Be fast, activists tell KPA on return of port services to Mombasa

Mombasa port

The Mombasa Port. The Employment and Labour Relations Court dismissed a petition that sought to restrain the Kenya Ports Authority from discriminating against members of the Mijikenda community in its recruitment of 200 dock workers.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Pressure is mounting on the Kenya Ports Authority to speed up the implementation of President William Ruto’s directive to return port services to Mombasa.

Politicians and human rights activists have announced that they will lead a peaceful march to the port of Mombasa to push KPA to effect the order issued about a week ago.

Under  Mombasa-based lobby group Fast Action Business Community Movement, they said they will hold peaceful demonstrations in different Mombasa streets, march to the port, and camp there until the KPA management assures them that the directive is being implemented.

Speaking to the media on Tuesday in Mombasa, the activists and business community members led by Salim Karama said they are yet to see the results of the directive.

“We are grateful to the President for the directive he gave upon being sworn into office. In the last four years, our economy at the Coast has suffered, but the latest move is a ray of hope. We only want to see it implemented,” Mr Karama said.

Fast Action called for importers to be allowed the freedom to choose the means to move their cargo from the port, and that goods be cleared at the coastal town instead of Nairobi and Naivasha.

Monopolistic tendency

“We are against the monopolistic tendency of using only the SGR to the Inland Container Depot. We want the President to fight the cartels. We will join in the fight. We know it is not going to be easy,” Mr Karama added.

The protesters also want the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) contracts signed by former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration made public.

During his inauguration speech, President Ruto directed that all port operations that were transferred to the Nairobi and Naivasha inland container depots (ICDs) be returned to Mombasa, thus reversing one of the most controversial policies of the Jubilee administration.

Dr Ruto said the action is aimed at restoring thousands of jobs that have been lost in Mombasa.

 “This afternoon, I will be issuing instructions for clearance of all goods and other attendant operational issues to revert to the port of Mombasa,” Dr Ruto said in his inauguration speech.

The the Mombasa business community has welcomed the directive, saying it is a relief after four difficult years.

 The Fast Action group maintained that President Ruto’s directive has not done any disservice to Naivasha residents.

“The relocation of the port services and operations was an injustice to the residents of Mombasa. We invite the residents of Naivasha and Mai Mahiu to visit this city to see the adverse effects caused to Mombasa’s economy since 2019.

“We want to see the operations take place at the port. We want to see the importer decide the means he or she wants to use to ferry cargo from the port,” Mr Karama added.

Old Town Residents Association official Ahmed Awadh said that just like Kisumu and Turkana, which are benefiting from Lake Victoria and the Tullow oil fields respectively, the residents of Mombasa should benefit from the port.

“The resumption of port operations is not a favour to us but our right. God endowed Mombasa with a port and it is a resource we need to benefit from economically,” Mr Awadh said.

Ploy by politicians

He claimed that the resistance of Naivasha and Mai Mahiu residents is a ploy by politicians who want to scuttle Kenya Kwanza's plans to return the operations to the port city.

“Mombasa has been developing due to the port and this has seen other towns emerge along the transport corridor because of the movement of cargo from the port,” he said.

The towns of  Mariakani, Maungu, Voi, Mtito Andei, Masimba, Kibwezi, and Mlolongo depend on trucks for their survival. Most of them have been turned into ghost towns since the services were removed from Mombasa four years ago.

 Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir urged President Ruto to issue a communication through the relevant ministry to speed up the realisation of  his order.

Mr Nassir promised to work with the national government where the law permits to make sure Mombasa residents and the county government get what is due to them

“I am for the decision to revert port services to Mombasa from Naivasha and that was part of my campaign idea. However, since President Ruto made his announcement, things are still the way they were,” he said.

Nyali MP Mohammed Ali supported the directive, saying it will help to restore Mombasa port to its former glory and ensure that the local residents gain from the facility.

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