This is an annual report produced
in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.
OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Kenya. For
more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Kenya-specific page for
original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of
which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
The current U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication
assesses Kenya at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise
Do Not Travel to:
border and some coastal areas due to terrorism.
of Turkana County due to crime.
Reconsider Travel to:
neighborhoods of Eastleigh and Kibera at all times due to crime
and kidnapping. Be especially careful when traveling after dark
anywhere in Kenya due to crime.
Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the
Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Nairobi as being a CRITICAL-threat location for crime
directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
The greatest threats continue to be road safety and crime. Violent
and sometimes fatal criminal attacks, including home invasions, burglaries,
armed carjackings, and kidnappings can occur at any time and in any location.
Criminals frequently use weapons during the commission of their crime. Most
criminals rob victims of their possessions and release them unharmed, if they
are completely cooperative. However, criminals will not hesitate to shoot a
victim who is uncooperative or who may appear to hesitate before complying with
their assailant. One tactic of carjackers is to tie up victims and put them in
the back seat or trunk of their own car, transporting them to an ATM to
Street crime is a serious problem, particularly in Nairobi, Mombasa,
Kiambu, Meru, and other large cities. Most street crime involves multiple armed
assailants. In some instances, large crowds of street criminals incite criminal
activity, which has the potential to escalate into mob violence with little
notice. Do not walk/run outside of known, safe areas. Avoid hailing taxis from
the street; this often results in robbery.
Along with other crimes of opportunity, pickpockets and thieves
often carry out snatch-and-grab attacks in crowded areas and from vehicles
idling in traffic, relieving pedestrians or drivers of purses, cell phones or
other easily accessible belongings. Keep vehicle windows up and doors locked at
Review OSAC’s reports, All
That You Should Leave Behind, The
Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud, Taking
The Inns and Outs and Considerations
for Hotel Security.
There are an estimated 3,000 cyber-crime incidences reported in
Kenya every month. According to Information Technology, Security, and Assurance
Kenya, internet-based crimes range from bank fraud and illegal money transfers
to the compromise of personal data. Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity
Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling
with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite
Phones: Critical or Contraband?
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Cars drive on the left side of the road, with drivers on the right side of the car; this poses additional challenges for inexperienced international drivers. Road conditions range from relatively well maintained to very poor. Within Nairobi, drivers have to compete with pedestrians, pushcarts, boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis), tuk-tuks, and matatu mini buses, any of which may swerve or stop at a moment’s notice without signaling. All drivers must practice defensive driving. Local drivers routinely ignore traffic laws and the limited number of functioning traffic lights. Many vehicles do not meet minimal safety standards and are in poor mechanical condition with worn tires, broken and/or missing taillights, brake lights, and headlights.
Transportation accidents are commonplace largely due to poor road
and vehicle conditions. Accidents, while frequent, are usually not fatal unless
pedestrians or matatus are involved. The roads in most major cities show
signs of wear, including potholes and other obstructions. Due to challenging
road conditions, U.S. government employees may not drive outside of major
populated areas at night.
Road conditions are poor in most outlying or rural areas,
especially after the rainy seasons when roads deteriorate rapidly, causing
extensive potholes and other road hazards. Strongly consider using
four-wheel-drive vehicles, especially for travel outside major cities.
The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi now permits personnel to use Uber
services, provided the app correctly identifies the vehicle and driver before
the passenger enters the vehicle. There have been instances where criminals
will see someone waiting by the side of the road and falsely identify
themselves as their Uber driver, when in reality they are intending to kidnap
and rob the unsuspecting victim. In addition to Uber and known private drivers,
Express Impress (0729 872 647 or 0712 794 418) and Jim Cab (0722 711 001) are
reputable and safe for use.
Lock vehicle doors and windows at all times while traveling. The
best way to avoid being a victim of a carjacking is to be aware of your
surroundings, particularly at night or early morning hours, though carjacking can
also occur during daylight hours. If you see something or someone suspicious, prepare
to act quickly. Allow sufficient distance between you and the vehicle ahead of
you while stopped in traffic. Always maintain at least a half tank of gas and
ensure that others not traveling with you are aware of your travel itinerary.
If you believe someone is following you, do not drive directly to your intended
destination; rather, detour to a police station, a well-illuminated public
venue, or other guarded area and seek help.
Review OSAC’s reports, Road
Safety Abroad, Driving
Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive
Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Nairobi as being a HIGH-threat
location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government
interests. Terrorism remains a high-priority concern. The U.S. government continues
to receive information regarding potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S.,
Western, and Kenyan interests in the Nairobi area, counties bordering Somalia,
and in the coastal areas including Mombasa and Malindi. Past terrorist acts
have included armed assaults, suicide operations, bomb/grenade and improvised
explosive device (IED) attacks, kidnappings, attacks on civil aviation, and
attacks on maritime vessels in/near ports.
