Hey, Kenya, what the hell’s going on over there?

Kenya has long been one of the safest and most politically stable nations in Africa, a distinction that, given the media’s typical coverage of Africa, is not unlike being declared the smartest individual to be arrested on Cops. Kenya usually places just behind South Africa in the amount of tourists that visit each year, thanks to its relative stability, its Indian Ocean beaches, and its wildlife safaris. All that peace and stability was disturbed, however, by the disputed presidential election that took place on December 27, 2007.

In a nutshell, the incumbent Mwai Kidaki was declared the winner of the election and he was sworn in on December 30. But the supporters of his opponent Raila Odinga, in addition to a number of outside observers, said the election was marked by corruption and possibly rigged. Immediately after the results were announced, rioting broke out among various ethnic groups, with Kibaki’s influential Kikuyus clashing with Odinga’s Luos. Hundreds were killed in the ensuing violence.

A spokesman for the Kenyan government recently declared, “We are not in a civil war,” which is the second-to-last thing you ever want to hear from your government spokesmen.

What does all this mean for Kenya’s positive reputation among tourists? The news is not pretty. “The Kenya Tourist Board had projected a total of 314,995 tourists would visit the coast in the first quarter. It has now revised that figure down, by more than half, to 134,450.”

The chairwoman for a group of Kenyan tour operators had this to say about one coastal town: “Mombasa is down on its knees and we are now digging our grave, if something does not change immediately.”

At this time, the US and British governments are strongly advising tourists to forego all but essential travel to Kenya.

The New York Times has more coverage of how tourists are affected by the recent violence, and check out Jerry Guo’s recent post on Kenya here.