Travel Warnings: Kenya, Mali and Rwanda

2 April 2012

Kenya (Security threat level - 4): Suspected al-Shabab militants conducted two attacks with improvised explosives near Mombasa on 31 March 2012. The first attack took place in Mtwapa, a suburb located approximately 5 mi/8 km northeast of Mombasa. At least 16 people suffered injuries and one other was killed in the incident, which took place at a religious meeting held in a field. Minutes after the first bombing, unknown assailants threw a hand grenade into a crowded restaurant in Mombasa proper. The unspecified restaurant and pub is located across from Tononoka Stadium and was crowded at the time of the attack. At least five people suffered injuries in the blast.

Analyst Comment: Al-Shabab is most likely complicit in the attacks, though a statement issued by the group fell short of claiming responsibility. Al-Shabab has been linked to at least four grenade attacks in Nairobi -- as well as dozens of attacks in the country's North Eastern province -- since Kenya's October 2011 incursion into Somalia. The latest incidents are the first to occur in Kenya's coastal region since violence began and were possibly aimed at harming the tourism sector. Although the Nairobi and Mombasa attacks have not specifically targeted foreign nationals, they do represent a growing concern. Travelers should remain aware of their surroundings while in these cities and should minimize exposure to large crowds in public spaces. In addition to bars and restaurants, previous attacks have targeted public transportation terminals; prearranged secure transportation is the safest and most reliable method of transportation in these cities. Al-Shabab activity is highest in North Eastern province; ethnic violence is also a concern in central and northern Kenya. Due to these conditions travelers should reconsider the necessity of travel to these areas in the near term.

Mali (Security threat level - 3): A decision on whether West African bloc ECOWAS will impose sanctions on Mali is due to be announced later on 2 April 2012. The bloc of West African states had imposed a 72-hour deadline on Mali's current leaders following the recent coup that ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure, and leaders were due to meet in Senegal on 2 April to finalize their decision.

Meanwhile, there have been no further attempts by Taureg rebels to seize additional territory on 2 April following significant advancements over the past 72 hours. In notable events since 30 March, rebels seized the three main regional cities in northern Mali as Kidal fell on 30 March, Gao fell on 31 March and Timbuktu fell on 1 April. Rebels staged a fast offensive against the strategic locations, with the Malian army retreating from posts and the cities falling without major violence. Some reports have cited the presence of Islamist groups in the north, including in Timbuktu, where the black flag of one Islamist group has been reportedly flying. Little information is available regarding current conditions on the ground in Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu.

Developments in the past 72 several hours represent a significant escalation of the overall situation in northern Mali, as Timbuktu was the last government-held strategic location in the north. There have been no reports to suggest that developments in the north over the past 24 hours have notably affected conditions within Bamako as of yet. In view of concerns related to both the political uncertainty and the developments related to the Tuareg insurgency, the situation in Mali is highly fluid. Several Western governments, including the British, German and Canadian governments, have revised their travel advice for Mali and have adopted similar stances with regard to recommending their nationals consider departing while commercial means are available. Those who remain in Mali should be very cognizant of the current situation and should have plans in place should conditions deteriorate.

Rwanda (Security threat level - 4): On 30 March 2012 two separate grenade attacks took place in the capital city of Kigali. Reports indicate that one attack occurred at approximately 1845 local time. One took place near the Nyarugenge market in the city center, while the other occurred near a shopping area in Kibagabaga, Gasabo district. At least 11 people were injured. Authorities later arrested four suspects. The attacks come one week after a similar incident took place in the northern city of Musanze on 23 March. One person was killed and five others were injured in that attack. This increase in violence comes just ahead of Rwanda’s annual genocide commemoration month in April. Grenade attacks targeting genocide memorial facilities and survivors are particularly common in April.