The porous border with Somalia remains a concern. Kenya is a
participant in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and initiated
military action against al-Shabaab by crossing into Somalia in 2011 and 2012.
Kenyan troops within AMISOM continue to pursue al-Shabaab in southeastern
Somalia. In response to the Kenyan intervention, al-Shabaab and its
sympathizers have conducted retaliatory attacks against civilian and government
targets in Kenya, including targeting Westerners.
Al-Shabaab frequently uses ambushes and IEDs to target Kenyan
security forces in Wajir, Garissa, Lamu, and Mandera counties.
January 2019, five al-Shabaab terrorists with rifles, hand grenades, and a
suicide vest attacked the DusitD2 Hotel in central Nairobi, specifically
targeting Westerners. The attack resulted in 21 deaths, including one U.S. and
one British citizen. A week after, a small IED exploded in Nairobi’s central
business district, slightly injuring two civilians.
July 21, 2019, four al-Shabaab terrorists armed with AK-47 rifles attacked a
hospital construction site on the Elwak-Kutulo road in Mandera.
December 6, 2019, al-Shabaab assailants attacked a Mandera-bound public
transport bus between Kotulo and Wargadud in Tarbaj, Wajir county, shooting and
killing eight police officers, two teachers and a doctor.
January 2, 2020, four people died when al-Shabaab militants opened fire at a
convoy of 3 passenger buses that were being escorted by police, traveling from
Mombasa to Lamu in the Nyongoro area of Lamu County.
January 5, 2020, al-Shabaab terrorists attacked a Kenya Defense Force military
base in Manda Bay, resulting in the death of one U.S. service member and two
Department of Defense contractors.
The current State Department
Travel Advisory urges U.S. citizens to avoid travel to the border areas with
Somalia because of threats by the terrorist group al-Shabaab. Additionally,
U.S. government employees, contractors, and their dependents may not travel to
the northeastern counties of Wajir, Garissa, Mandera, and parts of the coast
north of Malindi to the Kenya-Somalia border. Although these restrictions do
not apply to travelers not associated with the U.S. government, consider these
restrictions when planning travel.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Nairobi as being a HIGH-threat
location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S.
Kenya is generally a peaceful country, though violence related to
the electoral process has occurred in certain parts of the country, including
during the 2017 elections when human rights organizations reported up to 100
Economic disruptions often take the form of protests that block
key intersections and result in widespread traffic jams. Strikes and other
protest activity related to economic conditions occur regularly. Violence
associated with demonstrations, ranging from rock throwing to police using
deadly force, occurs around the country; it is mostly notable in western Kenya
Review OSAC’s report, Surviving
Tribal violence tied to land and livestock disputes occurs with
some frequency in rural areas.
Flooding and drought are the most common environmental hazards in
Kenya. During Kenya’s rainy seasons, flooding can occur with little to no
warning, disrupting transportation routes and communication. Keep a supply of
water and food, as supplies can become scarce quickly during emergencies.
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
Building construction accidents are common. Building collapses
stem from poor quality concrete, lack of proper foundation, and use of
substandard building materials. Open-source media has estimated over 100 deaths
since 2011 due to building collapses.
Power outages are frequent and can last up to several hours. Many
homes use generator power to ensure continuous electricity.
Safety and health inspections of public places are inconsistent,
and response to concerns is slow. Pay particular attention to fire and safety
concerns when among large groups of people in confined spaces.
Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Theft
Counterfeiting and trademark infringement is widespread, and
represents a major concern for local and international business. One study put
the value of Kenya’s counterfeit trade at Ksh 70 billion (about U.S. $805
million). The counterfeit trade may involve organized criminal elements in
Kenya and Somalia. The Government of Kenya criminalized trade in counterfeits
and established the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA), based in Mombasa. The ACA
did not receive funding to do its job effectively in its early years; its
budget has improved more recently. The Embassy actively engages with ACA, and
has supported extensive outreach efforts to law enforcement, local government
officials, community leaders, and youth around the country. The American
Chamber of Commerce, Kenya Private Sector Alliance, Kenya National Chamber of
Commerce and Industry, and Kenya Association of Manufacturers also engage on
Personal Identity Concerns
Female genital mutilation and cutting
(FGM/C) occurs in Kenya. It is a federal crime to perform FGM/C in the United
States on any minor younger than 18 years old, punishable by fines and up to
five years in prison. It is also a criminal offense to knowingly take a minor
younger than 18 years old outside of the United States for the purpose of
performing FGM/C (so-called “vacation cutting”). Review the State Department’s
webpage on security for female
Kenyan penal code criminalizes
“carnal knowledge against the order of nature,” which courts interpret to
prohibit consensual same-sex sexual activity, and specifies a maximum penalty
of 14 years’ imprisonment. A separate statute specifically criminalizes sex
between men and specifies a maximum penalty of 21 years’ imprisonment. Police
have detained persons (particularly suspected sex workers) under these laws. Authorities
have permitted LGBTI advocacy organizations, such as the Gay and Lesbian
Coalition of Kenya, to register and conduct activities. However, societal
discrimination based on sexual orientation is widespread. Review the State
Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+
Although Kenyan law prohibits
discrimination against persons with disabilities, the Government of Kenya has
not consistently enforced these provisions and implementation has been slow. There
is only limited accessibility to government or private buildings, medical
facilities, restaurants, or other public or private facilities. Public
transportation and taxis do not accommodate wheelchairs; passengers most often
hail these vehicles from the side of busy roads. Footpaths along the side of
roads are generally unpaved, bumpy, dirt paths, and road crossings often lack
markings. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers
Kenya is a transit country for illegal narcotics. Drug trafficking
in Kenya often involves other transnational organized criminality, to include
money laundering and weapons trafficking. Over the last several years, the Drug
Enforcement Agency Formal Vetted Unit has successfully initiated a U.S.-led and
Kenya-supported investigations program; one of the most notable successes was a
2015 seizure of 1,032 kilograms of heroin off the Kenyan coast. In 2018, the
Kenyan narcotics units seized approximately 136,000 grams of heroin in with an
estimated street value of $408 million.
