NAIROBI: Presidential tours are always expensive, but especially sowhen the country being visited is, like Kenya, the scene of regular terrorist attacks.
US and Kenyan officials are fixated on making sure Al-Qaeda’s Somali-led affiliate, the Shebab, cannot violently disrupt the US presidential visit this week.
“The American president is a high value target so an attack, or even an attempt, would raise the profile of Shebab,” warned Richard Tutah, a Nairobi-based security and terrorism expert.
Mitigating that is an overwhelming security presence in the capital. “The level of security is suffocating,” said Abdullahi Halakhe, a regional security analyst.
President Barack Obama is due to address an international business summit in Nairobi, an event the US embassy itself warned could be “a target for terrorists”.
The closely-held details of the security arrangements for the three-day visit are a source of endless fascination and speculation in the Kenyan media.
“US President Obama’s Security Gadgets Arrive,” read the headline in The Star, a tabloid with a talent for Kenyan security scoops.
“A US military cargo plane… will ferry in a whole range of secure advanced communications equipment, some of it to be used by President Obama himself when he lands,” the paper breathlessly reported.
Hundreds of American security personnel have arrived in Kenya in recent weeks. Kenyan media reports that three hotels — the Sankara, Villa Rosa Kempinski and Intercontinental — have been scouted by the Secret Service.