Players in the hospitality and tourism industry in western Kenya have been warned that terrorists could be targeting the region and advised to tighten security within their premises.
The Kisumu County Commissioner (CC), Pauline Dola revealed that intelligence reports indicate that terrorists could be avoiding places where they are on high police radar for “soft” target towns such as Kakamega and Kisumu.
Dola stressed the need for the hoteliers to invest in qualified security personnel who will discharge their duties professionally and help create the critical initial buffer to counter terrorists’ activities.
“When you employ people who have no idea about their job and sit around counting hours- that’s when things start to go wrong,” said the CC
Dola also wants guards manning premises to be empowered and supported in doing their work and to be protected from unnecessary harassment by overbearing clients who protest against security checks.
The CC made the remarks during an anti-terrorism sensitisation workshop that brought together top security officers and key players in the hotel industry in Nyanza at a hotel in Kisumu on Wednesday.
Experts from the Anti-Terrorist Police Unit sensitised the participants on the preventive, protective and mitigative measures in countering terrorism during the event.
Besides water-tight security surveillance and installations, the experts also recommended that hotel security teams and staff implement the outlined strategies in order to seal loopholes that could expose such facilities as soft target hits for terrorists
The too-often ignored power of observation if properly used to analyse the demeanor of visitors could greatly help sniff out suspicious individuals and nip terrorists’ intentions in the bud, according to the terror experts.
Being conversant with work environment, understanding the mindset of the terrorist and establishing a working intelligence gathering system are the other key measures that the security agents want the hoteliers to incorporate within their facilities.
The police is also encouraging the public to embrace the anti-terror slogan “I watch Program” that is modeled along the Nyumba Kumi initiative and based on individual vigilance of “See Something, Say Something” and encourages people to report any suspicious persons or activities for safer neighbourhoods.
Also present at the meeting were the Kisumu County Police Commander (CPC), Benson Musembi, Assistant Director of Immigration in-charge of Nyanza region, Maurice Anyanda, Tourism Regulatory Authority Manager for Nyanza region, Lilian Aimba and Western Hoteliers Association Chairman, Robinson Anyal among other Key Stakeholders.
“Security standards within your premises must not be compromised at any cost and efforts must be taken to verify and check details of all visitors to your premises,” the CPC directed
The immigration boss on the other hand warned the investors against employing foreigners without work permits and also informed them to guard against hotel facilities from being turned into recruitment bureaus by shady foreigners.
“Kisumu is fast emerging as a favourite tourist destination, and this comes with the associated security implications that must be continually addressed for onward progress,” noted Aimba while making her contribution during the meeting.
The hoteliers led by Anyal lauded the government for the sensitisation meeting and cited the need to further strengthen coordination with the security agencies to accrue further gains in the sector.
The CC further announced that the anti-terrorism sensitisation programme will also be implemented in schools, churches and other public gathering places across Kisumu County.
By Beryl Ochieng/Milton Onyango