The kidnapping and extortion of Westerners is common in Nairobi,
and usually takes the form of carjackers or kidnappers taking someone from
their car or off the street and holding a victim for several hours while
exploiting ATM and credit cards. Most incidents do not result in the victim’s
death, but significant injuries are commonplace.
In November 2018, kidnappers abducted a 23-year-old Italian female
approximately 50 kilometers west of the coastal city of Malindi; she remains
missing. In April 2019, kidnappers took two Cuban doctors from near a hospital
in Mandera; they remain missing.
Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping:
Review OSAC’s report, Picture
This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.
Read the State Department’s
webpage on customs
and import restrictions for information on what you cannot take into or out
of other countries.
The Kenyan Police Service response has continued to make vast recent
improvements. Response to the January 2019 DusitD2 Hotel attack was
significantly better than to the 2013 Westgate Mall incident, where it took
four days to neutralize four terrorists and one-third of the mall suffered
catastrophic damage. The DusitD2 attack ended within 20 hours, with limited
damage to the hotel complex.
Despite these positive steps, police often lack equipment,
resources, training, and personnel to respond to calls for assistance or other
emergencies. The likelihood of the police responding to an incident often
depends on availability of officers and police vehicles. Police often lack
resources and sufficient training in solving serious crimes and weaknesses in
the judicial system contribute to slow prosecutions and large numbers of
The Embassy has received reports of police harassment, primarily
in the form of solicitation for bribes related to traffic stops. RSO recommends
not paying any bribes and reporting incidents to the Consulate’s American
Citizen Services immediately. Harassment is not uncommon, but typically comes
in the form of bribe requests. In the event of police detention, contact the
Embassy or Consular Section immediately.
Kenya’s nationwide emergency number is 999. Download the State Department’s
Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
The Kenya Police Service (KPS) is the national agency in charge of
law enforcement, to include city and county police divisions. All local police
station elements report to the KPS Headquarters in Nairobi.
Nairobi Area Control Room: +254-(0)-20-355-6771 or 999
Diplomatic Police Hotlines: +254-(0)-708-589-522;
Police Headquarters: +254-(0)-203-310-225; +254-(0)-203-341-411
The blood supply in Kenya is generally unsafe; the Embassy does
not recommend the use of blood products. Those needing blood should use trusted
sources such as family or friends. Minimal medical care is available outside
Find contact information for available medical services and
available air ambulance services on the U.S.
The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing
international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the
State Departments webpage on insurance
If traveling with prescription medication, check with the
Government of Kenya to ensure that the medication is legal in Kenya. Always
carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s
The Government of Kenya requires proof of yellow fever vaccination
for travelers who are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever. The
following diseases are prevalent: Malaria; Dengue; Schistosomiasis; Traveler’s
Diarrhea; Cholera; Tuberculosis; Measles; Rabies; Hepatitis A; Hepatitis B; and
HIV. The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Kenya.
Review OSAC’s reports, The
Healthy Way, Traveling
with Medication, I’m
Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken:
The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire
OSAC Country Council Information
Nairobi has an active OSAC Country Council. To reach OSAC’s Africa
team, email OSACAFstate.gov.
U.S. Embassy Contact Information
United Nations Avenue, Gigiri, Nairobi
Hours of Operation: 0800-1600 Monday to Thursday; 0800-1200 on
Embassy Operator: +254-(0)-20-363-6000
Emergency calls after normal business hours: +254-(0)-20-363-6170
American Citizen Services Section: +254-(0)-20-363-6451
State Department Emergency Line:
Before you travel, consider the following resources: