppers were spotted at the Wilson Airport inside the Phoenix Aviation hangar, Kenyan police sources told the Star Thursday.

The White House has kept Obama’s itinerary under wraps, but he was expected to meet with his Kenyan counterpart President Uhurua Kenyatta and parliament as well as opposition and civil society leaders, according to the Star.