Northeastern Kenya has long had a reputation for lawlessness, but what was sometimes dismissed as the exaggerations and ignorance of “down-country” Kenyans acquired a more brutal reality in the 1990s, which continues to this day.
Since the flight of Somalia’s dictator Siad Barre in 1991, and that country’s anarchic disintegration into warring fiefdoms, northeastern Kenya has borne the full brunt of Somalia’s desperate refugee crisis, with increasingly violent bandits targeting commercial vehicles, foreign aid workers and refugee camps.
The northeast is also home to pastoralist tribes who frequently engage in livestock rustling and clash over grazing and water rights. You can be sure of one thing: there are more people than ever before with little to their names but guns and ammunition.
We’ve endeavoured to note the current security situation for all parts of the northeast, but the situation can change quickly and you are strongly advised to seek advice on the ground before travelling anywhere in this area. If you’re driving in this region, ask advice everywhere you go and always stop at police checkpoints and ask them about the road ahead. You may sometimes be asked to travel in convoy, or to take an armed police officer as an escort to your next stop.
The area to avoid at the time of writing, according to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s advice (the “orange zone” on their travel map at bit.ly/fcoKenya), is a large, thinly populated chunk of northeastern Kenya comprising: all of Garissa and Lamu counties; all the border areas within 60km of the Somalian border; and a thin strip along the coast as far south of the Galana River. The travel advisory does not include Shaba National Reserve or Meru National Park, both of which are safe.