Kenyans fume at ‘racist’ rules at Likoni channel

Police arrest a man who was found attempting to jump out of a moving ferry at the Likoni channel mid last month. A new safety policy by the Kenya Ports Authority has angered local visitors to the port city. 

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

An embittered rant on social media by a Kenyan tourist about alleged racial discrimination perpetrated by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) at the ferry crossing in Likoni has lifted the lid on a silent policy not to allow passengers to cross while aboard their vehicles.

The policy, implemented since 2019, however exempted foreign tourists from the requirement.

This is a fact that exploded to the surface on August 24 when a group of local tourists from Nairobi demanded an explanation as to why they were asked to alight from their vehicles and walk while the foreigners crossed aboard their vehicles. 

KPA has explained that the move is to ensure foreigners do not delay in accessing tourism sites in Kwale and the Moi International Airport in Mombasa.

The group of local tourists and their families, among them renowned digital content creator Dr Amakove Wala, were astonished when they were asked to alight from their vehicles and board the ferry.

“We are here at the Likoni ferry, we have hired a vehicle as local tourists ... wazungus [whites] are being allowed to board the ferry while in their vehicles but we have been told to alight and walk. [Is it because we are] dark [skinned]? Wazungu wapite sisi tusipite? [How can you allow whites through and block blacks?]” Dr Wala said in a live video post that went viral on social media.

Dr Wala urged KPA to tell Kenyans why black people are “forced” to walk while foreigners stay in their vehicles. 

During the confrontation, a KPA employee was heard explaining to the local tourists the reasons behind the policy.

“Ni sheria za safety. Ni safety,” he said, explaining that the rules were meant to keep Kenyans safe.

However, the group wondered why the safety measure was not applicable to foreigners.

“On the matter of wazungu, there was an agreement that was made, during the height of terrorism attacks, that they were the ones being targeted hence they were allowed to pass while aboard their vehicles. That is why we have a Tourism Police Unit stationed here. All other vehicles follow the normal procedure,” the KPA employee said.

KPA’s Principal Corporate Communications Officer Hajj Masemo said the policy was enforced to enable foreign tourists access tourism sites and transport hubs safely and efficiently.

“This policy was enforced to boost tourism, that’s all. We are giving them priority to facilitate tourism,” said Mr Masemo.

“If we let the foreigners get stuck at the ferry for two hours they will not come back and our sector will suffer. Tourists are given a priority when there is congestion,” explained Mr Masemo.

The South Coast tourism circuit has been adversely affected by the Likoni ferry challenges with industry players urging KPA to address the delays.