United States Ambassador Meg Whiteman has visited Kisumu at the time the embassy has issued travel advisory to its citizens against visiting the area.
Ms Whiteman on Tuesday paid a courtesy call to Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o before meeting staffs at various US-funded programs in the area.
The US embassy had on August 3, sent out an advisory to its citizen to be more vigilant in Kisumu ahead of the August 9, polls.
Whenever there is any concern, it is actually a law of the United States of America that we must alert American citizens and embassy personnelMeg Whiteman
The advisory pointed out that there was a possibility of outbreak of political violence, violent demonstrations and chaotic scenes in the area following the presidential election.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the Embassy has imposed movement restrictions on personnel in Kisumu,” the statement read in part the advisory which was issued just a few days after Whiteman’s appointment as Kenyan Ambassador.
Visit to Kisumu
The ambassador’s Tuesday visit to Kisumu was the first outside capital Nairobi since her appointment.
At the time of the visit, the Embassy had not lifted the travel advisory.
The visit came amid an ongoing presidential petition at Kenya’s Supreme Court pitting Azimio leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto who was declared President-elect by the electoral agency, IEBC.
During her visit, Ambassador Whiteman said such advisories are common, and that her office would issue more depending on relevant ‘concerns’.
One of the reasons why I came to Kisumu was to show that this is one of the areas that is very important to the United States, and our engagement in KenyaAmbassador Whiteman
“Our first job is on the safety and security of our embassy personnel, as well as US citizens in any country in the world in which we operate,” she said.
“Whenever there is any concern, it is actually a law of the United States of America that we must alert American citizens and embassy personnel,” she added.
She said Kisumu is second to Nairobi in terms of the number of US citizens and employees living in Kenya, adding that the advisory did not mean the US had any special information on possible violence.
“We have no data that you didn’t have about Kisumu, and it was a normal business that we issue an alert,” she said.
“One of the reasons why I came to Kisumu was to show that this is one of the areas that is very important to the United States, and our engagement in Kenya,” she said.
“It is not a guarantee that there will be no other alerts, because it is required by US law, so when there is any concern we must issue alerts,” she said.
Economic impact of the advisory
Governor Nyong’o said the advisory actually have an impact on the view that investors have about Kisumu, and that he had discussions with the embassy immediately it was issues.
He however noted that the ambassador’s visit to the area will instill confidence among investors who will probably throng the area.
“Sometimes such incidences have their golden sides, in that it puts us into attention globally, and her coming here today is another attention globally,” said Nyong’o.
Ambassador Whiteman said the visit also sought to understand programs undertaken by Kisumu County Government, so that the US and Kisumu could initiate areas of mutual corporation.
“We have had productive discussions this morning. A lot of mutual interests in economic development, health, and trade,” she said.
US Citizens in Kisumu
The visit also saw the ambassador meet staffs from US funded projects undertaken by Centre for Disease Control (CDC), Walter Reed Medical Research and Peace Corps.
She said USAID is a major humanitarian arm of the united states government supporting HIV Aids and Malaria programs.
HIV Aids programs receive the biggest funding through the United States President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
PEPFAR is the United States governmental initiative to address the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and help save the lives of those suffering from the disease.
“We continue to do quite strong work in Kisumu, and in Kenya,” she said.