"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Wednesday, September 13, 2006 Direct from Kenya, Reynolds wonders why the U.S. government doesn't want him there! Many of you know Reynolds Whalen, Wash. U. (and ECM) student, my tukal-mate in Sudan, and part of our ultradynamic EGR presence at General Convention. Reynolds (shown here with friends Collins and Halita showing off a baseball they made out of banana fibers) is spending the semester at the University of Nairobi, and wrote this Op-Ed piece for Student Life at Wash. U. Not surprisingly, it's most excellent. Read on!
I recently started classes at the University of Nairobi in Kenya to study culture, environment, and development in one of the most beautiful countries I've ever seen. Unfortunately, if you wanted to come visit me, the U.S. Government would say no.
The State Department issued a travel warning against Kenya following a 1998 bomb blast at the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. In 2002, terrorists bombed a hotel in the coastal city of Mombasa, killing 15 people. However, the past four years have been incident-free. Even with a fairly elected democratic government and one of the most thriving economies in East Africa, Kenya remains on the U.S. State Department's travel warning list.
I understand the need to warn Americans of danger when traveling abroad. I even partially understand why over one third of the countries on the list are in Africa. Sure, parts of Africa have problems. Here's what I don't understand: where's the United Kingdom?
Several weeks ago, I spent five hours in a tent outside Heathrow airport in London with hundreds of other people just to see if my flight was going to leave that morning. The night before, dozens of stranded people had spent the night in the lobby of my airport hotel buying food and drinks so they would have a place to stay. Earlier that day I had taken the Eurostar (Chunnel) from Paris to London amidst the longest lines they had seen in years. People were sleeping on the floor of the station, and every train was full.
The cause of this chaos was that terrorists had targeted nearly ten planes traveling to the U.S and possibly even my train to London, according to some sources. The terrorists planned to trigger liquid explosives on board and kill over one thousand passengers. Fortunately, British law enforcement just barely stopped the plot.
Unfortunately, they didn't stop a plot last summer that blew up three subway trains and a tour bus, killing 52 people and injuring over 700. In both incidents, dozens of London citizens with links to Al-Qaeda were arrested in connection with the attacks and charged accordingly.
Kenya's most significant terrorist attack in the last decade happened in 1998 and the targeted building was technically U.S. property on U.S. soil.
I have yet to hear a convincing reason why Kenya should be on the travel warning list and the United Kingdom should not. Even if the U.S. Government claims that Kenya may have "limited ability" to detect and to deter a terrorist attack, we know Great Britain's limitations. Sure, maybe they stopped the plane bombings last month. But they didn't stop the train blasts last summer and they may have "limited ability" to prevent such acts in the future.
Blatant and unwarranted discrimination is apparent here. Obviously, the U.S. can't post a travel warning against Great Britain. That would be devastating to our crucial partnership in the war on terrorism. Plus, we have too much interest in their economy and the commerce between our two great nations. Most importantly, Great Britain is too "civilized" to warrant a travel warning.
Kenya, on the other hand, is just an insignificant little country on a continent that exists primarily for our exploitation and to make us feel better when we can afford to give a little money away. Indeed, our buddies at the World Bank and IMF have devalued their currency to a point where even the smallest scraps of change go a long way and make us feel great about being charitable.
What I'm not saying here is that Kenya is immune to terrorism or terrorist activities. What I am saying is that maybe the U.S. government should re-evaluate the criteria they use to impose travel warnings. For a country that relies on tourism as the biggest sector of the economy, Kenya suffers from our arrogant discrimination. When Illinois Senator Barack Obama toured the country a few weeks ago, Kenyan politicians pleaded with him to urge the U.S. government to lift the travel advisory. They pointed out that the only reason Kenya would be targeted for attacks in the first place is their partnership with the U.S.
I'm having the time of my life over here, and I feel safe everywhere I go. It's time for our government to grow up and end this shameful double standard by either lifting the travel ban on Kenya or imposing one on Great Britain. It's time to stop labeling Africa as a dangerous place to go simply because it's Africa. ------------------------------------ You can leave comments here, but you can also email Reynolds. And be sure and check out his blog -- with lots of great pictures and stories of his travels!
| Mike at 9/13/2006 01:44:00 PM
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."